Before the start of the pandemic most reasonable people would deem my social proclivities as being “anti-social”. Now – post pandemic, my introverted persuasions might be considered “socially responsible”. I prefer the latter definition. When it comes to engaging in conversations, that aren’t work related, I’m rather introverted. Averting eye contact. Giving one word responses to others anecdotes. Just radiating a discourteous apathy many people find ignorant. This inherent verbal anaemia is an affliction that has only progressed as I’ve gotten older. But being in a committed relationship with someone far more gregarious, with a daughter who could natter total nonsense for hours on end, does require compromise on my part. So I often find myself under the duress of my partners extroverted whims and enduring the hospitality of occasional acquaintances.
Take for instance last weekend. My daughter attended the Birthday of a 3 year old. At only 5 herself, my daughter couldn’t very well visit without adult supervision, despite my repeated insistence that those apron strings will have to be cut sooner or later. The party of this particular toddler was, like most middle class families, held at a village hall. Decorated in bunting, balloons, inflatable depiction of “Happy Birthday” draped across the expansive windows and a bouncy castle hired for a short period to provide a distraction for the kids and necessary respite for the parents. My daughter couldn’t have been happier, cavorting with children half her size that she could command like some sugar addled dictator. While my partner engaged with anyone that would listen, I did what I always do in these obligatory social situations, by retreating to the farthest reaches of the room with my head down, a novelty paper plate in hand, devouring cocktail sausages, pizza and cake. A natural scowl creasing my features, that acts as a natural deterrent against any genial guest that feels remotely compelled to introduce themselves with a clumsy attempt to relate about the struggles of parenting.
Everything was going fine. My daughter was having fun organising her own tiny militia. My partner was scheming some alternative social gathering to inflict further deliberate misery of me. And I had successfully negotiated my way to the modest buffet without having to engage with anybody, past the cordial nods and brief, barely audible pleasantries. As we neared the end of the party, watching my daughter relishing the fragment of power she had acquired, I noticed something to my left. More like a sensation than something visual. A figure, stout yet commanding. Like a smurf that had served two tour’s in Afghanistan. Materialising at my side as if he had somehow willed himself into existence. A notable glint in his eye as if he had been waiting sometime to say something.
“Maximus, Meridious, Decimus”. I paused. Hesitant to respond in a manner that might provoke further elaboration. Hoping he had mistaken me for someone else. I turned, finally acknowledging a man I had never seen before. He looked at me expectantly, as if a context had already been established. “Sorry” I responded, confused and concerned in equal measure. “Don’t tell me you don’t know what that’s from” he replied exasperated. “I know the quote” I retorted, “But its “Maximus. Decimus. Meridious”. You could see a faint glimmer of agitation in his demeanour before he said “Yeah, but, you know what I’m talking about?”. At this point I didn’t want to say yes. I didn’t want to say anything. I just wanted this conversation to end so I could immediately discard the whole sordid event with a collection of memories I’d already erased. But he was persistent.
“You do one” he insisted. “I’m good with movies”. Realising that I would have to collude in this man’s fantasy, if I was to stand any chance of escaping, I capitulated. “Okay” I began. “I’ll choose an easy one”. Testing the waters to the depths of his cinematic knowledge. Having taken a moment to compose and most importantly, recite the dialogue accurately, I continued. “How about ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat'”. A vacant, brain dead look emerged across his face. As if someone had switched off his ventilator while he was urinating. A balloon slowly drifted past us like tumbleweed. He insisted however that with multiple choice, like “Who wants to be a millionaire”, he would get it. So having demonstrating a keen intellectual wit, he deduced that “Alien” “Forrest Gump” and “The Matrix” were a devious ruse on my part. And in fact my personal favourite movie “Jaws” was indeed the correct answer. “Badly acted isn’t it” he confessed, without a hint of irony.
With his ignorant assessment and continued slander towards “Jaws” I’d suffered as much as I could handle. That feeling was seemingly mutual, as this still unnamed assailant look set to finalise our diminishing liaison, by posing one last probing question: Xbox or PlayStation? I steadied my nerves, prepared for the inevitable opposition as I exclaimed, with great relish; PlayStation. With that our brief association was at an end and my sanity restored.
In summary: Don’t speak to people. Particularly those that deliver an unsolicited, misquoted reference to very recognisable movie. Insult the acting in one of favourite films. Give very objective opinions about matters that are very subjective. Before declaring that our already declining friendship has been compromised, simply because I use a different platform to play my games.
I hate people.