Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Social Distortion

I think I'm becoming an isolationist. Or at the very least antisocial.

Grumpy old man, DA?

Whatever the reason I find myself more and more inclined to avoid conversation with mild acquaintances. Those people I know simply because our paths crossed for a while at some point in our pasts.

Last week I was heading to my usual spot to wait for the train and just happened to see an older, Italian gent I used to work with about 6 years ago. I've seen him before and we've had pleasant 'catch up' conversations on our rattling ride home.

Problem is it's always the same conversation. 'How's the wife?' 'You retiring soon?' 'Beach, why are you such an asshole?' Ok, that last one is every conversation I have, but you get the point. We have nothing in common other than sharing a work area for a few years. And even then we used to butt heads. He's a short, bearded, hot blooded Italian who we called 'Nino' simply because he's a short, bearded, hot blooded Italian guy. His accent is so think I have a hard time understanding him (a laptop is 'lap-a-toppa' to him) and he often makes references to people he thinks I know, but don't. Or don't remember anyway.

I like him well enough and have fond memories of giving him shit (he was a good sport, despite his temper) while everyone had lunch together, I just didn't feel like talking to him on my ride home. I stopped short of where he waited and retreated to my iPod punk rock oasis while reading my book. Maybe it was a one time thing, but I just don't like making small talk anymore. If I ever did.

I have yet to go to a high school reunion for this same reason. 25 years and counting and could care less. Somehow our class president (why do they still call themselves this? It's been 25 years! Is it like when you've been President of the United States? You just carry the title with you for the rest of your life?) got a hold of my personal email address and have since been bombarded with 'class updates' about people I didn't much like when I actually knew who they were. Now I don't recognize any of the names, but hey, she just had a baby girl and he just opened a new business!! Whoop-de-fucking-do!

If I really wanted to keep in touch with anyone from high school I would already know how. I have a close knit bunch from those days and we still see each other or keep in touch via email on a regular basis. I don't have the desire, nor see the point, in making useless small talk with a bunch of people who are basically strangers to me. I don't care that we went to school together. I would much rather go out with my current friends and have a good time as only we know how.

Those who don't know me well are no doubt reading this thinking I'm a cranky old mofo, but that's not accurate at all. I'm friendly, semi-intelligent and easy going, but it takes a bit for me to warm up to someone. I view everyone as an idiot and/or asshole until they prove otherwise. Too often they reinforce rather than dispel that opinion.

My problem is not people. Just people I don't know.

This all stems from my father, by the way. He has a knack for having everyone talk to him. Doesn't matter that he can't be bothered with anyone else. Like me, he's friendly (but not overtly) to nearly everyone, but he can't figure why strangers keep trying to make conversation. He could be sitting in any public place and someone will start talking to him. It's one of many running jokes in our family. One year my sister and I bought him a shirt that read 'DO NOT TALK TO ME'. He wore it on a boat ride home one summer to see if it worked. Throughout the 45 minute cruise, people constantly approached him to say what a funny shirt he was wearing. He had more people talking to him than ever. We never saw that shirt again.

Maybe it was just the mood I've been in lately. There are times I just don't want to deal with people. They piss me off for a variety of reasons. Usually trivial. I find it best to just retreat and keep to myself until the mood passes. And it seemed to pass last Saturday night when, out with my buddy, I found myself chatting up the bartender, two girls who were there to celebrate a friend's birthday, and two guys we wound up playing pool with.

Then again, maybe it's not the mood, but the setting. I certainly don't expect to be chatting on the train ride home, but do expect it when I hit a bar on a Saturday night. After work, I'm used to jamming my tunes into my ears and reading. Isolating myself from my fellow travelers. The commute home just isn't an ideal social situation, anyway. Especially with the noise levels.

So, if you see an annoyed looking guy on the Orange Line on your ride home from work, leave me alone. Just don't expect to see that on a shirt.

Today's distraction: Some tips to improve your social skills. Not sure why the site has the picture of a little boy looking up at a sumo wrestler. Doesn't seem to be an everyday social interaction.

I would like to point out #2 on this list, which says 'do not fear apologizing for errors in judgment or insensitive actions'. Apologize???!! In two words, FUCK THAT!! Replace the word 'apologizing' with 'relishing' and we're getting somewhere.

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