Why This Blog is So Necessary to Humanity

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Endeavours in Escaping Encroaching Conversation on the Train

I love my commute. I love seeing sides of the country I would not have otherwise seen if I didn’t take the train. I love to watch the busy streets and the quiet grassy expanses as we zoom by. I appreciate the sense of community and like to ‘people watch’ in silence…maybe exchange a cordial ‘Good morning’ with a smile…but that is the limit of my capacity for social interaction with strangers. Anything further and my level of discomfort rises by the second. I usually use my commute for reading or quiet reflection. However, some people use their commute to take advantage of the inevitable closeness to other human beings and use it to force their friendship upon you whether or not you have any common interests, occupations, chemistry or vacancy for a ‘bff’.

Because you are trapped in a compartment ending the conversation is not as simple as finding an excuse to run away. If you are lucky, your stop isn’t far off…however my commute is a minimum of 40 minutes and when I become ensnared in conversation that exceeds the limit of social decency at the beginning of my trip I am usually ready to throw myself on to the tracks by the end.

No matter how hard I try I cannot escape the inevitable awkwardness that comes from one party being desperately eager for conversation and the other party suffering from the inability to connect or identify with the other’s conversational pitch.

I have a well thought-out plan of action when it comes to strategically positioning myself on the train so I am not in the way and not as likely to expose myself as the slightly anti-social creature that I am. I will usually opt for the single seater all the way at the back of the train or place myself in the window seat of a completely vacant row. When there is no single seater or vacant row available, I will stand near the door out of the way of the usual flow of incoming ‘people-traffic’.

Along with my strategic seat placement I will generally keep my nose deeply wedged between the pages of a book as well as keeping my trusty headphones firmly lodged all the way down into my eardrums. You know…just in case anyone got any ideas.

Yet STILL…this is sometimes not enough…and due to my innate need to not appear to be a complete a-hole…once engaged I have an extremely difficult time cutting loose no matter how many superfluous turns the conversation takes.

All encounters start the same. You suddenly become aware of a tingling sensation brought on by another passenger’s questionably long staring at the side of your head.

Your grip on your book tightens…your jaw clenches. You know that if the person enters your line of sight for even a millisecond all will be lost.

You do your best to keep your eyes on the pages of your book…but all concentration is lost. You are desperately hoping that he or she will give up their attempt to pull you from your reading…or at least your apparent reading. Even over your music you hear them beginning to speak.

If it were possible to play dead, I would. However spontaneously keeling over in public generally leads to mass panic and atrociously expensive trips in the ambulance. So that’s not an option.

You remember in a sudden wave of relief that you still have your headphones in and that may serve as enough of a deterrent once no response is given. Sometimes it is enough….you are hoping this will be another one of those times.

Until…you feel…the tap.

If you didn't pick up on this before...I have an extreme aversion to unwanted physical contact. When this happens it’s as though a thousand angry fire alarms go off at once while I am simultaneously plunged into the gnashing jaws of the ravenous Kraken pulverizing the life out of me and forcing my blood and vitals up into my head until I inevitably suffocate on a mix of the merciless sea water and my own innards in a terrifically melodramatic fashion.

In other words…don’t touch me.

Anyway. The person touches me and now despite all my rage…I’m still just a rat in the cage of social decency. So I must call of the guards, lower my defenses, remove my headphones and hope to God it is something important like the train is on fire or they just captured a real life Articuno.

But it is never something important.

And here we go. We are now lost on a winding trail beginning in peachy pleasantries that suddenly turn into a hailstorm of pointless banter pinning you to the middle of the road leaving you crippled and unable to move forward or turn back.

You cannot run away.
You cannot simply take another seat without looking like a complete donkey.
You have to be clever. You have to booby trap the trail and slowly lure them into it.  
The problem is that I have no idea how to do this…so it all leads to an unavoidable state of panic and unease.

 At this point I have no idea what to say. The ridiculousness of the situation leads to a colossal brain-fart which results in a long period of silence…

 Apparently only detectable by you…

This is painful enough to scramble your thoughts like her ‘most-favouritest scrambled eggs’ from that diner you have never heard of on that street that you have also never heard of making you incapable of veering the conversation towards a more pursuable topic and also incapable of locating the safest exit route back to your place of peace.

So you are caught in an infinite loop of conversational bids and half-hearted responses in the form of one word answers and weak, throaty whimpers as you slowly descend into madness and the plastic coated chair backing of your throne of jabbering doom.

Depending on the time of the month…my willingness to submit to the invasion of my personal space and quiet time is significantly hindered. Sometimes despite my lack of better judgement…I rebel.

Sometimes the moment the conversation takes the briefest pause I push my face back into my book and read with highly exaggerated ferocity.

The moment he or she tries to forge another path to verbal interaction I gaze off into the opposite direction as though completely lost in thought about whatever I was reading.

Like…really lost.

So lost that I can no longer see, hear or identify anything outside of my so-very-deep state of contemplation.

Other times I pretend to be a mute…

Or conversation cock-block by blocking out the offender with the bottom of my coffee cup.

And last but not least, I do in fact play dead. Sort of.

The moment I spot the conversationalist in the corner of my eye I immediately begin to fain sleepiness and pretend to gradually nod off.

This has been a recent favourite that has spared me from other plans of attack like spontaneously bursting into song in order to inflict equal discomfort or begin talking to an imaginary friend that lives under my chair.

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to take you under my wing and teach you the proper ways to be an "a hole" :)