Pretend you're Sam Donaldson

Fridays are “casual” at work, meaning employees are allowed to dress down. For the managers and everyone else it means no neckties, and the ladies can wear slacks as long as they’re not jeans. Denim in the office, of course, would cause the collapse of western civilization.

The executives don’t participate — they wear the same three-piece vested suits or vest/blouse/conservative skirts that mark their kind.

I don’t do casual Fridays, either. Clothes confuse me, and anyway, I don’t have the wardrobe for it. At home I wear nothing — that’s my idea of casual. I’ll wear pants and a shirt in public because it’s required by law, but all my pants are polyester slacks and all my shirts are bland things with buttons. That’s all I got. On work days I try to avoid wearing stuff that’s visibly stained.

♦ ♦ ♦

Let me tell you about being the loner, the guy who doesn’t say anything unless it absolutely has to be said. That’s my way. I am comfortable not speaking, but it freaks other people out, so I have to say something once in a while.

If a man goes long enough in silence, people think maybe he’s never going to talk. Maybe he’s insecure. Maybe he’s medically mute. Maybe he’s not all there in the head. Maybe he’s plotting something sinister. Maybe he’s dangerous. Actually, I don’t mind if you think that last one.

The truth is, I don’t talk much because I don’t have much to say.

It probably started because I was uncomfortable, unsure of myself as a kid. I still am — show me someone who’s sure of him/her self and I’ll show you an asshole. Decent human beings are always unsure of themselves, at least somewhat.

But after being the quiet guy my whole life, now it’s just my nature. I prefer sitting here and saying nothing all day. I’m not afraid to talk, unless it’s asking a pretty woman on a date. I’m just so unaccustomed to talking that it doesn’t cross my mind.

Sometimes at work someone tries to talk with me about non-work stuff, so I’ll speak a few sentences, but only a few. I know what you’re doing — I’m your good deed for the day. You want to ‘help’ me overcome my tragic silence. It’s not appreciated, but I understand that no harm is intended, so I (usually) don’t rudely refuse.

It happened again today. Jordan, a painfully extroverted kid about half my age, was trying to ‘help’ me, and after a few unwanted sentences he offered advice I hadn’t asked for, on how to converse with people. “Just ask questions,” he said, “and listen to the answers, and ask pertinent follow-up questions. Pretend you’re Sam Donaldson.”

I nodded and said thanks, and I meant it, which is rare. What he’d said was good advice for handling a conversation with someone you don’t know, wasn’t it? I’d rather avoid the conversation entirely, but if there's no way out, sure, I’ll pepper my opponent with questions. Put ‘em on the defensive.

Conversations are delightful, if someone’s worth talking to, but that’s a huge ‘if’, and for me talking is a lot of effort so I’d rather not. If it's unavoidable, then I’ll ask about your weekend and your hobbies and your children, but really, do I have to be Sam Donaldson? That guy seems like such an ass. Let me be Barbara Walters instead. Or better yet, let me be me, the guy with nothing much to say.

From Pathetic Life #3
Friday, August 5, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.



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