Monday, September 5, 2011

People Are Strange When You're A Stranger

some good advice via 8mm ideas

Friends say they think I have some sort of gene or scent or something that attracts strange, weird and interesting people to me.  Really doesn't matter where I am, I usually have some sort of encounter with someone that ends in a story that must be repeated.  Often, when I'm in a shop, people assume I work there and start asking me questions that, funny enough, I tend to be able to answer.  Or, I work really hard at helping them find the answer.  To the point of feeling like I should ask for a paycheck from said shop we're in.  It's that kind of above and beyond and I just can't help myself.  I've always been amazed that with a little bit of effort, a sincere interest in others, and a serious curiosity about human nature, you can talk about almost anything with anybody.

Just a couple nights ago, at the shop I actually do work at, a man came in with long white hair and a Harley Davidson t-shirt and was sauntering through the aisles when I asked if he needed any help. He turned to me, put one hand over his neck and spoke in a way that I knew he no longer had a voice box in there:  Some dude is smoking next door in the bar, he growled, and it's bugging me out, so I had to get away from it.  I made some comment about how he must not smoke anymore and next thing I knew he was encouraging me to look down into this hole in his neck to see if I could glimpse his lungs.  Sounds strange, but it didn't feel strange.  Even when I told him I didn't think I should look down that hole in case I saw something I couldn't get over anytime soon, he pushed it, asked me to get a flashlight and insisted if I'd never experienced this before, it was a long time coming. We talked for quite awhile about it:  How it happened, what he can and can't do anymore (riding his Harley, yes, diving for abalone, no) and how one time he almost drowned in the shower.  He answered all my questions, wasn't insulted by my ignorance and truly was in the mood to talk.
Luckily, so was I, and that's usually the case.
But, sometimes, all this constant interaction can take a toll on me and I clearly need a break.

This past week, coming home from a long week away, where our social conversation/interaction meter was on high, I plopped into my middle-seat on the airplane, plugged in to my walkman, opened my magazine and got ready for six hours of relaxation.

This relaxation I speak of, this did not come in great waves.
I just happened to sit between two women who brought absolutely nothing to do on the plane and were ready to talk.  When the woman on my right started in with how happy she was that I seemed so nice because she hates sitting next to people who aren't nice or who won't share the armrest or who glare at her when she gets up from her seat, well, let's just say she was ecstatic it was me at that moment instead of them.  I got through her initial seat-mate excitement bit and again, put both earphones in and spread my magazine open a little wider to let it be known that, yes, i'm nice, it's true, i can't say no, BUT I am going to relax and I am not available for small talk for the duration of this flight, and that's when the woman on my left leaned forward in her seat, made crazy-eyed contact with me and began to talk.  At first I wasn't sure what she was saying (mainly because I'd just plugged into my own happy space), but then I slowly took out my earphones and heard her little voice talk about a party she and her brother had just been to.  Okay, that's nice, thanks for filling me in.  I sit back and recline my seat as far as it will go, out of clear eye contact and burrow into my fake private space.

It was a short time later, the woman on my right decided to tap my arm and ask me a favor.  What could I do?  I unplugged, I sat up and I listened:
I know it seems strange and you'll probably think me crazy! But I'm scared to go into those little bathrooms and have the door shut and I'm in there all closed up and I get very claustrophobic and so I usually don't drink anything on these long flights because I don't want to have to go in there, but I've had some water and some apple juice on this flight and I know I'm going to have to go to that little room but I'm very very nervous about it and I was just wondering if you could do me this small favor, I'm sure you'll think I'm crazy but if you could help me out that would be just great, if you could just, when I have to go, when it's time for me to go up there to the bathroom, if you would just hold your hand in the door?  so the door doesn't close in on me... I would just need to see your fingers, you know, not the whole hand, but your fingers like michael the archangel, holding my lifeline and then I could go and then it would all be okay.  okay? would you do that for me?  when it's my turn to go? You'll hold the door for me so I'm not closed in there? Yes? Yes? Okay? 

OH shit.
No need to go into details.  It happened exactly the way you're imagining it.  I walked up with her to the little room, I held my hand in the door, I was very discreet about it, it was over and done and we both went back to our seats.
So, now I figure I've friggin earned my alone time for the rest of the flight for that one, but it turns out, no.  Seeing me help this lady on our right, this common seatmate of ours, must've triggered something for the woman on my left who waited until I'd come back, sat down, put on my walkman, opened my magazine and reclined in my seat before she leaned all the way forward to make eye contact with me and start speaking.  Again, I can't hear her for the music blaring in my ears, so I remove my earphones and very politely say, I'm sorry, what?!
Well, I don't even like cake, but this party we just went to everyone was eating cake.  All around us were different cakes, laid out, in all their cake forms and I don't really like cake.  I don't eat cake, but I felt like I had to eat cake because there was so much of it and everyone else was eating cake.  It was funny, but I didn't know what else to do, so I ate cake.  Do you like cake?  I don't.  I know a lot of people do though, it's cake.

Oh shit.
Part deux.

Well, it keeps life interesting.


lotta said...

Oh Molly, you are just a delightful, friendly person. No wonder people wants to rope you in! Now I see a series of short stories, and ma ybe a tv sitcom in your future. You always make me laugh. Thank you!!

acute angle said...

Molly! I love this. I'm also a crazy magnet. At least once a week some woman sits on the bus next to me and tells me she choose the seat because I looked "the least crazy" and then start chatting me up. It takes every inch of my being not to inform them that "if you can't spot the crazy person on the bus you probably ARE THE CRAZY PERSON on the bus! Good things I speak crazy I guess.

slh said...

DUDE! Its a good story...and totally your life. Miss you!

Ellen Zachos said...

Seriously Molly? Just say freakin' NO! Close your eyes, smile and shake your head, do NOT take the earbuds out. And how did you get stuck with a middle seat?