January 10th, 2007

Random Wednesday Observations of the “People Are Funny” Variety *


  • Flip-Flopping Seems More the Norm than the Exception

I am absolutely anti-flip-flopping. (This does not indicate that I never change my mind—far from it, actually! But I tend not to share opinions—or news—until they’re firm. Which is apparently not what normal people do.) Unfortunately for me, I am semi-surrounded by flip-floppers. (See “It Is Important to Have Friends Who Drive You Crazy,” below.) But I was really surprised by a flip-flop I witnessed yesterday, when I phoned an interview subject to confirm our meeting today. Last week he had suggested I tell his brother to join us, so I could interview them both at the same time—but when his wife answered the phone yesterday, she said he was upset about his brother being there. “But he’s the one who suggested I invite his brother,” I said. “Oh,” she replied. “He misunderstood.” (How could he misunderstand his own suggestion? A mystery for the ages.) Then he got on the phone and explained that he just didn’t want his sister-in-law there, because she’s always getting involved, and she doesn’t know anything about the subject at hand, since she didn’t marry into the family until years after the events I’m interested in talking about. But, he said, the three of us could just sneak off into the kitchen and have a private talk. We’ll see how it goes. By the time I get there today, he may have organized a surprise party for me. Or the cops may be waiting with a restraining order. 

  • It is Surprisingly Easy to Terrify Others

My family has long complained about My Look, which evidently indicates very plainly any distaste I feel toward a person, event, topic, or other noun. It also evidently clearly indicates fury I believe I am successfully disguising. (When I was a teenager I used to try rushing to the mirror every time I got mad, just so I could see this amazing Look. I still have no idea what it looks like. But I guess it’s a doozy.) The problem is that sometimes when I’m feeling pretty calm—like I’ll be thinking, “That was a stupid thing my editor just did, but I’m in a pretty good mood, so it doesn’t really bother me”—my face is evidently indicating quite the contrary—like, “You’re the one who set up this meeting, even though you knew I wouldn’t be in the office today, and yet you’re the one who arrived late, and I hope you realize how much effort it is taking for me not to bawl you out in front of the rest of the editorial team.” Because the other day, when an editor set up a meeting for a day I wouldn’t be in the office, and she arrived 20 minutes late, and then the actual meeting topic was pushed aside in favor of other topics, my least favorite member of the editorial team made a weird remark about newspaper writers, and how hard-edged they were, and is that really something we wanted to adopt? “What an odd thing to say,” I thought. “Because I’m sitting right here, and I write for newspapers. But maybe he forgot that. And anyway, I’m not sure all newspaper writing is that hard-edged. Mine certainly isn’t.” And on and on I went, trundling along on my merry little train of thought. And then the goofball turned to me and said, “No reaction?” (Evidently he had been trying to tease me. He should have held up a sign or something so I would have recognized it.) And then the editor burst out in my defense: “Well, she’s not even supposed to be here, and I was Twenty Mintues Late!” And I wasn’t even really feeling that irritated. How I wish I could see what my face does when I’m really upset!  

  • Death is Occasionally More Fascinating Than Horrifying

So at my catechism class last night—which was supposed to be a calm and happy class about the different types of prayer [intercessory, praise, petition, etc.], we naturally ended up talking about death, with a heavy focus on cremation. (These kids have a mystical power to turn any conversation into something completely different. It’s a gift.) And they wanted to know what happens to the people carrying the corpses into the flames, and why people keep ashes, and all kinds of things. So I tried to answer their questions as truthfully as a non-funerary-field-employee could, but without freaking them out, because I remember all too well the day I found out about death. I’d been watching a movie with my parents, and some character entered a cave. Later other characters entered the same cave, and discovered a skeleton—but the guy was nowhere to be seen. When I asked my parents where he went, they answered simply that the skeleton was him. This was very confusing to me. Explanations ensued. I cried the entire afternoon. Literally. But these kids are much tougher than I was, and seemed not the least bit dismayed at anything I said. (Although I had to bring the topic to a brisk close when Troy asked exactly how a person’s skin and guts disappear. Cremation is one thing, but I draw the line at maggots.)  

  • I Fear I May Be Possessed

I carry a lot of static electricity. I guess my hair probably attracts it. And probably I shuffle my feet on carpet too much. But yesterday was about the fifth time I have gotten a shock while dipping my fingers in holy water. That just seems so wrong. And it makes me wonder if My Look maybe indicates a stronger connection with otherwordly forces than I had any right to expect. (Basement-located otherwordly forces, if you know what I mean.) 

  • It Is Important to Have Friends Who Drive You Crazy

It’s important because they make you appreciate your other friends more; they also make you feel more normal. (But I don’t recommend taking it to the extremes I have in the past, when I ended up a bridesmaid in the wedding of a girl I absolutely couldn’t stand, simply because I couldn’t bring myself to be rude enough to indicate that I really didn’t like her.) Friends who drive you crazy also help push your real problems into the background, because they give you an immediate frustration to fixate on. For instance: did you ever know a person who says everything exactly the wrong way? A friend of mine has told me—on more than one occasion—that she drove past me as I was walking down the street, and I “had the funniest expression” on my face. By now, I just want to say, “Are you sure I don’t just look that way? And how closely were you able to observe me, anyway, as you were navigating traffic? And exactly how do you define 'funny?'” Yesterday she asked me if I had powder on my face--because I didn’t "look as red as usual." (Gee, thanks! I've always considered it more of a healthy glow, but "red" works too.) Of course she is one of those people who is utterly hypersensitive about her own appearance (Isn’t that always the way?). She drives me crazy in Cosmically Bigger Ways than this one--but they will requrie a post all of their own. (Something to look forward to!) 


* Wondering how this post connects to writing? Me too.

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