I give off mixed messages. God help anybody who ever actually tries to get to know me. It’s no wonder few people do.
I may have mentioned that I’m working at a place that buys gold in the mall. Not a jewelry store, just a gold buyer. At the mall. You could Google it, that’s pretty much the name of the place. My career as a gold buyer isn’t the point of this post, I’m just catching up.
So today I got off at 1pm but it’s payday so I was killing time at the bookstore in the mall until the checks came. I’m sitting in the coffee bar at the bookstore reading Catch 22 (yeah, I’m still doing that) waiting for my manager to call me. An older gentleman came and sat down in the next chair. I may have nodded or grunted “How are ya?” when he sat down. I’m not sure, but I wasn’t rude. I kept reading my book though.
After a minute or two he piped up and said, “They must’ve gotten rid of the newspapers that was here.”
Shit. I have to make conversation. I looked up and said, “I’m sorry?”
“They used to have a stand there where they sold the local paper.” He pointed to the corner next to me, which – sure enough – did not have a stand where you could pick up the local rag (the one I was increasingly unable to interest people in at my last job).
“And they moved these chairs and tables around too,” he continued.
“Hmmm.” I very astutely replied. “I guess they felt like rearranging the furniture.” Then I gave myself a half-hearted courtesy laugh and went back to my book.
After a few minutes my cell rang, and it was my manager calling to tell me that FedEx had brought the checks. I told him I would be right there and started packing up, putting C22 in my briefcase etc. Then I got up.
“You’re not leaving cause I’m sitting here are you?” the man asked.
“No, no!” I hurriedly replied. And I explained that I had been waiting for the phone call I just got.
“Oh, so you got to get to the bank,” he said. And I said that was right.
As I walked out of the bookstore a wave of sadness hit me. Am I like that? Do I really come off as such an asshole that a perfectly nice stranger thinks that I’m leaving just because he sat down and dared to make conversation with me? Of course not.
Except that…yes. Yes I am. Because the sad truth is, when he started making conversation about the changes the bookstore had made I did seriously consider trying to politely (or not) make my way elsewhere. Someplace where I could read my damn book in peace without having to talk about mundanities with strangers.
I’ve always done this. I don’t know if it’s the Asperger’s or the ADHD or just me being a jerk, but I do this. I keep people at arm’s length and then wonder why no one ever gets close to me. It’s a miracle that I have the few friends I have. It’s an even bigger miracle that I’ve had a marriage and a few relationships with women. Of course none of those lasted.
On the other hand, maybe I just need to cut myself some slack. I had just spent four hours at the mall telling strangers that I will give them cash for their gold etc. How can anybody blame for just wanting to read my book until I can get my check and get out of there?
I don’t want to be rude. I hate rude people. I sure as hell don’t want to be one of them. But I want people to give me some space. Until I don’t. And my face and body language (I’ve been told) don’t always do a good job of advertising the nice guy within.
After I picked up my check and was headed out of the mall, I passed by the bookstore. The man was still sitting there. He looked OK. He didn’t look like his feelings had been hurt. They probably weren’t. But I had the urge to go back, sit down, and talk to him. Make sure that he’s all right. Connect with a fellow human soul. In real life, not on Facebook. So you know what I did?
I kept on walking out to my car.
I give off mixed messages, even to myself. God help anyone who tries to get to know me.