Thursday, April 2, 2009

Achilles' Last Stand (Led Zepplin)

After a lovely note from L yesterday, I realised that I've been contemplating for a while now the best way to write about nothing. It's a difficult prospect, but a relevant one nonetheless as nothing has been going on lately. Left stalled and floating along the monotonous tide of papers and exams and rehearsals, my social life has become something of a void. A benign void, though, not a malevolent seething black hole, drawing all future engagements and diversions into its ominously swirling maw. This void is more the sort that gets filled with TV shows and trips to the gym, or the occasional conversation on the run between destinations.

That third option is always highly entertaining. I had a stretch of a good six weeks or so earlier in the year when I only ever saw my friend Nina in the parking lot by my dorm. We'd stop and have these nice little five to ten-minute conversations just in the parking lot before shoving on with whatever had bought us outside in the first place. The added bonus, of course, is that in these wonderfuly mobile dialogues, if you run into someone you really don't want to talk to the excuse is ready-made to curtail the encounter and scuttle off to some pressing engagement (class, a group meeting, advising session, rehearsal, toothbrush cleaning...).
You (just trying to be polite): Oh...hey.
Mildly annoying, yet loveable social leech: Hey! How's it going?
You: Good...pretty good.
Leech: That's great! I haven't seen you much lately.
You: Yeah, I know. My schedule's been crazy.
Leech: Oh, I know what you mean. I had this project due the other week that I completely forgot about until the last minute because I'd been refing intermural basketball, so I just had to lock myself in the library and get it done, you know! I was going to go to the sixth floor, where it's quiet and all, but I ran into (insert mutual acquaintence here) and we started talking forever and s/he convinced me to go grab a coffee at Starbucks since we were just right there. I probably should have just gone off-campus to get it done so that Starbucks wouldn't be a temptation, but I could only ever work on it after class in the late afternoon, so it would have been too much of a hassle to drive back on campus right before all the planning meetings we've been having for Wake 'n Shake lately - are you going to that?
(Here at last there is an inning. You've been inching slowly away ever since their Starbucks withdrawal was dragged into the conversation and here is the invitation you need to make a clean break.)
You: Actually, I don't know! I'm pretty busy this week; actually, I was on my way to a meeting with my professor...[watch/mobile check]...oh! And I'm already late. Sorry! Got to run.
Leech: Sure! I'll see you later, then.

Really I have to take this time to point out that I don't actually know that many social leeches. Or at least if I do, they're very good about repressing their leech-like tendencies. Maybe they can medicate people for that sort of thing. Actually, the only person I've had to use this tactic on lately was the man selling graduation watches at the graduation tent outside of the bookstore earlier in the week.

To put this story into it's full and painfully mind-numbing perspective, I begin at the beginning. I was walking back from class with the virtuous plan of dropping off my laptop, estranging myself from the outfit I was wearing at the time so as to apply my workout clothes and jog over to the gym for an hour or two. I checked the clock on the chapel and in looking around the quad, I noticed a tent in front of the library. I wouldn't have stopped, but it was - as the signs proved - a great one-stop for several details of graduation that I had yet to even partially master. Confident that my virtue could be put on hold for just a few minutes for the respectable goal of getting several goals checked off my graduation-preparation check list, I diverted my path towards the bookstore.

I talked to the lovely woman who ticked off my name for student loan exit-counciling sign ups, got an approving nod from a genteel little grandmother as I signed up for my cap and gown, and even put in a good five minutes of conversation with the girl selling class rings. Not that I wanted a ring, but it would have been impolite to just snatch two of the little Easter-themed Reece's cups and walk away without so much as an, "I'm actually not even sure what size ring I wear anymore!" (Incidentally, it's a fingers have shrunk.) I was on my way to freedom when he emerged from the dark and cavernous interior of Taylor residence hall. Armed with a hand-held dose of warm caffeine he approached all expectation and smiles. How was I? he asked, and Had I looked at their watches?

Over the ensuing quarter-hour I had it drilled into me no less than three times that these watches - customizable and in all sorts of ostentatious colours from famous manufacturers - were being called the Hottest Product on College Campuses. I politely sat through his short video demonstration, and even let him create me a prospective watch on the website complete with my initials, graduating year, and Wake Forest logo printed on the watch face. He then decided that the sell would be better if he talked about what other girls he had unsuspectingly waylaid at the tent had considered buying. This was when the social leech radar began buzzing. "Get out! Get out now!" it said to me, but it was too late. Why do people with a life-threatening need for high-volume minimally engaging social interaction always go into sales?

I realised that I had hit the jackpot of a time-wasting, brain-numbing vortex when the second string came out into the afternoon sunshine: this guy had a brother. And the brother was his business partner. The ultimate low point was hit when said brother proudly brandished a silver Sharpie marker...the other one was astounded and they proceeded to discuss the virtues and origin of said marker for several minutes. I was caught in a trap by the vapid smiles and transparent sales pitches of the Leech Twins. This, I thought, must be what smaller fish feel like in that instant where they realise that the shiny bright light is gone and that they are about to be devoured by an angler fish. These, indeed, are the last moments: soon now my brain would turn to jelly and leak out of my ears, only to be caught in the coffee cups of my predatory salesmen. This, of course, would reveal them for what they are: socially innovative zombies. Too many movies have been made that show the zombies wandering after people with obvious hunger, or simply blind agression, written all over their partially decayed features. Zombies must get cleverer now if they don't want to go without their daily recommended amount of human brains, so they trap you and hypnotyze you with small-talk. You must be polite and so you stay, and then, at the peak of boredom and distraction, they move in for the kill.

Luckily, I had my wits about me: my brains would not become zombie fodder. The tried and tested tactic of slowly inching towards the exits was just too subtle for these guys, so I very abruptly promised to consider it, thrusting my hand out and waiting, with a smile that didn't look too forced, for a response to the firm and somewhat masculine handshake I was proffering. I met their eyes and nodded as we shook hands, giving a token chuckle at a last-ditch attempt at humour: they knew I was on to them. They had been thwarted. I strode off once again for my room, ruing the quarter-hour that had thus been unexpectedly lost when I could have been flipping through Entertainment Weekly while I forced myself to climb the stair master.

In the time since then, I've proved my brains are still intact with quite a good deal of revision for a Classics test which looms on tomorrow's horizon. Now would be the time to demonstrate sophrosyne and go look up a few more key terms in the free time before history. I will be good and go commit to memory the deeds of Althea, Oedipus, Theseus, Laomedon, and Achilles.

1 comment:

  1. Haha - good blog innings Bry... I'd comment more but... I've gotta go wash my hair ;-)