Communication breakdown

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As I was getting into my car in the Food Loin parking lot today, a youngish gentleman approached, motioning me to pull down the window.

“Sorry, I loved your hair, had to stop you—but don’t worry, I’m not hitting on you, this is part of a class project,” he said.

Recalling certain unpleasant class projects from my college years, I decided to not vroom away, not immediately. Plus I’d just seen Hairdresser Jeff, so the kid had that much right: my hair looked great.

“I’m a communications major, and I’m supposed to speak with thirty different strangers. Let me start by asking, are you a nice person or a mean person?”

I deliberated a while. “Guess that depends on the situation,” I said. “I don’t like binary distinctions.”

“Okay, let’s try a different approach: are you having a good day?”

“No,” I said immediately. “That one’s easy.”

“Uh, I see you have the Breast Cancer Awareness plates. That’s cool. I like boobies. High five!”

Now, while it is true that people all over the globe–ofdifferent ages, cultures, races, and genders—like breasts, it’s not something you necessarily say to a stranger.

Also, I can be a touchy-feely person, but only with people I (A) know and (B) like. I did not want his high five.

He asked some other questions, to which I gave benign answers. All the while he was feeding me compliments, presumably because that was part of his assignment. Maybe that’s what they teach in Communications.

“Yeah, your shirt’s great by the way, that’s why I stopped you” [wait, I thought it was the hair…?] “and also because you’re like the only white person I’ve seen.”

Granted, people of modest incomes, many of whom are people of color, shop at Food Loin, the only reasonably-priced grocery store in town. Be that as it may, I really do not see how race was pertinent. And the way he said it, as though to garner my agreement that “Yes, we’re all white here, ain’t it grand?” pushed exactly the wrong buttons.

“So anyway, the folks who do best will win an trip to either London or Paris. I picked London, because they speak English.”

Couldn’t be bothered to learn a new language, could you, you little racist punk. And people don’t win vacations for good grades. This is some kind of scam… I kept these thoughts to myself, with a nice neutral expression, while cogitating on the best way to undermine his project.

“I see you’re not wearing a ring. Single? Got a boyfriend somewhere?”

I debated giving him one of these three answers:

1. I’m married, but I don’t wear a ring.
2. I don’t believe in the institution of marriage.
3. I’m a lesbian.

Instead I settled on “How is this relevant?”

I forget the response he gave, but at the next pause in his banter, I interrupted with “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t want to participate.”

“You’re a fucking weirdo,” he said. “No wonder you’re single.”

I really, sincerely, desperately hope that he is not a Communications major. Really.

I toyed with the idea of calling the police. “Yeah, there’s a young man hanging out in the Food Lion parking lot, going about insulting people. Should be easy to spot him. He’s the racist homophobe, and by his own admission he’s the only white person there.”

But being extraordinarily rude to people is not a crime. I know this well. It’s sort of my mantra at work.

I wish I’d had the presence of mind to ask him for his professor’s contact info. Either I’d have exposed him for a fraud, or I could have informed the professor that his student reacted poorly to learning that a person did not want to participate in the project. “Okay, thank you for your time” would have been the correct response. And while I am, in some senses, a fucking weirdo, and while he correctly guessed that I am single (though bisexual, and opposed to the institution of marriage, in point of fact), I’m not quite sure how either condition pertained to the situation.

This does nothing to assuage my feelings of isolation and loneliness. But I’ve learned a very important lesson today: superb haircuts do not offer protection against mean people.

I’m heading up to Wisconsin to see family at the end of the week. I’ll blog when I get back. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments that ridicule that Communications major and/or make me feel better.


18 responses »

  1. He’s obviously failed at picking up women through all the normal channels, so he’s been reduced to hanging out in the Food Lion parking lot doing fake surveys. What a pathetic loser. If there’s any justice at all, he’ll have the living crap beat out of him before long.

  2. the lesbrarian

    Jinker,I toyed with the idea of hiring a fake boyfriend to go beat the crap out of him, or to at least threaten to. WHY DIDN’T I DO THAT?!?

  3. I think this same person came to my door in OH! He said he was doing some contest to win a trip to London or Paris, and he thought he could win because of his "great personality." He ended up trying to sell me magazines.

  4. the lesbrarian

    Hmm, did he have a hokey little card with him, to, ahem, "prove" that he was legit? Might be the same setup. My guy never got around to asking if he had a great personality. Shame, I could have given him some pointers. People with great personalities do not1. Make racist jokes2. Make heterosexist assumptions3. Call people fucking weirdos, or4. Make insulting comments about their (assumed) single statusAnyway, thanks for reading. I’m pretty sure I don’t know you, in life or online, so I’m pleased to know I have at least one disinterested party reading because he wants to, not because he’s my mother or my colleague.

  5. He did have a hokey little card; it even said "London" and "Paris" right on it.And you’re right – I don’t know you, but I enjoy reading your blog!

  6. Wow, that is SUPER creepy. I have a little friend that I take along with me at all times: his name is "Pepper Spray," and I’m very fond of him. I would highly suggest you introduce yourself, and then the next time a lying icky creep introduces himself, you can take the proper steps.

  7. the lesbrarian

    Brian– thanks! And yeah, it seems to be a scam, based on the googling I just did. Even if this particular iteration is not a proper scam, I still don’t approve of a program that sends people out to go chat up strangers (but that could just be my social anxiety talking.)

  8. the lesbrarian

    CR: I don’t think you’re supposed to pepper spray someone just because he calls you a fucking weirdo. I shall however find a place for your suggestion in my "revenge fantasy" files.

  9. I didn’t say you had to use it, Lesbrarian. It’s just a very comforting thing to have around. And frankly, I think this guy was harrassing you, and I really don’t believe he had any kind of class project. But I’ve probably been made over-suspicious by my years working in the public library. Either way, feel free to add it to the revenge files, it works for that too!

  10. eleemosenary arcihvist

    Unsettlin of course,If this correspondent is not mistaken, such insults alone qualify as ‘assault’.At least you’ve filed the story here.Stay above it.Fergit the rude,probably sad sack character& mention it to the Grocery store manager when you feel up to it,ok? Hey Thornton Wilder and Mildred Fish-Harnack were born in Madison,Wis.You have a lovely visit up there & enjoy the trip as a literary excursion.Meanwhile sport your hairdo proudly, smile a lot and only look menacing when necessary.May The Force be with you:)Ah yes,Carl Sagan intro to Stephen Hawkings’Brief History of Time’ mentions a matronly Brit who stood up at a lecture on the Hawking theories to announce that it was all rubbish;"the world said she,was balanced on a flat disc carried on the backs of an endless tower of Tortoises! Patrician,wot? Guards to the Parking Lot! Bibliophiles of the world unite.Thank the gods for fine reference librarians.Reckon that’s all for now.tgb/EA

  11. Experiences like this are things are freaky at the time, but good to come back to on days you’re feeling less than adequate about yourself… to know that, hey, it could be worse, you could be that guy! D:I hope you have a safe and fun trip to see your family! Woo, Wisconsin. Never been, myself. Is the cheese thing all hype, or do they don your head with a foam wedge straight off the plane? ;D

  12. the lesbrarian

    Cara,The foam cheese wedges are distributed on the airplane, along with the complimentary peanuts.

  13. the lesbrarian

    E. Archivist: the "literary excursion" portion of the trip involved me trying to get my cousins (ages 2, 7, and 9) to read the books I’d given them as gifts. I almost entirely failed. No interest in reading, these cousins (though hope remains for the two-year-old).

  14. eleemosenary arcihvist

    The young cousins sitting in a Paris Cafe some fine day may inscribe honorable mentions in a Camebert smeared notebook to:’the Auntie who launched their global literary Hegira’:)Nice work. EA/tgb

  15. Wow, what has become of our once great society, Jess? Why can’t everything be like it was back in Odyssey of the Mind days?

  16. Personally, I’m glad society doesn’t depend on our balsa-wood structures. The whole lot would come tumbling down.

  17. Ah, yes. But if everyone in society spent their energy building balsa-wood structures, don’t you think the world would be a much less violent place? That is until someone invented the balsa-wood bomb, but I’m pretty sure that MacGyver has already perfected that.

  18. Actually I think my favorite OM year was the one with Pompeii and no balsa wood. Mt. Vesuvius erupting was pretty violent too, though, come to think of it.


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