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.

Art: Most Confusing Sign Ever, originally uploaded by roachtt3.


8 thoughts on “Mixed Messages

  1. LOL!
    Now, I only laugh because I SO identify (not cuz I’m rude… maybe).

    I think it’s us just feeling uncomfortable because we (I assume) are SO not the kind of people who feel perfectly comfortable walking up to a stranger and striking up a conversation! WHO DOES THAT?!?  

    Yeah, people can be a total nuisance when they can’t just be acknowledged with a simple thumbs up!

    (pls delete if I reposted this comment)

    • I dunno. Who does that? I think people of my parent’s generation did more of that. Not everybody of course, but my Dad walked around the block every day and struck up conversations with people. My Mom greeted everybody with “sweetheart” or “sugar.”
      But me? If I’m not working and contractually obligated to talk to strangers, you’re lucky if you get a nod out of me.

  2. Super-duper post! I wanted you to go back so freakin’ bad…specially seeing as you used to be in the “newspaper bidness.”

    Inexplicably, this post made me miss America.

    • Get your ass back to America where you belong. I promise that everybody here will be nice to you.

      Yeah, I wish I had gone back, I really do. It almost makes me cry thinking about it.

  3. Ha! I’m working on it. I don’t mind folks not being nice – it’s arguing in the same language, I miss.

    Don’t beat yourself up about not going back, Joe. We’ve all done it. (((♥)))

  4. So here I am finally catching up on your blog with a guilty conscience because I have neglected checking in here for way too long. Has it been months? Seems like a long time, but I got busy and distracted. Thats the short story and its as accurate as a short story can be. The point is not to make excuses for myself but basically to announce that here I am feeling guilty – and I find this gem.
    So … you are worried about social obligations … to a stranger?? Evidence that I beat you hands down in the asshole contest!
    Here is my take on the friendship dynamic: It takes a certain resilience of believing the best in people to be my friend because I certainly don’t make it easy. Consequently, those friends that I retain have a strong tolerance for not hearing from me for extended periods and then a capability of just picking up where we left off as if no time had passed.
    There are moments when I enjoy people and social interaction, but it drains me. And then when I have had enough, I need to retreat. Its instinctual like a turtle who surfaces regularly for oxygen. I need to get back in touch with myself again to re-energize.
    To appreciate the full effect of my jerkiness, understand that I don’t do birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas. I don’t do gifts and I am really grateful when nobody gets me a card or gift or even remembers my birthday because then I can feel comfortable ignoring theirs.
    Its not only that I hate shopping and I hate stores. I just don’t get why we are supposed to make a big deal on a certain day of the year to acknowledge people for some seemingly arbitrary reason – ie. you were “born.” wow. Thats profound. (read sarcasm there.) Or even more mystifying – Christ was born. – so that obligates me to buy you a gift?
    To me there is a complete disconnect with your value as a human being and a friend, and how much time and money I spend on giving you stuff. But if you were laid up in bed, I would be happy to bring you some chicken noodle soup. Or go buy your groceries. Because that is what friends do. Not buy some ready-made cardstock with a pre-typed message of affection or even struggle to be creative to make something, which sounds like friendship is an art assignment.
    I have lost some friends and that pains me because I see the confusion and hurt look in their face and I know I disappointed them. – Damn!
    Yet, somehow even knowing that I am hurting someone I love does not stop me from retreating away from them occasionally. My best friends understand me and accept it. I don’t deserve them and remain so very thankful for them.
    I guess, Joe, I just want you to know that there are worse offenders out there. From my perspective, you are doing well.

    • So you do feel guilty…at least where me and my blog are concerned 🙂
      Not to worry, we’re friends that went for some 20 years between interactions.
      I think we all have to find some accommodation/compromise between social expectations (such as chatting with a stranger) and what we want to do. Some of us are better at it than others…and one thing I’ve learned after 54 years of this is that whatever we do some folks are going to like it and some are going to get pissed off or hurt. And there’s not a whole lot you can do about it either way.
      One thing that I appreciated that was said about me (by a YWAMer that we both know) is that I was “always a gentleman.” That’s one thing (one of entirely too few) that I share with my Dad. People said the same thing about him. If that ends up on my tombstone…He was a gentleman: A gentle, fair, honest man…I could do a lot worse.
      As always, Crystal, I love your honesty and your take on my rabid little scribblings. Thank you for being my friend and my fervent reader…and when Facebook reminds me that it’s your birthday I’ll try not to send you a birthday greeting with three exclamation points.

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