Friday, June 10, 2005

Text/Subtext

On my lunch break, enjoying a savory empanada at an outside table where seating is tight. Eating slowly so I can linger longer and enjoy the book in which I am immersed. A young man walks up and asks if he can use the extra chair at my table, as no others are free.

Text:
ME: Please, go right ahead. [back to book]
HE: ...so. What are you reading?
ME: [is he serious?] Um. Just some essays. [back to book.]

[2-3 minute pause]

HE: So, may I ask what it's about?
ME: What?
HE: The book. What's it about?
ME: Just essays. About writers and historical figures and stuff. [back to book]
HE: Oh. So, like short fiction, huh?
ME: No. Non-fiction. [back to book]

[I finish the last of my food and get up to leave.]

HE: Okay, great talking to you. Have a nice day.

Subtext:
HE: May I pull up a chair?
ME: Sure, but I will clearly signify, by intent reading and furrowed brow, that I am not interested in conversation. Enjoy your lunch.
HE: I will flout all rules of common decency by intruding upon your table and rather than respect your politeness with silence, I will distract you from your obviously fascinating reading with inane, irrelevant questions.
ME: Are you blind? Are my clipped, curt responses too ambiguous? Is it not obvious that I have zero interest in any verbal interaction whatsoever? Do you fancy yourself more interesting than Saul Bellow?
HE: I am insouciant and mannerless! And persistent!
ME: I have very little time to myself in a day, and I would just like to read in peace and not pretend to be interested in anything you might have to say for yourself. Anything you might say or do today will be forgotten by me seconds after you say it or do it, whereas this essay is pretty interesting, so the cost/benefit ratio of speaking with you is not in your favor. I am an enormous fan of Humanity and Mankind as an abstract concept, but I detest individual human strangers, particularly those with a self-righteous, bohemian, free spirit air. I'm from Austin, pal, I can spot that act from 1000 yards away.
HE: Hey man, I'm just trying to be real and I feel sorry for you uptight DC suits that can't handle a simple conversation.


Truth is, even in what passed for my freewheelin' days, I was always pretty hostile towards strangers. My regular counterpart, Clarissa, was an unchecked torrent of verbiage so I usually just let her shoulder any conversational burdens with any chatty charlies.

One afternoon in Austin, Clarissa and I sat at a bar, and on the other side of us sat a man wearing the head from a giant chicken costume. I am not sure why, and it did not occur to us to ask, because this was Austin and such things just periodically happen. Chicken man was trying to strike up a conversation, in which Clarissa was only to happy to join. Assuming that both of them were well entertained, I turned back to the bar and sipped my beer and pondered the fine questions of life while they yakked away. But my reverie was interrupted when, from the corner of my eye, I saw a finger reaching over to wag in my face.

It was the chicken man. And the chicken man was saying, to Clarissa, "You're nice. She's cold. She looks like a librarian. You're warm."

I was so flabbergasted to receive personality guidance from a giant chicken that I literally had no response to this outrage.

Since then, anybody trying to strike up a conversation has just been a giant chicken to me. If it weren't for the internet, why, I'd have no friends at all.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Josh Slattery said...

that is sad babe, you need to lighten up and live life for the moment and not worry about the ditractions that come your way through out the day, just consider it a blessing that people would like to share their day with you while at the same time they try to soak up what little information you would like to display to them. I hope one day you relize this and will live life to the fullest so that you don't one day wake to a world so lonley and cold for you.

7:57 AM  

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