There must be something about me which attracts the odd. I am sure most people go about their lives with very few oddball things happening to them. Not me. I’ve always been like this. If something strange is going to happen, it will happen to me. Of course, the fact that I am very assertive fans the fire of oddballness. Most of these happenstances would come and go a lot more easily if I didn’t feel impelled to respond to what is going on. So put a gag on me and maybe nothing odd would ever happen. But, of course, try gagging me and I’ll sue you before the sun goes down. See what I mean?
So today my old fashioned, book reading, anti cell phone self collided with the young, non-reading, cell phone obsessed younger person (thirties). After doing my rec center bit I headed to Subway for my flatbread super veggie BMT for lunch. It is mid afternoon when no one else is eating lunch. I had my iPad mini with me and had just started a good book, Koko by Peter Straub. I have never had a problem eating alone because I am a reader. I was eating and reading away when all of a sudden a woman glides into my booth sitting down opposite me. “You don’t mind if I take half your table do you?” (The restaurant was completely empty.) If you know me, you know typically it would take me three seconds to tell this woman to get the hell up and out of my booth and find her own seat in the empty restaurant. Being decrepit and in my dotage has done nothing to diminish this stance. But…but…well, there’s a problem.
Let me pause here for a confession. The problem is that the woman is black. If you are black, asian, native american, gay, lesbian, transgendered, Jewish, handicapped, etc., it always gives me pause. This is because I believe in civil liberties and civil rights. Maybe there is some past act of discrimination which is making this person’s behavior unusual. After all this person has a terrible history of bad things being done to him or her. In which case, I need to suspend judgment for a little while, to give her the benefit of the doubt. I would never do this for a white person of any of the usual persuasions. I would have been on her like a wildcat in that case.
But I did spot the cell phone in her hand and, of course, I am reading. I may be in an indulgent mood but I do have standards and limits.
“Ok,” I tell her, “but I am reading so I need absolute quiet so that means no noise, no talking, no cell phone use and so forth. If you start doing any of those, you will have to get up and leave.”
There is such a look of shock that crosses this woman’s face that I almost laugh. But I don’t because this game is in motion. What could she possibly be up to, I wonder. Why would you force yourself upon another, much older woman in a completely empty restaurant? I can think of no good reason but I am determined to give her the benefit of the doubt. As I look up from my book while eating my sandwich, I notice that she now looks like a deer caught in the headlights.
She starts eating her sandwich very fast. I have never had anyone eat a sandwich faster than me. I take after my Dad in this, who was nicknamed The Flying Fork. I think of myself as Daughter of Flying Fork. Jim has never beaten me in finishing food first. (You just try eating faster than someone like me who was brought up in the real estate business.) This woman beats me. I have never seen anyone eat a subway sandwich that fast. Within three minutes she has finished, is packing up and leaving. Moments later I notice she is in her own booth and on her cell phone. She avoids looking at me for the next half hour while I continue reading and is on her phone the entire time. I finish and get up to leave. She is still on the phone.
I leave, realizing I will never know for sure what was going on. Whatever it was, she obviously regretted picking me as her seat mate. I can only assume she was going to try to sell me something or get me to join something or worse. Oh, dear, could she have picked a worse person for such an exercise? My parents were both highly successful brokers who could sell anyone anything and it was the highest compliment in my mother's book to tell me I had the most natural sales resistance of anyone she had ever met. Of course, this also meant I did not have their talent for sales. You have to be a believer to be able to sell well.
I do feel slightly buoyed by one thing though as I drive home in the milder weather with sunnier skies. I have finally gotten some of my own back against these cell phone addicts. They have done their best, after all, to ruin restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, the swimming pool lounging area, the roadways and every other aspect of my life outside of the interior of my own condo and car. I notice then that she is no longer black in my mind. No, she is one of them, a cell phone abuser, and as far as I am concerned entitled to only outright war.