Monthly Archives: November 2006

I Really Do Listen

And I think that’s part of the problem. I’ve found if you really listen to people you tend to see them just as they are: unmelodious notes in the symphony of your day.

I don’t know if it’s because they have two or three thoughts at one time and end up in some unharmonious stew or their short attention has spanned to fraying, but the clunkers come loud and clear to me.

This morning started out with a few things that had to be rushed through the blender of my day before fading to the clamoring hum that is the conveyor belt of life.

This was, of course, before the door opened and in walked a rather frazzled woman. She began speaking at break-throat speed with no discernable destination. The conversation was as jagged as a snowflakes dendrites.

After a few minutes of doing my best to sort out this conversation, I could tell I was heading in the right direction. Once I completed my actual work, the woman slowed her G-force to tell me about her day.

It seems she’d just returned from a friends burial. That’s never a pleasant experience. I offered my condolences and stopped. I hear of friends and neighbors and tenants deaths every week. In my experience it’s best to commiserate and stand.

Whatever they’re thinking is their private moment to hold or share. It’s there choice. And they always choose to share. And I always choose to stand. As silly as that sounds, many times, all people need is someone near them so they feel their words are reaching someone.

After telling me what kind of guy he was (funny, life of the party, hard drinkin’ fellow) she decided to go into the cause of his death. He was injured while hanging in the backyard with his friends. After he got knocked on his ass, they thought he was joking so didn’t pay much attention to him rolling around the yard.

Joking around, as I do, this is a concern of mine. So, right here, I will publicly state that, if I’m joking but end up bleeding profusely, dazed, unresponsive, headless, etc. (if you have any question about my ‘joking’ here’s a rule of thumb: if I’m inert, I’m hurt) you don’t have to stop laughing but, give me a cursory check. Thanks.

Because this guy didn’t set forth these guidelines, he died. Actual facts are, as often in these stories, hazy, but, the facts are the internal damage done done him in. While his friends partied on. The woman looks at me and shrugs her shoulders.

“Guess there’s worse ways to go out.” She pauses to adjust things she’d scattered onto the counter back into her purse. “They said nobodies gonna get in trouble. They said they ruled his death as caused by myth-adventure.”

Because I’m listening, I paused. Did I hear that or had my instinct to juggle words kicked in? I look at her and she says,

“Myth-adventure. What a way to go.”

She begins to leave and all I can envision is the guy is playing in his mystical candy corn covered backyard with his gnome friends when he was gored by a unicorn.

I really should rethink this really listening thing.

Advertisements

Stylin’

I was waiting for the bus last night. Everyone, with the exception of me, seemed extremely pissed. One guy was walking back and forth bitching about how late the bus was (it wasn’t), how bad the weather was (it wasn’t), and how he takes this bus every day (I’ve never seen him) and it’s never this late (although it has been late, it isn’t late right now).

I continue to stand there laughing each time everyone stands up whenever they see a bus only to groan in unison when it’s revealed not to be their bus. It is during one of these get to the front of the line frenzy’s when I notice this little old guy staring at me. I’d noticed it the first couple of times but didn’t attribute it to much more than trying to get more corroboration that this is indeed a horrible thing we’re living through.

“Anti-Semite.”

Huh? Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have been playing Borat’s ‘In My Country There Is A Problem’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeCDjDRJ9t0) at ear bleed decibels but it’s so catchy!

Seriously, I’ve noticed some things about having a shaved head.

1) The first time it rains on it, it hurts.

2) Hail ALWAYS hurts

3) Other guys with shaved heads think you’re part of their club (I’m not. I’m sure I didn’t shave my head for the same reason you did. Trust me, you didn’t do it to piss someone off)

4) I’m often approached by real skinheads (one time a kid with the proper tats and emblems sidled up to me so I told him I wasn’t a racist, I was in Blue Man Group)

5) I’m often viewed askew (people have locked their car doors when I pass and pulled their children closer. Well, that happened before the shaved head but it does show some people sense danger).

“Excuse me?” I want to make sure I heard what I think I did. I could be wrong. He could just be a movie fan who wanted me to know he likes Dolemite.

“Don’t tell me you’re not German.”

That rat soup eatin’, insecure, honky mutha fucka (For you Dolemite ignorant mutha fuckas, that’s a quote from the movie), he’s calling me a racist. Damn! In this day and age! Whodathunk it?

“Well, sir, I wouldn’t tell you that.”

“See!”

Well, he’s got me there. I guess you can learn something about yourself every day if you give yourself the time to listen to some random, rambling fuck.

“You skinheads are all alike.”

It’s at times like this I think back to that hackneyed phrase used to assuage race guilt, “Some of my best friends are. . .”

That always made me laugh and picture the person with a shovel digging themselves a deeper asshole. When you’re caught being your true self in an awkward situation take the hit. You got bagged. Own up to it. Everyone hates something. Personally, I hate Sara Lee. There! I said it. That bitch killed my Nana!

I watch this man looking back at me with hate. And, you know what? I don’t care. He can take his hate cake, frost that sucker up, and chomp off a big slice.

“Well, sir, you’re right. I do shave my head and I am from German extraction. But neither of those things has to do with my hating any race, creed, or nation of origin. And do you know why?” I take a step towards this man. I’m not trying to intimidate, crowd, or menace him in any way. I want to make sure he’s looking me square in the eye, like a man with an opinion, when I explain myself.

“Because I love my hate so much I spend the time to really get to know the individuals I hate.” I smile and extend my hand. “Hi, I’m Chris Zell. And you are?”

I hear the guy who was bitching about the tardiness of the bus stop whining long enough to make a comment (but you know how those people are! Always butting in to other people’s conversations), a couple who was swapping enough spit to fill a goldfish bowl laugh and exchange colloquialisms (will those people ever stop?) and the man without the plan, my newest pal (don’t get me started about them!), leaves my hand waving in the evening breeze as the gaggle gathers around the bus stop sign because another bus, this time the correct one, is pulling up.

I fall into line behind this gentleman wanting, no, needing to explain to him how outward appearances aren’t the best thing to place your hate on. Assholes come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and consternations. It’s up to us, as individuals, to look past those surface attributes and really get to hate each other on more personal levels. It’s so much more fulfilling.

“I’m not a hate monger.” I say to him as his pass is accepted by the farebox. He looks back at me with a scowl. “I’m more of a hate stylist.”

From the fractured folk at Bound & Gags, we wish you all a happy, healthy and hate free Thanksgiving.

You know what the great thing about family is? You know those bastards on a real personal level! However you spend your holiday, make sure to be stylin’!

The Set-Up

An actress I know came in to say hi (people never remember what days I have off. Every other week I have a note from someone who stopped in to see me on my days off. If I was thismuch more paranoid I’d think they were doing it on purpose). I knew there had to be a reason for her to stop in. Many times they want me to write a piece for them for an audition that they’re supposed to write. Other times they want me to listen to them read lines and critique them. My favorite was a guy who came in because he wanted to read me his script. No, I didn’t mean wanted me to read his script. He wanted to read the entire thing to me.

Let me tell you, that filled my day.

After a few seconds of catching up (“What’s up with you?” “You know, same old shit.” “Yeah, me too.” “Okay, bye now.”) she got to the point.

“Can you introduce me to Robert?” It took a few seconds for me to remember who she was talking about. Oh yeah, Robert. He’s a playwright. We were out one night and ran into him. The actress happened by and there was a quick introduction before everyone went on their merry ways.

“Oh sure,” I said pulling my address book up on the computer. “I’ll give you his number and call to say you’re calling.” That should be about it. I’ve done my good deed for the year.

While standing at the counter waiting for her to leave I sensed the conversation moving into an area I wasn’t prepared for. She wasn’t interested in a part. Well, she was. Part of him.

I don’t set people up. Sorry. I have enough people hate me who don’t know my home number. I don’t need a pissed off actress bitching at me because the guy I set her up with stole her passport and her wig and headed for the airport and a midnight flight, ya dig?

“I don’t think he’d be interested.” I know that sounds harsh but I’d rather her get right to the pissed off, ya dig?

“What are you saying?” Indignation snaps in her voice.

“I’m sorry to tell you he doesn’t date black women.”

Now she gets all petulant. She rambles on about what a shame it is that another fine brother doesn’t date black women. I stand there for a moment and, while she takes a breath, I break in and say,

“Don’t worry, he doesn’t date white women either.”

This one takes a few seconds to fry up in her brain pan. I can see her think through the races. Just before she got to Samoan her eyes snap to mine.

“He’s gay?”

“And, to show he doesn’t have racial issues, I know for a fact he’ll date black men.”

Her lament now rolls down ‘all the good looking ones are gay’ road as I bid her farewell and get out of setting someone up yet once again.

Early Closing System

My boss turned the lights off on a guy. It happens. Not often but it does. We may check the cameras, look for cars, and we have a few other safety checks that, due to security reasons, cannot be divulged.

Sometimes people go into their unit and close the door. If all our security checks check but the guy went into his unit and shut the door (no, I do not know why they do that nor do I want to know) then anything can happen.

Usually, the lack of light doesn’t last long because, no matter how large this building is, it’s been my experience that you can hear someone whimpering like a wounded Sasquatch clear as a bell.

After a minute or so the guy burst into the office. Again, in my experience, I’ve found whenever people burst into the office it’s not a good thing. I’ve never had anyone burst into the office and say,

“Here’s a hundred dollars, Chris. I gotta go. Have a good weekend.”

No, they usually have a complaint. I can understand why this guy was a tad agitated. People get freaked out walking through the building with the lights on. But this guy was one of those people who like a reason to complain. Even if that reason is air isn’t getting into his lungs rapidly enough.

This guy was making a big deal about his light-less eight seconds. My boss, being the reason for this situation, went to apologize. And apologize he did. Over and over and over. It got to the point where he, a very calm, patient man, looked at me and rolled his eyes. Seeing that, I stood up and let him tag me into the match.

I listened to the same litany of lament while thinking that he wasn’t even in the bowels of the building. He was barely inside the sphincter.

I covered the same territory as my boss to no avail until I said,

“This has been a test of our early closing system. If this had been an actual early closing you would have been informed as to how quickly you’d better get out of the building before we toss you out the door. This concludes our test of the early closing system. We now return you to your normal storage day already in progress.”

Then I buzzed the door for him to reenter the building. He stood there for a moment before fully grasping that the test was indeed over and he’d better mosey on with his day.

He opened the door but stopped just as the buzzer did. He turned to me and said,

“I hope. . .”

“. . .here’s a flashlight.” I answered holding out a flashlight. “But, trust me, testing is over for the day.”

We looked at each other for a moment, a sense of belief rippled over his face before he started walking into the building.

But not before he took the flashlight.