A couple of people I know have started a blog where they tell stories about people they encounter. The website looks slick and they are both fine writers, and it is worth checking out. However, I jokingly said to one that I would not be a good contributor to such a project because I am… uh, different. She said she’d still like for me to write an article for the site, so allow me to demonstrate why this would be a bad idea and that they are better off without me ;). Behold, my experiences with these beings called “people.”
I learned at a young age that human beings are strange creatures; they have these things called “feelings,” they are social, they want to be noticed, and they want to talk, as if they cannot live on without someone giving them affirmation for their fragile self-esteem. Normally, I am quite good at avoiding them, especially strange ones that I do not know, by using all sorts of nonverbal cues that should communicate to normally functioning humans that they are not welcome to come talk to me: I avert my gaze to my phone or other object, I cross my arms un-invitingly, I turn my body away in a secluded manner, I avoid smiling, and/or I give blank stares that show my disinterest if and when I do look up. Every once in a while, though, some weird extrovert will come to me in my peaceful corner and attempt to strike up a conversation about the weather, their taste in movies or music, or something even less interesting like their life. I have learned some level of social etiquette over the years in order to get by in the world, so with disappointment, I’ve had to entertain such conversations for a little while before finding some awkward way to remove myself from this soul-sucking life form that invaded my personal space.
What is even worse about such people is that they think they are doing me a favor when they come talk to me. They think to themselves, “Oh look, that person is alone! He must be unhappy and must really want someone to go talk to him, so I’m going to be his friend!” What faulty and presumptuous reasoning. When their happy selves come bounding up to greet me, I sigh inwardly, “Really… I was fine. Your presence was neither needed nor wanted.” To be fair to them, though, I have heard from others that many people who do stand to the side by themselves really do want people to go talk to them, but they are just socially challenged or shy. Typically, I have left such people alone because that is what I would want someone to do for me (the Golden Rule and all), but apparently some of them actually want attention from others. It further confirms to me that people are needy and bizarre.
One such experience with a needy individual came many years ago while I was sitting on a park bench, minding my own business. A man came by with a cute dog, and because dogs are many orders more likable than humans, I acquainted myself with the dog by petting her. However, for reasons that escape my understanding, this man took that as an invitation to sit down next to me and talk… a lot. At first, I stared at him, befuddled at his complete misunderstanding of my intentions, before I politely attempted to feign interest at whatever emotional nonsense he was spewing. I tried to nonverbally tell him to get moving by paying more attention to his dog than him, scooting over to the far side of the bench, and turning my body away, but this confused person kept running his mouth in an incredible display of endurance.
Here is a rough picture of how the 45 minute conversation went, which was about 45 minutes too long. My silent thoughts are in parentheses.
Human: “This dog is my baby!”
Me: “Yeah, she’s cute.” (Certainly more endearing than you.)
Human: “Hey, so why are you in the area?”
Me: “I go to church around here.” (Oh wait, social rules dictate that I should ask him too.) What about you? Do you go to church around here as well?”
Human: “Why yes I do! I go to one that isn’t too far from here. But let me tell you, it hasn’t always been easy. They got mad at me for laying down during service, but I need to do that because my back hurts sometimes and… blah blah blah emotional stuff that is always someone else’s fault.” (I kind of zoned out sometimes)
Me: “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Sometimes churches need to stop caring so much about traditionalism.”
Human: “Yeah, and then they think I talk too much…”
Me: (Oh gee, I wonder why…)
Human: “… and they don’t always like what I say or what I’m trying to teach. Hey, I’ve taken some special theology classes, do you want to know what I’ve learned?”
Me: “Well I…”
Human: “I’ve learned some Hebrew and it’s pretty amazing what kind of secrets you learn from the original languages. Do you know what the tetragammaton is?”
Me: “Yes, I do. I have to g…”
Human: “It’s God name! It means ‘I am!’ That’s what he said to Moses. Did you know that? What’s even more amazing is finding out what Jesus’ name means in Hebrew. ‘Jesus’ means ‘He is.’ Isn’t that cool? God’s name is, ‘I am,’ and Jesus’ name means ‘He is!’
Me: (I am sure your name must mean “Tiring conversation…”) “Uh, Jesus’ name actually means ‘God saves’ or some variant of that…”
Human: (ignores what I said) “These are the kind of codes and stuff that you can figure out from the Bible when you know the original languages. I love studying this stuff and…
Me: (I cannot believe this person felt welcome to talk to me. I must be losing my touch. Well, I can’t wait till I get home and eat some of that kimchi that I have…)
Human: “…I just really want to tell people what I know because I know a lot about this stuff now…”
Me: (…even this dog probably wants him to shut up… I wonder what the scores are of the basketball games…)
Human: “…but the pastor doesn’t always like it, so I’ve considered going to a different church.”
Me: “Well, you shouldn’t just give up on your local church, and to be fair, you have to submit to church lea…”
Human: “Yeah, it’s about love, right? But I don’t know if my church has showed me love. Love is patient and kind, but I just don’t feel that, you know? I just really feel… blah blah blah more emotions and feelings.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s tough… Sir, I’ve got to head out.”
Human: “Oh yeah, sure, sure. Oh, and you know what else…?”
Me: (Wow, I thought I didn’t understand social cues, but this guy…)
[20 minutes of more feelings and incorrect theology]
Me: “Yeah, I really have to go now.”
Human: “Oh, ok. Well, I hope to see you around!”
Me: “Yeah, sure.” (I will never sit on this bench again.)
Then I left, feeling like I just ran a marathon carrying a backpack full of rocks. Such was my experience with the man with the cute little dog who said lots of things, 50% of which I did not catch because I zoned out and the other 50% amounting to emo complaining or theological incoherence. I learned once more that people can talk for incredible amounts of time about themselves and their thoughts if given the slightest perceived opportunity, even to a clearly unwilling party. People want attention, and understanding this continues to elude me. Seriously… high maintenance much?
It was a cool night at the end of fall and the beginning of winter. I looked down on the ground, my feet crunching on dead leaves as I walked to my car. I thought to myself:
“Lucky leaves. You’re dead so you didn’t have to listen to that.”
Yes, I am joking. Again, check out their website :).