Friday, February 18, 2011

Verbal Abuse

I don't know what the weather was like for the rest of the country, but in Western Pennsylvania, today had all the qualities of a perfect Spring day. And so, naturally, everyone shed the cloak of despair and lethargic apathy that Winter seems to drape over our shoulders so regularly. People emerged from their homes and lined up in packs to wash their cars, they took advantage of the warmth and flooded the stores, and lawn chairs were used for other reasons than protecting one's shoveled out parking spot in front of their homes. And, of course, all anyone wanted to talk about was the weather.

Even I left the house today. Okay, mostly because I was out of beer and wanted to grab a case so it would be ice cold when I got off work tonight, but I ran a few unnecessary errands as well. I stopped at a few little stores to grab this, that and the other, and found myself moving at a more relaxed pace than my usual man-on-a-mission rapidity. I generally approach errands as I would a work related task. An interruption to my day that needs to be done as swiftly as possible so the relaxation can begin in full swing. But, today, I even found my errands to be relaxing.

My luck never holds, though. While driving past a store, I recalled that my girlfriend had awoken upset that she was out of one of the multitude of hair sprays required to make her hair look exactly so. No good deed goes unpunished.

I entered the store and selected my few items. It was going to be my last stop before getting home, loading the fridge with a fresh case of PBR tall-boys, grabbing a quick bite and then throwing open the windows for a short nap on the couch before going off to feed the sheeple. Having formulated said plan, I was suddenly anxious to pay for my shit and leave. The cashier, however, didn't share my enthusiasm for a sudden depature.

Before even considering ringing up my items, he began a five minute winded rendition of 'How about this weather?'. He exclaimed the joy he was going to receive from cutting his grass this year, how a trip to the beach might be in order this summer, dismissed the possibilty that winter wasn't yet over and prattled endlessly about how he wished he had had today off to enjoy such a rare February day. He concluded his montage of 'the life I couldn't give a fuck less about' with this little witticism:

"I'm so jealous that you're outside, while I'm stuck in here."

News flash, sport. I'm not outside. In point of fact, I'm standing inside, a virtual hostage to your terroristic attempts to unload mental images upon me that I will never be able to eradicate. Thank you for that. My stomach no longer wants that lunch as I'm left envisioning you shirtless, paler than the underside of a fish, in a pair of jorts, mowing your lawn and treating your neighbors to what I can only imagine as a grown version of Lord of the Flies, parading through the yard. Quite frankly, I was enjoying the weather... until you insisted that I had to.

I have never understood the fascination that our society has with small talk. If I don't know you, guess what? We can ride the elevator all the way to the top floor, alone in the car, without ever needing to speak. If we're stuck in a long line at the bank, I don't require your commentary on the number of closed teller windows vs the number of open ones. If we are in a public restroom, I certainly don't want to make idle conversation with you as you straddle up the urinal next to me, igoring the pisser apart rule, and we each have a penis in our hands. Particularly if your engaging bit of conversation is; "Yeah...I heard this is where all the dicks hang out."

Yet, the vast majority of us do exactly that. Left alone in a room with people we don't know, we are compelled to engage in some type of social obligation to communicate with perfect strangers. Especially about the weather. We looooooooove to talk about the weather. It's too cold, it's beautiful for this time of year, it's hot as hell, it's raining so hard I want to go home and build an ark. We always have some remark, good or bad, regarding the weather. No one has ever said; "Boy...pretty average fucking day outside, huh?"

The weather is like a safety zone of conversation. It is one of those rare things that we, as human beings, are subjected to and affected by. It is something that we will never be able to master and control, and therefore it both frightens us and amazes us. It's our go-to nugget of meaningless babble when we have no idea what to say, but feel a situation warrants us to say something. We're so obsessed with it, we even talk about the weather in places we don't live. "You think it's hot here? My cousin's sisters' son's roomate lives in Florida..." We even relate the weather to specific events in our lives. There isn't a married woman alive that couldn't tell you what the weather was like the day she became Mrs. Vapid Asshole.

We even have a weather channel. In the summer, my girlfriend watches the weather channel the way lonely spinsters watch the 700 Club. She wants a tan, and she wants it today.

Which brings us to the poor weather man. I wouldn't trade places with a meteoroligist for 15 minutes. Because the only thing we like to do more than talk about the weather? Blame it on the shmuck that tries to predict it.

I'm over it, to be frank. The next time a random stranger attempts to engage me in a weather-related conversation, I am going to make direct eye contact and tell them I have a third testicle.

I'm unclear why people feel the need to make small talk with me, at any rate. I wear a motorcycle jacket, T-shirts emblazoned with Punk Rock bands or superheroes, and combat boots. I sport a mohawk and a scowl. My outer shell does not leave one suspecting that my chewy center is filled with nougaty goodness. I look like what I am: angry, white and poor. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, I am the new majority minority of this country.

Now, we're going to depart from our normal procedure of the most intelligent thing I heard all day, and discuss what should have been the most intelligent statement, but wasn't.

"I just want to come to work, mind my own business and not get involved in any of the gossip."

Solid idea. In fact, if more Americans approached their jobs with this attitude, odds are that most of us wouldn't hate our jobs with the passion we do.

Sadly, this little glimmer of hope was delivered to me by a coworker that had spent the previous 20 odd minutes raping my ear with his life story, making comments about our coworkers, and making highly inappropriate comments regarding every female he encountered during our shift.

I think at some point, we all enter a new job feeling jaded over the drama of our last place of employment. And, with good intentions, we all swear we will remain outside the loop. We will treat our peers, our subordinates and our bosses as just that... people we work with, and nothing more. This time, we're not getting embroiled in their snarky bullshit. And we mean it, at the time.

The problem is that a normal person's day breaks down into 3 separate 8 hour periods. Work, Home and Sleep, in no particular order. For most of us, the Home part is spent with our families, whether it's the wife and kids, mom and dad, that strange uncle everyone warned you about but you found fascinating...whatever. On a routine basis, our 'outside' social interactions come from the people we work with. Walking into work is like landing on foreign soil. The culture is different, our views of what is normal become skewed, in short, we are fascinated by the diversity and can't help but become absorbed.

Bottomline: human beings are the most uncomplicated complicated species on this planet. Whenever we are separated from our individual tribes, whenever we find ourselves alone among others of our kind, we feel the need to open a line of communication; to combat the loneliness we refuse to acknowledge. We'll make conversation about the patently obvious, or even the weather, just to convince ourselves that we're not alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment