Anti-social

by Steve

Man taking coffee, alone

The invention of the Walkman facilitated the end of the social society. Or I’ve read something along those lines, anyway. It is easy to blame some technology, rather than ourselves. Blaming someone else is easier than blaming ourselves. Blaming something inanimate is even easier. Anyway, I like wearing earphones while I’m out and about. It means I can give everyone around me a visual cue that I’m anti-social without all the effort of actually being anti-social. It is a passive form, rather than the aggression of the Loud Person On Phone. You know not to disturb someone with earphones or headphones, if there is someone else nearby to pester who isn’t plugged in. I like that barrier, that shelter.

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I take too long replying to blog comments.

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Everyone works at perfecting the art of avoiding the Charity Person with a Clipboard. If you glance just right they might not approach you. If you beat them to the punch with a “Sorry, very busy”, so be it. I guess some people must be happy to talk to the Charity Person with a Clipboard, as the continued existence of said position suggests it makes money, is worthwhile, for worthwhile causes. I guess some people just want to contribute. But I suspect there is a more subtle transaction – in exchange for your bank details someone who is cooler, more socially comfortable and better looking than you will talk to you on the street for a while. Even flirt a little. I guess that doesn’t really happen anywhere else anymore, if it ever did. Some people will then go home and cancel the direct debit. That feels like cheating.

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I don’t text back for days.

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There is no pleasing me when it comes to shop staff. If I’m leapt on right away I’m annoyed. If I’m ignored, I’m even more annoyed. I still try to be polite, I know it isn’t an easy job, at least until the point where my Pleases and smiles and Thank Yous and further smiles are greeted with a grunt and indifference. Then I generally make a sarcastic comment under my breath and flounce out. That shows ’em. They probably don’t even notice. Or, if they do, they probably don’t think it makes much difference considering the shitty day they are having. I might feel bad, but then surely as humans it doesn’t hurt to reciprocate a smile now and then? I put my earphones back in. Of course.

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I ignore emails.

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“After you.”

“Thank you.”

As I pass by this person at the station I realise I recognise them. They were the brother of someone I went to school with. I had been to their house several times, many years ago, but I’m no longer in touch with them. I’m not sure if he doesn’t recognise me, or if he is just putting on the same passive face I am, the same stare forward, so as not to catch the other’s eye. There is probably nothing to say, anyway. And the station is busy. Probably better to leave it, rather than the platitudes of We Must Catch Up Sometime, when both of us know we never will, and won’t regret that either.

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Phone calls aren’t easy.

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I like to grab some moments alone. I like pubs and cafes because they are public spaces where solitude is allowed, yet you can opt it to some degree of sociability if you feel the urge. Not that I ever do. I’m too busy seething at people trying to talk to me. Or at the people who I think should be talking to me, but aren’t.

In a pub the other day I bumped into someone else I used to know. We shook hands and left it at that. It was a bit awkward. I’m not very good at that kind of thing.

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This might be oversharing. I might be making some of this up to prove a point. I don’t know what that point is.

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Sunday evening, all the shops have closed, but a cafe is still open. I go there from time to time and there is this incredibly friendly member of staff there. He seems genuine, genuinely friendly. Maybe he is like that as he is just a nice guy. Maybe it makes the shift go quicker. Maybe it makes customers more friendly towards him. Maybe it is an act. Or a product of great training. It really doesn’t matter. There is a small moment of warmth, humanity even, from just buying a coffee. Then I’m free to be alone again a while. Some time to think. Miserable sod.

Image from SDASM Archives, via Flickr

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