Today I awoke from a dream in which I was observing a police interrogation of an alleged gun-runner. The suspect’s silence was mistaken for stupidity and the frustrated investigator exclaimed “You have to be the stupidest gun-runner ever!” In response to this, the suspect asked for his phone call. As a direct result of his call, the military began carpet-bombing the police station and surrounding area while the now-escaped suspect looked on and then smiled at me.
I awoke thinking that the the idea of a criminal mastermind feigning ignorance and simplicity would make a great movie. Then I remembered….
I got it in my head today that as soon as I finished wage slavery I would make haste to a coffee-shop near campus which has not only delicious espresso, but a very scenic patio overlooking a bustling intersection. Once there I would delve back into the world of Don Quixote de la Mancha, my new favourite literary hero. I don’t know how a modern-day “knight-errant” such as myself has not yet read this book but better late than never. I have lots to say about this book even though I am not yet 100 pages into it, but I do not wish to do a book review, at least not today.
As I sat reading my book, a yuppie in his non-descript Camry/Accord/Taurus/whatever drove by blaring loud generic radio hip-hop. He honked his horn and waved at the older gentleman he was meeting but he confused two girls studying who thought he was waving at them. Silky smooth! I didn’t think much of it and went back to my tale of chivalry in a base world until the yuppie walked up in his best slacks and pointy black leather shoes to join his older companion. I can’t really convey why his ensemble bothered me: it wasn’t so much that he couldn’t dress properly or that he wore it wrong or that it was the wrong size. On the contrary, everything fit him well enough and it was the act of him wearing it that bothered me: it seemed that rather than truly being his own style he was dressing how he
thinked thought people dressed when they had to hold down adult jobs.
As the pair sat in close proximity to me, I had little trouble hearing their conversation and I found myself unable to read DQ in an engaged manner. I couldn’t help but stare at him: his appearance (shaggy hair, crooked yellow teeth, gaunt figure, etc…) contrasted with his carriage to such a degree that it bespoke one who had only recently in life found a sense of self-worth. What propagated this confident deportment I wondered? Well, based on the aforementioned pointy shoes and the Blackberry which stayed affixed to his hand throughout the course of his conversation, I hazarded a guess that his career (and salary by extension) put the swagger in his gait. I began to deconstruct this person I didn’t know and imagined him without the cell phone, overly-wrought wardrobe and work (insurance salesman) anecdotes and the result wasn’t pretty.
But then, neither was the reality: his companion (whom I assumed to be his grandfather) listened politely while the manboy regaled him with stories of
cheap bastards prospective clients balking at coverage, informed him of lewd headlines (woman dies falling off fridge onto broomstick while trying “extreme masturbation”),
Kinda exactly like this, except less “flying over skyline” and more “dying on kitchen floor”
and liberally used the word “fuck.” When the older gentleman got a word in edgewise and volunteered something, it was received well … disconcertingly well. It was like the guy read human socialization out of a pamphlet and only knew the general shades of emotion to show and not the quantities: His unwarranted (and shrill) laughter upset me perhaps more than it should have, but like Holden Caulfield, (yeah, I read “Catcher in the Rye” … couldn’t fap to it though) phoniness irks me. I couldn’t help but think during this exchange “ohhhhh, so that’s how human beings are supposed to interact.” This inspired me to text my little brother (who is thinking of going for his real estate license) the following text:
Hey buddy, the most important thing yo (sic) will
ever do is maintain your integrity. Listen to
people talk until they are done and be genuine
in your reactions. Always move and act
deliberately. Remember, integrity!
The last thing I want my lil’ brah to become is just another sleazy salesman who sees people in terms of dollars and cents. My concern for his soul was met with a heartfelt
I had done my duty as a brother, but could I do my duty now as a fellow human being?
I could see that the older man was uncomfortable and to help him out I decided to engage the two in conversation:
Me: Pardon me, but I couldn’t help overhearing; you sell insurance?
Manboy: Yes, I do.
Me: Travel insurance?
MB: Why, yes!
I proceeded to give them the condensed version of my upcoming travel plans and asked for his card, introduced myself and told him I’d call him for a quote. Quick to pre-empt a potential flake-out, he said,
MB: Here let me get your number in case you forget to call
Me: (Absently looking at his card) Oh, I won’t forget…
Basically, you need more than a pretty smile to get this number and really, he didn’t even have that. Deflated, but not defeated, he returned to his conversation with Grandpa, and after a few minutes gramps engaged me in conversation, asking my specific travel plans, time I would be gone for, etc. Meanwhile Manboy, in typical business fashion, asked me how much it would cost. The old man was much more lively and animated then he previously was (especially when I asked him about his U.S. Navy hat) and we got along swimmingly. Even Manboy began behaving like an actual human being and the three of us traded travel stories and mishaps like old buddies.
When it came time for them to leave, the old man shook my hand and said “If I don’t run into you before your trip, I hope its great.” I was touched, not because he wished me well, but because there was no reason why he would run into me again: he was expressing that he hoped to see me again. One of life’s simple and enduring pleasures is making connections with total strangers. I sincerely hope I run into him again too.
Manboy left afterwards and I assured him that I would call him in the next two days. Perhaps if he gives me a good quote on travel insurance I’ll let him have his grandfather back.