Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ban the Bore

There are always those people that we all know that turn up at social functions or local bars and bore the crap out of us. They drone on in a atonal hum and when we see them talking to loved ones we know to rush in and rescue them from the dreary conversations with sentences like, "Can I talk to you in private for a moment?", or "Gosh, sorry to pull her away from you, but we've really got to leave now."

Bores are relentless. They turn up year after year and never notice that they are draining the life out of every normal person they latch onto. It's always been a mystery to me that certain people can't feel their effect on people. I can see male eyes glaze over when I ramble about shoes or my cats. I know my mother isn't hearing a word I'm saying when she suddenly interrupts my story with a list she's making in her head. How is it that some people can constantly set off room-wide panic and not be conscious of the fact?

I noticed something at my birthday party when I got three of these idiots in a row. One I had actually invited, never expecting they'd actually show up, the other two just wandered in from Bob Gruen's annual birthday party down the road, where they were no doubt boring the crap out of everyone there. By the time they all made it to me, I had had a cocktail or two, and was in that happy, buzzy state where you're a little removed from reality--not completely drunk, but drunk enough to observe things from a slightly skewed angle.

As each one took his or her turn, I didn't bother to pay any attention to what they were trying to tell me, I just watched their mouths move and marveled at the common denominator: the "I" factor. Each one went on and on about themselves without pausing for a moment to ask questions of or observe anyone around them. Ordinarily at a birthday party you would wish the birthday person a happy birthday, and ask them what they got or how happy they were or whatever before launching into your own twice-told tales.

I noticed with the bores that there was none of that, not even a pretense in that direction. Each one immediately dove headfirst into the "I, me, my" monologue. It was kind of mesmerizing from an anthropological (i.e. drunken) point of view: "HeyRaffhappybirthday. I never come out to parties anymore because you know I have been sick and I just hate everyone here and did I tell you I've started a video company and I am going to interview Jesse and you know I was at the first D Gen gig in 1919 and I always wore my hair like this but people just aren't cool like I've always been and they're very jealous and I was in the hospital for a while because I fractured my ego in five places and I, me, my, blah, blah, blah, BLAH."

And the whole time as I watched their mouths move I just kept thinking, "I hate you. You are a selfish little fucker and I hate you, and I think 90% of the people in this room must feel exactly the same way." On some level they MUST feel that, especially as I am not that subtle of a person, although polite for the most part. But maybe they just don't know how to connect and continue the I conversation in a panicked attempt to hit upon something that someone somewhere will find fascinating. Or maybe they're so fucking lonely from driving people away that once they actually have an audience they can't control their self-obsessed verbal diahrrea because they know it will be some time before they get a listener again.

I don't know. And I know it's a little hypocritical to be writing about it in a blog in which the word "I" is always featured fairly prominently. But these idiots are on my mind today.

This afternoon on my way home from the gym I saw another crashing bore that I've known for 20 years. I actually have some affection for him just because we've weathered as East Village neighbors for so many years, and he is a nice person. He's never been pervy or obnoxious, he's never asked me to do anything for him, he will stop and let you walk away after he gets the bulk of the monologue out. He's not truly awful. He's very well-educated and has a pretty interesting family history, which of course I know all about because he's happy to outline it as many times as you would like.
He's just tedious as all hell when you're not in the mood.

This guy, we'll call him Mr. X, was across the street boring the hell out of some other person he'd cornered. I did contemplate waving at him, but he was very engrossed in conversation and I just wanted to run into Duane Reade and get some cough medicine and go home. I'd managed to get myself to the gym but I'm still really sick and just wanted to be home. And he didn't appear to see me.

But they always see you. Because they're lonely and boring and you are interesting and running from them.

I traversed through aisle after aisle to the very back of the store ("Halloween candy...mmm...firming serum...wonder if that one works..."), and found the cough syrup. Of course I couldn't find the specific type I wanted so I crouched down to dig through the bottom shelf in a vain hope that it was hidden there.

I'm not close to the ground for more than a moment when I hear, "Hey Raff." And I look up and there he is, staring down at me expectantly. SIGH...

"Hey, Mr. X." Which I say begrudgingly and which comes out in a croaking rasp as I have no voice at the moment.

"Heyyougotacold? So, I've started a new career as a DJ. I'm playing X & Y on this day and that day and this is my playlist and I'm working on getting into this place and that place and it's really great because I'm bringing stuff that no one has ever heard before and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, BLAH."

Dude. I am sitting on the floor with no makeup on, looking at cough syrup. Wouldn't now be the time to say, "Hey Raff, sorry you're sick. Guess I'll leave you to it, get well soon!"? Oh no, that's impossible, because right now it's all about HIS NEW DJ CAREER. And the horrible realization creeps over me as he's talking that he's not there to shop and that he actually ran across the street and followed me into the store and then wandered the aisles until he found me.

Yet, because I grew up in Northern Michigan, the land of completely dysfunctional, passive-aggressive, non-confrontational, overly-nice but weirdly bitchy underneath it females, and because I really don't hate this particular bore, I took his annoying ramble and even responded here and there, all the while feeling resentful and put upon. And then I went home and vented to Drew, gesticulating wildly while holding my new overpriced firming serum that I totally don't need. And now I'm blogging it.

I have no real answers on how to deal with this phenomenon. I know bores don't generally read other people's blogs and even if they did wouldn't recognize themselves. But they must be stopped. Is the answer to just walk away when someone starts on the monologue? That's hard to do when you've known someone forever and you're, you know, ILL AND SITTING ON THE FLOOR.

It's just so frustrating and invasive, and I felt the same frustration at the party, when there I had people to rescue me. I just nodded a few times to each one of these tediumites as they rambled on about themselves, feeling resentment build as their mouths moved. I shouted in my head: STOP SUCKING MY LIFE ESSENCE, YOU TEDIOUS, HIDEOUS VAMPIRE! And then as soon as there was a fraction of an opening turned to talk to whoever else was standing near me.

One of my favorite life moments ever was when I was cornered by one of these people, who happened to be a spitter as well as a drone. As he talked in the direction of the side of my head my friend BROOKE reached up repeatedly to wipe my face with her cocktail napkin. He never noticed, of course, while she and I were hysterical. I still chuckle about it whenever it comes to mind.

But your friends aren't always there to wipe your face. So I'm open to any suggestions you might have, people...



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