Monday, June 26, 2006

Today's vitriol: people who ignore you

What a nasty cow I'm being this week. You wouldn't happen to be having your period, would you, Angie? Why no, I don't think so, I say calmly as I shove a Libra super tampon up your nostril. Actually, it's not that time of month, but sometimes a lot of things happen that cumulatively make me a little cross and plan elaborate schemes of revenge.

You know how you're out with a friend having a nice time, when suddenly you run into someone that you know and they don't. After the first preliminaries, "Hi, fancy seeing you here," and so forth, you recall, because you are a decent human being, that they don't know each other, so you introduce them, and then you try to start a conversation that doesn't exclude the odd man out, because that's rude and you've obviously chosen to spend time with this person, who is your friend, and you don't want them to feel awkward or excluded from the conversation.

If you do end up conversing with the person you've bumped into on an exclusive subject that your friend
can't be involved in, such as acquaintances that only the two of you know, or how your jobs are going, then you should keep this as brief as possible, out of courtesy to the person that you're with. Ideally you would try to draw them into the conversation, or at least maintain eye contact with them so that they don't feel like a third wheel. If you don't, the person that you came with is standing there feeling left out and wondering if they should wander off and leave you to your obviously absorbing conversation (rude), or stay there with a fixed smile on their face, feeling stupid. Or perhaps they should try to force their way into the conversation and look desperate (and rude). What a fantastic range of options.

I was the odd man out on Saturday night, and it jarred for me what had been, up till then, an enjoyable evening watching the Melbourne International Comedy Roadshow. We ran into someone that my friend knew, and this third person, who immediately reminded me of Ashley Simpson in both her demeanor and fashion sense, immediately launched into speech, talking about a wonderful party she had been to last week and why weren't you there blah blah blah it was so much fun? Finally she drew breath and my friend introduced me. "Hi," I said, offering a handshake. "Oh, sorry," she said, "I can't," holding up a beer in one hand and her purse in the other. Obviously it was too hard to tuck the purse under the arm so one hand could be free to observe the most simple of civilities. Other than when she was forced to acknowledge my presence, no other eye contact was made. I was then ignored again as they talked about their jobs, and I amused myself, as you do, by staring into the distance and wishing I was dead.

Just when I was wondering if I should go back to my seat, where I could fill in the time by plucking at the threads on the armrest and constructing a small but functional noose, her boyfriend came along. He also totally ignored me, and did not make any eye contact at all, although at one point his hair may have been calling out to me for help, but I can't be sure. After more talking, my partner suggested that we meet them after the show to talk some more, which made my blood run cold since I had been consoling myself with the thought that we wouldn't have to see them again unless a crazed hippo ran down the street and we were all forced to stay in the theatre for our own safety. (I still would have risked being trampled and swallowed whole.)

Luckily we did not see them at the end of the night. I can only thank the merciful kitchen gods that Ashley's stilettos probably prevented her from exiting the theatre as fast as I could in my Dada trainers. I was looking forward to a nice dinner after the show, and having to share it with two people I wasn't prepared to like, no matter how charming they showed themselves to be later, would have brought on some serious psychosomatic gastro and a phantom tapeworm for good measure.

Anyway, after all that, I did enjoy myself for the second half of the show. Jeff Green is a fantastic comedian, very natural, and extremely wry in his observations of every day life, but a tight oppressive feeling had come over me and although his antics made me smile, and sometimes, almost grin, I found it hard to laugh out loud, the way I had before intermission.

A part of me was fantasising that Ashley, who was somewhere in the stalls below, had somehow procured a boiling hot capuccino and had spilt it on her breasts. I was also concocting a scheme of elaborate and tortuous revenge where I would compose some incredible work that made me famous, and when that person, or someone like them came up to me to say how much they liked my work, I would throw back my head and laugh as I kicked dirt in their general vicinity. Hopefully in the optical region.

What a horrid creature I am. But you really don't want to get the women of our clan (on my mother's side) mad. Our tempers don't flare up and disappear, they simmer like seafood and tofu claypots on a slow boil, waiting to burn the tongues of infidels. I reckon, some time ago in ancient China, one of our female ancestors had the Great Wall of China built so that a Hun woman that she used to be friends with wouldn't be able to come over and borrow her clothes any more. "How dare she spill hot tea on my silk robe and not apologise!" I can hear her fuming.

I do resent awkward situations like that. I think what I hate more is the fact that I'm trapped there out of politeness, being bored, and feeling like an idiot, when all I really want to do is walk away. And I hate feeling helpless. But I've promised myself that the next time something like that happens, I'll extricate myself as soon as possible, perhaps make some excuse about going for a walk. Because any unpleasantness I face later as a consequence will at least be an honest disagreement, and not some subtle insidious influence that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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