Is It Just Me?
So a couple weeks into this latest gig (a repeat of last year, you may recall) I was sitting in my cube editing away when this odd little man sort of blew by. He was a new face – he wasn’t from my part of the building. He was looking for someone in one of the offices nearby; had I seen him? No, he hadn’t been around all day.
Whereupon the man noticed my accent. And I noticed that there was something sort of disorganized about him, as if he had woken up in his car beside an empty beach bar and only had time to shave and splash some water on his face. He was even wearing a tropical print shirt. A weird sort of lack of gravitas, not completely grown up. Despite his completely white hair and moustache. So of course he asked where I was from and I told him, and he told me about how he had some friends in Puerto Rico who he used to visit a lot so he knew a little about the Caribbean. And then he said something about the Caribbean that prompted me to give one of my little on-the-spot information dumps – Did you know this? Or This? Or this? And no, he didn’t know that or this. He told me about his friends who he didn’t visit any more, but their children had all grown up and done well in their professions. He said, apologetically, that one daughter was teaching at the University there and consequently, to get on, you know, had to become a bit of a leftie. And somewhere near the end of the conversation I made a joke about terrorists giving the VP an apple-pie bed. And then he sort of blew away about his business, and I halfway hoped that my Cheney joke had scared him off.
Oh then weeks went by and there may or may not have been another encounter. I can’t remember, but I do remember that the first one was more than long enough. Like, you have to like someone a lot to want to talk to them for that long. And I only felt vaguely that I had been sort of whisked into whatever sort of dust devil blew him by my cube and then whisked out again after getting whirled around for too long.
So this morning I’m coming up out of the Metro station and he comes bounding up the stairs to catch up with me, and he’s beaming, apparently delighted to see me. We walked the half a block and he’s chatting now as if we are old friends. He’s late for a meeting. I made some joke about how it’s a pity you can’t just take a nap in a meeting really. He blamed it on the train and then he said something I didn’t quite get and then he mentioned Dick Cheney. And I made another joke about the VP that would be too tedious to explain. Whereupon this man said, “I rather like him, actually.” “Well, I suppose it takes all kinds,” I replied. “My brother likes him, but then my brother is an Angry White Black Man.” (This is sadly true. My brother is a long haul truck driver and spends his days listening to wingnuts on the radio and believes every word they say. Occasionally, if anyone is so incautious as to provoke him, he goes into a rant that would make Archie Bunker seem like a Unitarian minister.) So then this guy says, “Well, maybe I could become an Angry Black Man. I’m very well endowed.”
That’s when my presence of mind, the little I had of it at that moment, completely deserted me. I just turned and stared at him, wondering, “How the hell did I get here?” And then he laughed, rather disarmingly I must say. Apparently he was making a little joke against himself and it didn’t come off quite right, the whole conversation was an exchange of jokes that didn’t come off quite right. Or, I don't know, men are insane. I am completely at a loss. I am doing the world’s longest double-take.