Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

The Chat Locker

Barbarella
Barbarella

On this shrunken globe, men can no longer live as strangers. — Adlai E. Stevenson

People think time is fixed, an immutable truth like the laws of mass and energy. They’re wrong. Seven days of vacation are over in an instant, while 20 minutes in a dentist’s chair are an eternity. To the other shoppers it appeared that I simply and swiftly entered Trader Joe’s, but for me, time was moving Neo-in-The-Matrix slow. Before my second step had landed on the linoleum, I’d already made a survey of my surroundings, spotted a threat, and formulated an avoidance strategy.

The hazard was standing near the veggies, so I veered from my normal route and beelined to the bread, leaving David to fend for himself like a fawn in a forest clearing. I grabbed a package of mini wheat pitas and stood there, paralyzed with indecision. Backtrack to David, who’d seemed puzzled by my sudden flight? Or proceed around the corner of the aisle? So preoccupied with keeping myself out of sight while tracking the source of my trouble, I wasn’t aware that I’d taken cover behind two employees until they paused in their box-stacking and raised their brows at me as if to say, “Yessss…?" Proceed, it is.

I ducked around the corner and grabbed four containers of yogurt with the haste of someone snatching up rolls of duct tape before the hurricane hits. Balancing the tubs of yogurt with the pita in my arms, I determined my next move would be to reconnect with David, carrier of the basket.

It wasn’t that I disliked the person I was avoiding — she’d been a great coworker, one of my favorites. We even hung out a few times outside of work. She was always complimentary, funny, and easy to be around. But it had been a handful of years since I’d last seen her, and this was supposed to be a quick trip to the market. I did not want to get trapped in an awkward grocery-store catch-up session, the kind that never ends gracefully.

It was during my CIA-esque scoping of the store (Operation Surgical Strike) that I detected her profile, half hidden by a wisp of hair, and then the matching profile of the little girl in her cart. The kid was the clincher.

Like a clairvoyant, I saw the potential conversation unfold before me in a vision: “Wow, Rose, is that you? No way, how have you been?” Listen to superficial answer, nod and smile. Must acknowledge the child. “Is she yours? That’s what I thought, she looks just like you!” Force enthusiasm over the kid’s cuteness, then engage kid directly — make a crazy exaggerated grin and hope she smiles back because if she cries at that freaky face, you’re obligated to stick around until she’s been soothed into silence. Then, eyes back to the mother. “What’s her name? Oh, that’s a beautiful name.”

She’d ask me what I’ve been up to, and I’d have to decide what to share. “Not much” would be rudely vague, but anything positive or negative could be perceived as bragging or complaining. I’d settle on “You know, working, having fun, same old.” She’d ask if I had kids, and I’d have to select a mother-friendly explanation for why I don’t — something like “They’re great, just not for me.” The whole time, I’d be worrying about our respective perishables, calculating how long each item could survive without refrigeration. She’d say we should hang out, and I’d think, Why, but I’d say, “Totally.” And so on. Time would crawl.

I’d prepared myself for the polite chitchat with the checkout person, the “Fine, thank you. Yes, we found everything we needed, thank you.” But I did not have the energy for a whole catch-up sesh, especially with someone whose world revolves around a different sun.

David found me shivering by the frozen foods, pretending to read labels. “What are you doing?” He had a bemused, slightly irritated look on his face.

“Can you go back around that corner and grab two more yogurts? I could only hold four,” I said. He turned to leave, but I stopped him so I could unload my arms into the basket. “Rose is around the corner,” I explained. “I can’t let her see me. I don’t want to get stuck talking. I don’t want to have to be on right now.” David sighed, rolled his eyes, and set off on his mission. I envied him as he passed the free-samples booth at the far end of the aisle I dared not tread. I wondered what they were offering up this time. I imagined it was something I hated and wouldn’t want to taste anyway, something with lots of mayo and cilantro. Ew.

David returned with a full basket. “Is that everything?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, distracted, my eyes darting left and right. “Come on, this way.” I led him on a circuitous path to the checkout line I’d scouted earlier, safely tucked behind a pole and a kiosk full of impulse buys.

Compensating for the guilt I felt for avoiding the acquaintance, I was super-cheery with the checkout guy: “No, you have a great weekend!”

We’d been in the store for no more than ten minutes. For me, the seconds had stretched, each minute dragging like fingernails on a chalkboard.

“Whew, that was a close one,” I said, once we were in the car. “I was worried she’d see me; I really wasn’t up for the whole charade of pretending like I care what preschool her kid goes to when all I want to do is go home and chillax.”

“I could tell,” David said. He seemed to be stuck deciding whether to take the path of censure or consolation. I was hoping he’d settle on the latter. “You acted like they had just vented radioactive gas in that part of the store,” he said.

“I didn’t want to deal,” I whined. “There should be some societal rule about how long you have to maintain polite small talk when you run into someone — you know, like the five-second rule for food on the floor. We’re all in the middle of errands, not at a bar. Forced pleasantness takes too much effort.” At this, David widened his eyes, as he waited for me to catch on to the ridiculousness of what I’d just said in light of what I’d just done. “Yeah, well, it’s a different kind of effort,” I said.

David guffawed and said, “The world is a scary place for you, isn’t it.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Nature joins antifa, burns large swaths of California in protest

Fiery and Not at All Peaceful
Next Article

SinShip Spirits is putting tiki cocktails in a can

Peat-smoked rum maker will have Zombies ready to drink by October
Barbarella
Barbarella

On this shrunken globe, men can no longer live as strangers. — Adlai E. Stevenson

People think time is fixed, an immutable truth like the laws of mass and energy. They’re wrong. Seven days of vacation are over in an instant, while 20 minutes in a dentist’s chair are an eternity. To the other shoppers it appeared that I simply and swiftly entered Trader Joe’s, but for me, time was moving Neo-in-The-Matrix slow. Before my second step had landed on the linoleum, I’d already made a survey of my surroundings, spotted a threat, and formulated an avoidance strategy.

The hazard was standing near the veggies, so I veered from my normal route and beelined to the bread, leaving David to fend for himself like a fawn in a forest clearing. I grabbed a package of mini wheat pitas and stood there, paralyzed with indecision. Backtrack to David, who’d seemed puzzled by my sudden flight? Or proceed around the corner of the aisle? So preoccupied with keeping myself out of sight while tracking the source of my trouble, I wasn’t aware that I’d taken cover behind two employees until they paused in their box-stacking and raised their brows at me as if to say, “Yessss…?" Proceed, it is.

I ducked around the corner and grabbed four containers of yogurt with the haste of someone snatching up rolls of duct tape before the hurricane hits. Balancing the tubs of yogurt with the pita in my arms, I determined my next move would be to reconnect with David, carrier of the basket.

It wasn’t that I disliked the person I was avoiding — she’d been a great coworker, one of my favorites. We even hung out a few times outside of work. She was always complimentary, funny, and easy to be around. But it had been a handful of years since I’d last seen her, and this was supposed to be a quick trip to the market. I did not want to get trapped in an awkward grocery-store catch-up session, the kind that never ends gracefully.

It was during my CIA-esque scoping of the store (Operation Surgical Strike) that I detected her profile, half hidden by a wisp of hair, and then the matching profile of the little girl in her cart. The kid was the clincher.

Like a clairvoyant, I saw the potential conversation unfold before me in a vision: “Wow, Rose, is that you? No way, how have you been?” Listen to superficial answer, nod and smile. Must acknowledge the child. “Is she yours? That’s what I thought, she looks just like you!” Force enthusiasm over the kid’s cuteness, then engage kid directly — make a crazy exaggerated grin and hope she smiles back because if she cries at that freaky face, you’re obligated to stick around until she’s been soothed into silence. Then, eyes back to the mother. “What’s her name? Oh, that’s a beautiful name.”

She’d ask me what I’ve been up to, and I’d have to decide what to share. “Not much” would be rudely vague, but anything positive or negative could be perceived as bragging or complaining. I’d settle on “You know, working, having fun, same old.” She’d ask if I had kids, and I’d have to select a mother-friendly explanation for why I don’t — something like “They’re great, just not for me.” The whole time, I’d be worrying about our respective perishables, calculating how long each item could survive without refrigeration. She’d say we should hang out, and I’d think, Why, but I’d say, “Totally.” And so on. Time would crawl.

I’d prepared myself for the polite chitchat with the checkout person, the “Fine, thank you. Yes, we found everything we needed, thank you.” But I did not have the energy for a whole catch-up sesh, especially with someone whose world revolves around a different sun.

David found me shivering by the frozen foods, pretending to read labels. “What are you doing?” He had a bemused, slightly irritated look on his face.

“Can you go back around that corner and grab two more yogurts? I could only hold four,” I said. He turned to leave, but I stopped him so I could unload my arms into the basket. “Rose is around the corner,” I explained. “I can’t let her see me. I don’t want to get stuck talking. I don’t want to have to be on right now.” David sighed, rolled his eyes, and set off on his mission. I envied him as he passed the free-samples booth at the far end of the aisle I dared not tread. I wondered what they were offering up this time. I imagined it was something I hated and wouldn’t want to taste anyway, something with lots of mayo and cilantro. Ew.

David returned with a full basket. “Is that everything?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, distracted, my eyes darting left and right. “Come on, this way.” I led him on a circuitous path to the checkout line I’d scouted earlier, safely tucked behind a pole and a kiosk full of impulse buys.

Compensating for the guilt I felt for avoiding the acquaintance, I was super-cheery with the checkout guy: “No, you have a great weekend!”

We’d been in the store for no more than ten minutes. For me, the seconds had stretched, each minute dragging like fingernails on a chalkboard.

“Whew, that was a close one,” I said, once we were in the car. “I was worried she’d see me; I really wasn’t up for the whole charade of pretending like I care what preschool her kid goes to when all I want to do is go home and chillax.”

“I could tell,” David said. He seemed to be stuck deciding whether to take the path of censure or consolation. I was hoping he’d settle on the latter. “You acted like they had just vented radioactive gas in that part of the store,” he said.

“I didn’t want to deal,” I whined. “There should be some societal rule about how long you have to maintain polite small talk when you run into someone — you know, like the five-second rule for food on the floor. We’re all in the middle of errands, not at a bar. Forced pleasantness takes too much effort.” At this, David widened his eyes, as he waited for me to catch on to the ridiculousness of what I’d just said in light of what I’d just done. “Yeah, well, it’s a different kind of effort,” I said.

David guffawed and said, “The world is a scary place for you, isn’t it.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Local teacher defends his profession

Pageantry of the classroom has been replaced by Zoom tiles
Next Article

Matt Potter's leftist agenda

Los Angeles DA race
Comments
3

Dear Barbarella,

My friend John was the same way. Mensa smart, people skills so so. He sounded exactly like Andy Rooney & would channel surf between conversation topics

After 10 min on the phone I would double click the hold button & pretend like it was call waiting.

Patrick

June 4, 2010

Ha! I do love my socially inept people, Patrick, and not just because I'm one of them. ;)

June 4, 2010

I'm a teacher and the worst is when a previous student sees me and wants to talk. I can usually recogonize their faces, but forget about names. I don't remember their names the day after the class is over. I usually just wave, say "hey" and walk the other way like they have the plague.

June 7, 2010

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close