I have a close friend who met her future husband at the Chicago riots during the Democratic National Convention in '68. They're still married so the chemistry couldn't have been better.
This thought stuck with me when I hopped a Seattle bus and headed down to the big World Trade Organization protest rally at Memorial Stadium this week. "What if ..." I kept asking myself.
There was a sea of more than 30,000 protesters, the majority of them from labor organizations, plus a fair share of environmental and human-rights activists. I found the women's room, applied a little lipstick and tightened the laces on my walking shoes.
Minutes later, the unfathomable happened. There, in a plastic rain poncho with a walkie-talkie under his chin, was my ex-husband, who lives more than 200 miles from the Space Needle.
"What are you doing here?" he exclaimed.
"I live here," I told him. "What are you doing here?"
"This is a labor rally," he said, strutting officiously, "and I'm a labor leader."
You would have thought I had broken the law by coming to an event in my own community. I made him buy me a hot chocolate as we briefed one another on our latest life accomplishments, both of us trying to make the mundane sound magnificent. He introduced me to his co-workers and fellow unionists by my name, to which I added proudly and without hesitation, "I'm his ex-wife."
"Wow," one of them whispered to me, "I had no idea he had an ex-wife." Dudley Do-Right, as I always called my ex, rarely addressed his failures.
My ex and I see one another once or twice a year for a cordial cup of tea or a quick lunch. We've been divorced since 1990 and he has been married to his replacement wife longer than he was married to me. Typically, when I see him I'm reinforced, jubilant that I made the right decision to leave our marriage behind.
This unlikely coincidence, however, was not quite what I had in mind for the big day of protest. If anything, my secret fantasy started to fade like a vibrant watercolor held up to the Seattle drizzle.
As the giant march assembled, it wasn't tough to lose my ex in the crowd. A host of sheet-metal workers, all in their bright aqua jackets, crowded in the line in front of me. "Hmmm," I thought to myself, "I need a couple of heating ducts rerouted in my house."
The airline pilots in full uniform were positively breathtaking, many of them tanned so their chiseled features had a regal and monied aura. Drat. They disappeared into the crowd as fast as a 767 at takeoff.
So I marched along with a group of teachers, articulate, cheerful and sincere. When we came close to the Seattle Sheraton, where the WTO registration desk was, I split off from the march. There I encountered a police line that kept a more militant band of protesters from getting too close to the WTO ministerial meetings.
"What are those?" I asked one of many cops with a bunch of heavy plastic twistie ties hanging from his belt. I knew the answer before he could respond. They were for taking out the garbage, what else? How declassi, I thought, to have your hands bonded with a plastic twistie tie.
Nope, I might not agree with the WTO goings-on, but I wasn't about to be arrested with my hands in some dopey white twistie, then hauled off on a city bus to a dilapidated old Navy base. No paddy wagons? No jail cells? Damn, if I was serious about this, I should have brought my own fur-lined handcuffs.
I brandished my press pass and weaseled through the police line and into the Sheraton to pick up my press kit, which I'd decided was far too heavy to lug around town. The WTO provided members of the press with no agenda for the proceedings. Rather, each so-called press kit featured tips for Seattle skyline photo opportunities, a sturdy collapsible umbrella with the WTO logo, a split of Washington chardonnay, sparkling cider, a couple ounces of smoked sockeye salmon, crackers, fruit and nut mix and a truffle candy bar. Oh yeah, and 2.5 ounces of ground Starbucks coffee, in the Siren's Note Blend, naturally.
I went home at dusk, sidestepping the ominous clouds of tear gas and the cops in riot gear, and had a picnic before the evening curfew went into effect and the mayor declared a state of civil emergency.
Now that 500 have been arrested, I'm wincing just a bit over what I might be missing in those holding facilities.