Each June, immigration lawyers from all over the United States make pilgrimages to whatever city our organization has located with a gargantuan enough conference center to accommodate three to four thousand of us as we shuttle from one ballroom to the next to listen to each other talk. We are as organized as an ant colony in our glassed-in rooms, with social and professional hierarchies to determine which ones of us warrant a microphone for an hour here or there. We go from room to room, reflecting back and forth our clients' experiences to one another, along with our insights, forming a consensus of best practices.
Between floors, between rooms, giant escalators ferry us around. I have a vivid mental image of a colleague now passed on, whom I saw riding up an escalator at one of these conferences the last year he attended. I had only ever interacted with him online and over the phone and had never met him in person. Yet we had become friends; we had a similar view of the world, and the practice of law. I had hoped to meet him at that conference but our paths never crossed. But there was one day when he was going up an escalator and I was going down the opposite one and I spotted him and, for whatever reason, I knew it was him. I just recognized in his body language something of the person whom I knew. I verified this later with a photograph. We never did meet before he left this world.
Ever since then I've been haunted with this sense of poetry about seeing my colleagues riding around on these escalators. There's something strangely ennobling about the posture people adopt as they arrest their forward motion momentarily to be carried from one floor to the next. It looks almost as if time has frozen for a minute and that the observer is able to watch those who are being carried along on the current of the machinery, somehow outside of time.
Thinking of my departed friend while watching those I know this week in the same posture did carry me outside of time, to his past, their future, the intersections of all of our timelines and the strange ways that the understanding we collect from each other informs our reality, the practice of our profession, our journey through life.