Sunday, March 19, 2006

The secret life of commuters

I went to one of my company’s other office. On the ride back home, the VERY long ride back home, my boss and I had the misfortune to sit behind men coming home from a business engagement. One lamented to the others, for two hours that seemed eternity, how he couldn’t get laid and times he did get laid, and how wonderful it was to be falling down drunk again and again and again and again. He talked in great detail about his mating strategy: find the person in the bar with the lowest self esteem and use her until he could find someone better. This guy? Even without speaking, no prize. But looks are fleeting. The mind can defiantly be more attractive than its package. I’ve always preferred smart, funny geeks to buff jocks. But this guy? Wow. Zero to recommend. Three or four years ago, I might have jumped in the conversation with an obnoxious rejoinder, but now, I’m more reflective. I thought to myself first, this dude’s an ass. Then I thought: he’s not looking for the person with the lowest self esteem, he is the person with the lowest self esteem. The more I paid attention, the clearer the desperate ring to his rants. Interestingly enough, both his companions were married, and really pulled back at one point from the diatribe. I think they pulled back when he lapsed into the highschool years of getting laid in his hand me down station wagon, while waiting for the ski slopes to open, followed by his declaration that he’d never bought a car yet, and didn’t plan on it any time soon. The whole abysmal episode in theater noir ended with the kid bragging how he’d never dress for a business meeting, and didn’t care that he had an engineering degree, he wasn’t letting it stand in the way of fun.. Then they all went off to their respective lives.

So here I am blogging about him, because of his stark, exaggerated character. Bellicose, grandiose, screaming to be noticed by all around as the ‘big man’, all the while displaying insecurity with the precision of a seasoned film maker. What threw it all into stark contrast was his manner of dress and his body posture, and the very subtle, fearful ways he moved, and the little slips of tongue while he talked. Nervous laughter was his big give away, flutters of the hand, an inability to sit still, or stand up to silence. He didn’t need to tell me he goes home to a small, dirty flat, or that he has trouble making ends meet because he’s working below his potential. He didn’t need to tell me he’s lonely, that he envies his friends, for both their positions and their families. He didn’t need to tell me that he can’t understand how life has managed to pass him by and not leave a prize. It was all there, for anyone with an eye to see, an ear to hear. I thought to myself: I need to be this good when I get character down. I need to show the reader not only the outward appearance, but reveal inner character through contrast of the dialogue and surface import of the words against the total visual picture and tonal quality of delivery.

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