11 August 2009

Make way for the zimdog

One day during our time in Indiana, Emily was going out shopping with her mom and I was heading out to do my own thing. It was suggested as possible that I could, if I wanted, make a stop at Target for baby food. At the time, I was shaved near bald, and my transition lenses were dark from just coming in out of the summer sunshine. I must've looked like the founder of a local Hunter S. Thompson fan club. I was also clearly one of the few men in Target on a weekday afternoon.

I thought, don't let them know you're an outsider. For fuck's sake, man. Pull it together. Learn to function around others. Yes, that's it. Calmly sidestep the estrogen-fueled bumper cars and make for the baby food section. But where is it? Goddamn, they knew you were coming. They hid the baby food. Oh, no. There it is. Mmmm. Yes. Study the flavors. Consider their potency and quantity. You're a man on a mission.

Alright, so I can exaggerate with the best of them. I'm not actually uncomfortable around women, nor did I think like Hunter S. Thompson while I was there, but I do admit I was uncomfortable. And not just in Target. Maybe you, my humble reader, too can attest to the reason. Everyone seems to be playing a game called "Let's all pretend no one else exists." This has been going on for some time now. I thought all these people were bred in Florida because that's where I caught wind of this trend. but I've since encountered them as the majority everywhere I've been lately (and that's a lot of places). Now I just expect this tension whenever I leave home.

I expect it because I know there are other human specimens living and moving beyond the boundaries of my home. As I proceed on foot from my personal form of motorized transport, I notice these human specimens all around me, driving their own personal forms of motorized transport or proceeding on their own feet. I study the demeanor of each one, only to find each one is a lot like me in many ways. Thus, I wonder if, like me, they are longing for specimen interaction. I wonder if this one or that one will reciprocate a greeting. Every once in a while, there's a return of smile, and more often than not the non-committal head nod to acknowledge that eye contact has been made.

But mostly it's: customers busying themselves with looking where to swipe their card so they don't have to make eye contact with their customer service representative; shoppers watching the movement of each others' carts for cues on how to plan their next move; people standing silently in wait for others to divine the feeling of being in someone else's way. All the while, I'm watching, thinking, Just say excuse me, for fuck's sake! How is someone supposed to know someone else is behind them without the communication of this information?

The main reason I'm all whiny and complainy on this subject is that I'm very much an outgoing person with strangers. I suspect I'm much more annoying to those people who have known me for some time. I'm an honest a sort of fellow, meaning I tend to say what I'm thinking (something I chalk up to using the potential of the intuitive brain). But in time, I expect that my honest words accumulate in the intuitive brains of others, making them grow tired of me.

This suspicion, however, is not enough to make me give up my honesty because I know that communication is what has gotten humans this far. If we stop telling each other the truths we see, then we are effectively done evolving. So why not just tell each other the truth all the time? Oh yeah. Shedding the animal past means we're supposed to be considerate of others. In public, I'm supposed to be polite by considering the needs of other people, so if other human beings don't want to be acknowledged, then I should just leave them alone. Right?

Then why do recluses willingly expose themselves to public spaces? Moreover, how are there so goddamn many of these people? Oh yeah. There are so many of these people wanting to be left alone in public spaces because that's how they were trained to act in public. Think about how often you see children being honest creatures in public to the chagrin of their parents who then begin training that openness away. No, no, little Sally. We don't stare at others, or Billy, stop speaking to that poor person. He doesn't want you bothering him, (as if it's somehow a bother being noticed). I've observed dog owners doing this too. When I'm out walking Murphy and some other dog on a leash gets all loud about us, the dog-walkers don't acknowledge me or Murphy. They speak solely to the dogs, scolding them for acknowledging others (which, it seems to me, only reinforces a dog's need to bark at that thing over there that its walker obviously doesn't notice).

This is my guess. Our solitude in public is the evil twin of politeness. When you think so much about what other people want or need and how you should act for the sake of others, it becomes much easier to get fed up with all the shit you're doing for other people. Your ego demands, what about me? This is politeness gone awry. This is how the majority of human specimens has come to walk around in as many private little worlds. Every encounter with another person strains your own abilities to be you, so when we set out each morning with the mindset that we are to have absolutely no effect on anyone else during the day, we are expecting ourselves to go out into the world where we will not slow anyone down, nor get in anyone's way, nor take the last item that anyone else might've wanted. To be quite honest, I can't remember the last time I lived a perfect day in this manner. There are just too many people to please.

Obviously it's much more complicated an issue than this, but I feel I've uncovered one of the many reasons we can be so damn prickly to each others' presences. For instance, another reason could be that we just don't want to (or don't have the time to) get to know one more person. We can be selfish like that, I suppose.

Or maybe it's because our brains still operate with a heavy share of intuitive thinking. For example, when I look at someone's face, waiting to see if they'll acknowledge me, sometimes their eyes meet mine. Even if their gaze is averted very quickly, I already know what I've seen. There's something spectacular about vision this way, how we're able to differentiate even the slightest difference in the direction of someone else's gaze--especially when what they're looking at is our own eyes. This enhanced definition was probably given to us by Nature for survival, and also for recognizing the threatening or challenging gaze of another. When people acknowledge me and look away, maybe they're intimidated by me. I am a rather tall specimen, and I do have the unfortunate look of a troll or something. If this is the case, then the tendency for people to ignore me in public is just a thread of evolutionary ability that hasn't been bred out of them, so I shouldn't get upset with them.

But this doesn't mean I feel like a troll. Maybe others should recognize that there might be more to me than some eager troll taking an interest in the life of another, waiting for the opportunity to thieve a piece of it. By the flip side of the same coin, maybe they should recognize that I'm just another person like them, looking around at others to see who's gonna be friendly. In this case, I'm being too kind by defending a majority of people who are well aware of the dishonesty they're perpetuating by ignore others. Instead, I'll take comfort in knowing that some people simply do not evolve as fast as others, and that I am one of the fortunate front-runners of the species. Personally, I like this option better, because right now I'm typing this from the safety of home, where my ego can still make whatever choices it damn well pleases.

4 comments:

SOS said...

I confess, I confess. I am one who intentionally avoids contact with others. Not all the time, mind you. And I always try to chat it up with the sales person at the checkout. And I'll smile to people in the stores, or say "excuse me" when I'm trying to get by. But, I can be terribly anti-social in my neighborhood. To the point that I'll look out the window to make sure no one is outside when I'm preparing to leave for a walk. I'll say "hi" to all the people I pass on my walk and all that good stuff--I at least try to be a reasonable human being--but I have to admit that I've refused to leave my house when planned because there is a group of people playing soft ball in the cul-de-sac. I don't know why I react this way in these neighborly situations, but I do. I think it may be because I'm so use to walking out my door and experiencing peace/solitude/quiet that I'll wait out any disturbances to that expectation.

zimdog said...

Could be. But there's nothing wrong with your behavior. Everyone's anti-social at times. There's just so goddamn many of us out there it's tough to be around people all the time. I see this as yet more proof of overpopulation by the humans. Hey, in my world, you're one of the "good" ones, because at least you're still attempting communication.

It's not that everyone who encounters me should say hi. It's that for some reason I feel like everyone who encounters me should say hi. It's me that's the problem, but I have only become the problem as the result of a different problem, namely a majority of people pretending I don't fucking exist.

In my best Forrest Gump voice, I say: "It's a vicious cycle."

And regardless of whether this reply makes any sense, thanks for your commentizzle. It's just nice to know I'm not the only one thinking about this, because it's something I think about with disturbing frequency. Sup with that shit?

Xander and Alana Cole-Faber said...

I think about this a lot, oddly enough. I'm painfully shy at times, so it is occasionally hard for me to interact with strangers. My chosen profession has me working with inanimate objects, thank god. I think part of the reason I liked living in New York so much was that it's understood--and in fact necessary for survival--to ignore most people you see during the day. Before I learned how to ignore people there, I was exhausted and miserable. But I soon got the hang of it. However, I do feel like people notice each other when it's really necessary. For instance, if you accidentally bump into someone (except on the subway at rush hour, of course) or need to get by or whatever. Occasionally people interact for other reasons, like when a taxi driver yelled at me and two other women standing on the sidewalk that he wanted to drive over. These little things always brighten my day and remind me that we're all connected, I guess. I feel like this doesn't occur in less crowded places. I've concluded that either I'm a really, really crowded city dweller or a dweller of Ruralville, where everyone knows everyone. The In-Between is where I want to bash my head against the wall.

Xander and Alana Cole-Faber said...

And I always speak to my cashiers. It's just rude not to. My biggest shopping pet peeve is when customers talk on their cell phones while they are being served. Assholes! Really. Some of this stuff just comes down to manners.