Not a plea for help

As I was setting up shop on Telegraph Ave, I said good morning to the vendor on my left. When the vendor to my right arrived half an hour later and started setting up her table, I said good morning to her, too.

After months working on the Ave, I slightly know these ladies, and got both of their names right. I was proud of myself for that, and that should've been enough.

They're best buddies, so of course they talked all day, which was annoying, but ordinary. What made it worse was that they tried to be nice, and make sure I was part of their conversation.

So they talked about whatever they talked about, and then one or the other said, "What do you think, Doug?" Or variations on that, several times, all through the morning. 

What do I think? Uh, I think your parka looks lovely.

I think a particular other vendor that these ladies talked about shouldn't have said what the lady on my left said he said last weekend.

I think the lady on my right should let her daughter date whoever the hell she wants to date.

I think it looks like rain again, yes, now that you mention it.

Shut up already, is what I really thought. It's bad enough working retail and having to talk to customers all day. It's worse not better, when co-workers try to include me in their hours-long conversation.

Finally I said, "Excuse me, but what you're talking about doesn't involve or interest me, so you ladies should please just talk to each other and leave me out of it." 

My word and good heavens, apparently that was the rudest thing anyone anywhere on earth has ever said.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

It's exasperating. I am a quiet man, and that's not a disease to be cured. When I have something to say I'll say it, but usually I have nothing to say. Saying nothing is not an insult, not a weakness, and not a plea for help. 

Everywhere I go, though, being quiet makes me sorta suspect. Something must be wrong with that guy — he never says much of anything. Everyone everywhere thinks it's weird that I'm so quiet, and sometimes, like today, people try to be 'nice' and 'rescue' me, by talking to me.

It'll never work. I don't want to be rescued. I want to be left alone, please.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The rains came by mid-afternoon, as the ladies on either side of me had predicted. The fish were drenched, but they're waterproof. I was drenched, and since I'd forgotten to wear plastic bags over my socks inside my shoes, my feet were instantly wet, and every footstep all the way home gurgled.

Soon as I walked in the door, I suddenly had to vomit. I might just possibly be coming down with something.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Judith was in the kitchen when I finished puking, so we said hello, and I started making some toasted mustard sandwiches. Judith was watching, aghast, and she asked a very polite version of what the hell, so I explained that a grilled cheese sandwich is almost as good without the cheese.

At that, she insisted on giving me some chunks of her cheese. I tried to say no, but not very hard. It was real cheese, complete with flavor and odor and texture and all the cheesy goodness, not at all like the pre-sliced plastic-wrapped generic cheese-ish stuff I usually eat. "Thank you very kindly," I said, and made it into four sandwiches.

Soon as I'd swallowed the last bite, I fell asleep, but woke up a few hours later to puke again.

From Pathetic Life #19
Wednesday, Dec. 27, 1995

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.


  1. I hope you've learned over these years that the best and quickest way to get most well-intentioned people (can't help with the psychotics) to leave you alone without offending them *might* be to put all the blame onto yourself at the beginning (the classic "it's not you, it's me" defense). Simply explain "Listen, I'm an introvert. I'm only out here because I need money to live, like everyone else. Please don't be offended but it's actually harder on me to make conversation. You folks clearly know each other well and would have it easier if you didn't have to try to include me. That's kind of you, but it's actually tough on me, so please enjoy your conversation and I won't be offended if you let me off the hook here.

    Then you smile haplessly. They'll probably apologize. And if they act like jackasses, you can say you tried.

    1. Sounds like a wiser strategy than mine.

      There's probably nothing I've ever done that wasn't clumsy and awkward and wrongheaded, but oh well. :)

      I actually like my other flatmate Robert. Even though he's a Christian and sometimes talks about church, he never tries to smother me with talking. He lets me walk away. He says different things today than he said yesterday. I would and do enjoy conversations with Robert, so he's no problem.

      Dean would be no problem either, if he'd shut the hell up and stop trying to be my buddy.


🚨🚨 If you have problems posting a comment, please click here for help. 🚨🚨