I was sitting alone in a den making some notes in a notebook. I often have a notebook out jotting down observations, snippets of conversation, story ideas. I can do it in a roomful of people but, if I can, I like to do it away from them. I’ve received some weird looks after whipping out a notebook. People have come up to me and startled me by asking what I’m doing. I mean, even in this phone notes and tablet typing a notebook isn’t that weird. Is it?
I know what the person really wants. They want to know if I’m writing about them. It seems paranoid but it’s true. And they never believe me when I say,
“Don’t worry, it’s not about you.”
Maybe that’s not the best line to use to assuage a paranoiac but it is the truth. Not once has the person approaching me been the subject of my notes. Just the other day I’m sitting in a bar with my pad on the bar writing. I’d write for a bit, look off at the TV or around the bar. I’m not paying attention to anyone or thing. I’m just thinking. But I can see this one guy is very interested in what I’m doing. He leaned over to a friend and whispered to him. The friend looked over to check out my mysterious activity. It didn’t take long for the friend to get up and come over. I guess some paranoids have protection.
“Hey.” I nod at him closing my notebook. Not because I’m afraid he’ll read it (my handwriting makes that an impossibility) but it’s a weird protection thing. I’m not done with it so it’s not for consumption. That may be it’s own level of weird but I don’t come to your job and peek over your shoulder. “What are you writing?”
“Greeting cards.” The guy looks at me as if I’m daft. But, once again, it is the truth.
“Yeah, you know, birthday, anniversary, get well cards.”
“I know what greeting cards are.” He says obviously perturbed that I question his lack of celebration gifting. He looks at me oddly. I know what he’s thinking. He’s thinking about birthday cards he’s given to his mother. Then he’s looking at me and can’t wrap his head around the fact that they could come from me. They couldn’t but it’s blowing his mind.
“I write comedy greeting cards. Not the frilly type.” He breathes a sigh of relief. I have righted his world.
“Oh, oh, I see.” He thinks for a second. Again, I’ve done this long enough to know what’s coming next. “Is there, ah good money in that?” Told you.
“Not bad. Depends on the company.” He stands and nods at me. I know from having this exact conversation countless times over the years we are at the close of conversation.
“Oh, oh, good good. Ah, good luck.” He wanders off and gives his friend this information. His friend isn’t convinced but at least he has his answer.
But now, because I’m sitting alone, I don’t have this issue. Or should I say yet. I’m calmly making notations when three golf type people walk into the den and sit on the couch. They’re loud in dress and manner and I know the potential for writing is over. They’re talking about golf as one of them grabs the remote and puts on the golf channel. I was not consulted about this change. But that’s a golfer for you. They can’t believe everyone doesn’t golf.
They sit there discussing birdies and chips and nibblets and scratch and all I can think is, “Are they talking about cooking?” It’s a world I have seen but one I know nothing about. The only thing I know about golf is one day I was working at a tennis magazine and a call got transferred to my desk. I picked up the phone and the gentleman on the other line said,
“Hi, it’s Chi Chi Rodriguez. Is Skip there?”
I tried my best to control myself but all I could think of was this scene in WKRP In Cincinnati:
For the entire conversation you cannot imagine the self-control it took not to call him Chi Chi. I transferred him to the right guy, am still chuckling about the event all these years later and that’s all I know about golf.
I’m listening to these men talk and I think I could enjoy it but these guys are just too damn serious about it. Are they playing this game for fun or are they trying to cause one of those strokes they’re always talking about?
Then it hits a weird level of pretension. One of the men jumped up from the couch and said, “I’m going to get us more drinks. What would you like?” One of the guys gives it some thought then, to him, a brilliant ideas forges in his head.
“I’ll have an Arnold Palmer.” You would have thought this guy won the Nobel Prize for putting the way the other two reacted. They all decide that’s a capital idea and the guy turns to exit the room. He stops for a moment and asks if I need anything.
“Oh, sure thanks.”
“What would you like?”
“A Chris Zell.”
“A Chris Zell?”
“Never heard of it. What is it?”
“It’s a Heineken with a Prozac dropped in. If I’m going to have to listen to all this golf talk I’d better be in the mood for it.”