Every time I attempt to sketch some odd facet of my corporate life for you I find an equally strange element of it inside myself. Today I sat down to regale you with a story of in-building encounters with the socially inept, but as I described each character in punishingly amusing detail, I began to make myself queasy. Who am I to observe perceived shortcomings of innocent co-working bystanders only to reveal them to the internet at large when the whim overtakes me, rendering real people into surreally abnormal characters like Neckless and Clenching Lady? Would I be able to award myself with a new moniker as easily? I wonder.
I am not the most socially healthy person on the planet. My compulsion to wash my hands after I touch anything to be found in public borders on obsession. My fear that I will not reach the doors of the bus before it closes up again to carry me far far away from my intended stop is overwhelming. But, foremost among all of these, are my elevator issues.
It’s not the claustrophobia so much, though sometimes I find myself in the back row of a sixteen-person deep load gasping for breath behind a blissfully unaware suit yapping about first quarter losses or decreasing corporate spending. That comes with the territory. No, instead it is the conversations — the simple, witless conversations of nicety that are grudgingly targeted at any rider who looks even vaguely familiar.
I live in abject terror of those conversations. Weather. Sports. Television. As one creeps up on me I feel as though all of my internal organs are slowly sliding into the crevices behind my knees, leaving only a the hollow thump of my heart, captive to its highway of veins and arteries, to hold court in the preternatural vacuum of my chest. Rain. The Phillies. Survivor. Each topic can leave me in a dead sweat, especially when initiated on a relatively early floor.
I don’t know what it is, really. The utter casualness, I guess, that people attempt to tune in to the channel to which they are homogenized on. With glee, they discover similarities that they share with tens of millions of other Americans. It is the conversational form of Walmart, and I am not sure if I am more horrified by how alien the topics generally seem to me or by the few with which I have intimate familiarity.
I occasionally attempt to play along. Last week someone asked me what I had in my discman, and I replied: “The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They’re sort of a post-post-post-punk (so much so that they’re actually punk again) three piece lead by a woman who strikes me as a messy reincarnation of the, yes, entirely still alive Chrissie Hynde, which is not to say that the sound like the Pretenders at all, because they don’t, but sometimes you just get a vibe, huh?”
My rambling monologue took us from 22 down to 4, at which point the questioner returned a glassy stare. I smiled back. We rode down the last three floors in silence.
Funny how i am terrified of overwhelming homogeneity and they are petrified by anything heterogeneous. In a way I guess they are more afraid of me than I am of them, but it doesn’t make the ride any easier.