There I was, minding my own business just as the concert was about to begin, when all of a sudden Andre the Giant sat down in front of me with his mother in tow. I couldn’t see anything except for the back of his head. The mother was nice enough; a woman with coiffed, gray hair who seemed embarrassed. Ironically, a woman who was in the same spot just before Andre arrived had turned around and explained to me–I don’t know why–that she was moving because she couldn’t see past the guy in front of her. And so it goes.
People are strange. They do strange things. I know this, because I am a writer and have made it my business to observe people and their odd behavior. I don’t know why they do what they do, but I have been taking detailed and copious notes since 1970, when my friends and I observed an anti-war protest in the form of street theatre in downtown Manhattan. I remember a guy in a bushy mustache and combat helmet, a nude woman, and what looked like a fetus wrapped in Saran wrap. We made sure we made it onto the local news that evening by walking in front of the camera.
Know that sooner or later a writer will turn you in, especially if you have made an impression on him. By this, I mean that he will use you or an experience related to you in his writing. Most of the impressions that end up in my writing are negative ones. That is, I remember things that annoy me more than the ones that bring me joy. And I remember them in detail.
To wit, here are some of my least favorite things: slurping, swallowing, sucking, gulping, gurgling, chewing, munching, crunching, sloshing, smacking, licking, biting, belching, and yawns that are open-faced like a Reuben. In addition, I do not like maniacal clicking on keyboards and what I have dubbed “croak throat,” which affects some people, making them sound like frogs. I also do not like loud conversations in study areas. Oddly enough, I don’t mind fingernails on a blackboard.
Non-audio annoyances include people doing a cannonball onto the opposite side of the bench, nearly hurling me into the air like a seesaw; acts of private hygiene in public places (I’ll leave it at that out of respect for sensitive readers); people who put their feet up on furniture in the library; clods who fly barefoot; people who act as if I am invisible; and the Bang Family upstairs which likes to play marbles, drop irons, and wrestle alligators on the hardwood floor.
There are more annoyances, of course, but these are the basic ones. The only thing I would add are smells as in the professor who unscrewed a can of tuna fish and consumed it with Coca Cola and potato chips not three feet from where I sat in an open office. I started gagging and had to excuse myself.
The reason for my sensitivity to these annoyances? Really, it could be anything, from my need for order and harmony to feelings of shame concerning basic human functions, although I don’t think so. I have no problem with things scatological, including all of those jokes that make junior high school kids giggle.
It could be that civility is not valued anymore. Not to sound like Robespierre, but whither civic virtue? Neither Marxists, whose only rule is to undo the rules, nor free-market globalists, who turn everything into profit, care about a polite society. It is a bourgeois betrayal to the former and an anachronism to the latter. So, where does that leave me?
Sitting behind Andre. They tell me it was a good concert.