There are so many reasons to live in a city – be it a steaming cauldron of humanity like New York or a provincial-yet-still-metropolitan burg like SF. There’re the many and varied restaurants; the live theater and music aplenty; the profusion of bars, taverns and boites; the adrenalin-laced excitement that accompanies the frequent loud “BANG!” outside one’s window (“Was that a gunshot or a backfiring car?” Odds are about even as to which it turns out to be…)
Then of course there’s the the living cheek-by-jowl with tens of thousands of strangers – most of whom have many, many annoying idiosyncrasies (I know I do!) and objectionable personal hygiene habits (wearing gallons of cologne… Not bathing… Wearing gallons of cologne and not bathing… And don’t get me started on failure to properly care for one’s teeth.)
This is why they are and shall likely remain strangers – they are not my kind of people and I am not theirs. And that’s fine – I’ve already found a few people who can stand to be around me for more than a few minutes, so I’m all set. I’m sure they have their circle of friends, too.
Thus, it is both disconcerting and upsetting to me when strangers engage me in some type of personal interaction that is unrelated to the completion of some type of transaction (e.g. purchasing groceries, ordering food in a restaurant, buying crack).
Just the other day, as I waited in line to use the Automated Postal Center at the Post Office (chosen largely due to the fact that I would not be required to interact with a human), the guy in front of me turned around – completely overlooking the fact that I had my nose buried in my PDA while wearing dark glasses and a scowl (the urban equivalent of the brightly colored skins of the various poisonous frogs of the Amazon) – as we waited in line to quip, “I guess technology can’t solve everything!” – apparently in reference to the fact that, despite the presence of the postal robot, we still had to wait in line… I nearly responded with something along the lines of, “Yes, but I sure wish I had some type of futuristic death-beam-emitting laser pistol right now…”
Of course, he turned around just as the previous patron finished his transaction – and since he was now facing me, instead of the stamp-issuing automaton, I was forced to respond to him by grunting and waving my envelope in the direction of the machine to alert him to the fact that it was now his turn – which he would’ve known if he hadn’t tried to talk to me. Must I do everything?
Then this morning, after a lovely ride to work on the 2-Clement (the interior of which was maintained at a pleasant 102° and included some chick planted at the very front of the bus, blocking the aisle for all boarding passengers while yakking on her phone. She did graciously say “Sorry” every now and again as people were forced to shove past her – though of course she didn’t actually make any effort to move either out of the way or toward the back. And what’s with people shunning the back of the 2-Clement during rush hour? It’s not like it’s the back of the 14-Mission on a Friday night. But I digress…), I was in the cafeteria, buying my usual two slices of bacon. And the lady behind me exclaimed, “Oh that bacon looks so good! Mmmm, I wish I had some bacon. It looks really good.” Sigh… And ugh. I responded with a wan half-smile – a contemptuous and withering gaze was really the more appropriate choice but since I’ll likely see this person on the elevator at some point, I ramped it down a bit… But then I’m a giver…
So, anyway, if you see me on the street, on the bus, at the post office, in line at the supermarket or anywhere else that is not Mayberry, USA and you don’t know me, let’s keep it that way.