We get into a restaurant and sit at the bar as always. The reason we sit at the bar is not, as some of you assume, quicker access to liquor, but because of my girlfriends never-ending love for Abe Lincoln. Because of that love she hates all things booth.
And as far as tables goes, come on! She’s Italian! Too many viewings of The Godfather have kept her away from tables. I can’t even go to the restroom without a pat down when I get back.
I’m settling down and notice pretty quickly that the guy to my left is bending the ear of the woman to his left. Internally I put up an invisible wall to have a distinct (in my mind) separation between me and them. There is a little give and take in the conversation. With that I mean he talks 99.9% of the time and she says, ‘Uh ha.’ 00.1% of the time. But, for whatever reason, because I can hear what he’s saying (the wall is good but it’s not soundproof), she seems entertained. But I can tell her husband, who is standing there mute, is giving the ‘wrap it up’ signal with his eyes. But the guy keeps talking because it’s what he does.
Finally the conversation seems to come to it’s natural conclusion. Good for them bad for me. I know this guy will not survive without chatting. And, unless someone magically appears in the recently vacated seat, he’s going to be targeting me. I’m looking straight ahead at the TV, my girlfriend is looking at the menu. I’ve already decided what I want but, even though it’s a restaurant we’ve been to many times before, she has to go over it like it’s an ancient riddle in some shitty Tom Hanks movie.
In my periphery I can see him looking dead straight at me. I do not flinch, I do not move, I do not make eye contact. This is usually good enough to discourage people from trying to draw my attention. People who crave attention badly don’t really want to work hard to get it. I’m betting on that amount of self-absorbed laziness to get me through again.
But it doesn’t.
This guy totally ignores my wall (that he cannot see) and starts earhole raping me with a jokebook joke. I am assaulted two ways. The first is, some stranger is overloading my earhole. The second being, really? A street joke? A battered, tattered, remnant from the annals of joke history? I know he doesn’t know I write jokes for money and have heard every jokebook joke ever but I still cannot excuse that. He’s still earhole raping me.
He finishes the, to me, torture and I respond with,
That’s right, nothing. Not a “Huh.” Not a “Nice joke, ass ears.” Not a “You’re lucky I don’t pull that punk ass joke out of my earhole and stuff it up your ass.”
I sit there staring ahead. I can see him staring at me through the mirror. He’s stunned. I guess at first because someone didn’t go nuts over his joke. But then the realization that I didn’t even do the basic human thing of acknowledging him must have tampered with his head. He staring, I’m ignoring and one of us is starting to lose it.
I have a beer in front of me so you know it’s not me.
Finally, after staring at my profile for a lengthy amount of time, he mumbles something, turns and looks down the bar. The person nearest to him is two seats away and engaged in another conversation. That one will be a tough one to win over. He looks at me a few more times and I can see that he wants to try again. But he’s already used his ‘A’ material so, even though he’s going through his jokebook index file, he’s slowly figuring I might be a tough nut to crack. What he doesn’t know is if he attempts to speak directly to me again I will politely look at him, let him complete his lame ass joke, chuckle, like a normal human and say,
“If I wanted to hear anything from you I’d kick you in the balls. So fuck off.”
Although some of you may call it antisocial, I consider it self-preservation. Because I know what’s going to happen because it did minutes later. A guy sat next to him, a beat went past, and the guy whipped out the exact same dumb ass, lame, slightly updated eighty year joke. I do give him credit for doing it in the exactly same cadence but he loses that point because it shows me how many hundreds of times he’s told that same dumb ass, lame, slightly updated eighty year joke.
This time the guy took the bait. I could see the moment the hook bit into his cheek. So for the next hour I watched at the guy reeled his quarry in. It was a bloodbath. The guy relentlessly trolled him with joke and story and escapade as I watched the prey jump and twist and spin trying to extricate himself from this life-draining source. But, after a valiant battle, I watched as the blood drained from his face, his eyes grew glassy and dark for he knew his days were numbered. I watched as his spasmodic body was pulled into the boat and the last gasp of life exited his being.
And I laughed.
Better him than me, sucker.