Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Despise Thy Neighbor II

Nice Guys Go Away, Come Again Some Other Day

My neighbor Helpful Fella came over in a neighborly way the other day. Without invitation, I mean. I was working in the yard, but he'd really chosen the wrong moment. I'd gotten a new burning barrel to replace the old rusty one and needed to put some drain and air holes in the bottom. Judging by the couple of times I've done it before, I had not expected to hate the job so much, but it was hard as hell. I had the big ball peen hammer (I did not say big balls peein', what sense would that make?!). Anyway, I had the Big ball peen hammer and the Big chisel and thought I was ready for action. But either they're suddenly making the 55-gal. drums tougher these days (highly unlikely—most non-electronic things are of lesser quality as time goes by) or I've grown weaker in the less than two years since the other one was new. In short, it was hard to do and made me doubt myself. Was this deterioration more sign of old age or was I just having a bad day? It was a bad day of some kind. It's one thing to note that a thing is harder to do than it used to be, quite another to wonder if you're actually unable to do it any more. I've always been able to smirk about not being as good at something as Joe or Beau or Mr. Doughboy—being fastest gun in the west was not one of MY goals—but not being as good as I used to be is a bummer.

Taking A Beating While Others Delight In Talking

My wrists and fists were taking a beating and I imagine my face was already red when Mr. Helpful approached. He said something—it seemed to be "What are you doing?", but could it really have been that? What was that, some kind of farmer talk? A vein in my forehead was throbbing and I was too fast approaching the point of panting while he talked on and on.

"I'm already too angry at this job to have a conversation about it!" I told him, hoping he'd catch on.

He nodded and I thought, "Oh, that was easy, he got it."

But in fact he didn't get it. He continued to stand and watch silently while I banged on the metal drum. My metabolic system began to approach meltdown and apoplexy at the same time. Helpful Fella was giving me the creeps again, but this time, whether rightly or wrongly, I lost my restraint. I hollered at him to "Go! I don't want to be watched!" He said, "Oh!", and he went.

Meanwhile, my pulse rate was way too high. I thought for a minute that it was the physical exertion that caused it and that I'd have to stop working and see if I was having a seizure. After 3 or 4 more minutes of just blindly continuing to work—a little more slowly, though—my pulse slowed and I realized it was just that I'd gotten so outrageously mad about being crowded. I've noticed in the past couple of years that when I get mad, my whole metabolism just gets fucked up. The exertion had a little to do with it, of course.

Step Aside When I'm Blowing Up!

I hate getting into confrontations of any sort, but when I finally decide that the only way to be let alone is to holler at somebody, I pretty much lose control. It's the only way I know how to do it. I'd been expecting him to start being "helpful" as always from the moment he walked over and it had lit my fuse. Whether or not I should have a fuse like that is another matter. Of course, he actually never got the opportunity to offer his help. I guess I just didn't like the way that he eased into my field of vision and made himself a part of my day.

You know, I'm a firm believer in eye contact. I believe that it generally means something. When I WON'T make much eye contact with you, it generally means I'm giving you as polite a dismissal as I can. I'm giving you a chance to get out before things get bad, grow sour, turn nasty, go south. It's my busy signal, you might say. My Not At Home sign. I wonder if it means anything like that to other people? I would have thought it was so.

But I guess some people are used to working and yammering at the same time and don't waste their time on reading body language or wondering if anyone likes them to yammer. Why don't they get distracted when I'm so clearly failing to encourage them? Why don't they shut up and go away? I guess when you think that all the world is your good Christian friend, you don't spend much time being either introspective or observant.

HEADLINE: Wild Bear Bites Man's Head Off

I am a jackass, okay, and I'm rude as a bear when provoked, but I do try to read the body language and the faces of people I don't know well. I don't assume I'm welcome until I see some sign of being welcome. It makes perfect sense to me how friendly people get in each other's friendly faces and stand too near and stay too long and don't get tired and won't go away, but why should anyone comport themselves thusly with me? I'm not a notoriously friendly person and have no comprehension of it when it's aimed at me! I like for a short-term relationship to stay superficial for a long while. Most shallow relationships stay shallow, and that does not make me sad. Why do kooks I don't know want to be anything more than friendly with me! Why do they want to be Friends? Don't they know a bear when they see one?

Is The Bear Catholic?

So many people don't read Bear sign these days, I find. Not the feces, not the tracks and claw marks, not the savaged trunks and tree limbs. Not knowing how to recognize one, they cannot avoid one. Well, that's stupid, but at least I can understand it. What I don't understand is how Happy Fella is making friendly noises at me out in the yard the very next day as if nothing bad had ever been said. Being weak, I removed one earplug and nodded, "Yup, yup, that's right," in response. Shit, why can't I shut up? I will live to regret it. But I put the earplug back in my ear canal as soon as was feasible. The neighborhood lawn equipment (including my own mowers and blowers) makes an intolerable amount of noise—just like the neighborhood prattle. Sometimes, a good pair of ear plugs are man's best friend.

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Abandon hope, all ye who enter here! (At least put on your socks and pants.)