Yesterday I was checking out at a store when the cashier asked if I was a rewards member. “I am,” I told him, “but I can’t find my card.”
“Don’t worry. Can I have your phone number?”
I began to recite my number when the cashier went on: “Numbers are useful for stuff like this. And for stalking.”
A chuckle died in my throat.
Afterward, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. He had been trying to make a joke—a very bad joke—but who hasn’t been there?
I am notorious among my friends for blurting out jokes that fall flat because I don’t change the inflection of my voice and people think I’m being serious, or I overthink and try to talk people through my thought process and I should just stop. “Sorry, I’m being too extroverted,” I feel like saying.
Like last night. I head an organization, and we had a retreat recently that someone missed. The person came up to me and apologized to me that they weren't there. I wanted to say, “Don’t worry about it,” but that would have been ignoring the fact the retreat was mandatory (whatever “mandatory” means in your 20s when I can't fire you). So I said, “No problem. You didn’t miss much. Well, you did, but we’ll go over it at our next meeting.”
The person stared at me. I don’t know why they were staring at me.
“It’s fine,” I went on. “I mean, it would have been better if you had been at the retreat. I don’t want to trivialize your absence. But it’s okay.”
They continued to stare at me.
Had I just out loud "I don't want to trivialize your absence"?
"I'll see you at the next meeting," I concluded.
The person did not make any move to leave.
"Have a good night." I walked away.
Last week I attended a dinner hosted by the president of my university. We were asked to identify ourselves and share a random fact. Of all the facts I could have conjured up – I want to join the Peace Corps, I write for the best blog in the world, etc. – I decided to tell everyone I’ve owned a bird since she was four-weeks-old.
“And,” I babbled on, “she lays eggs when I’m home. It’s really weird. She thinks I’m her mate.”
“It’s really weird,” I repeated and looked at my plate.
What is wrong with me?
Basically, I hate silence so I blurt out the most uncomfortable things at inappropriate times or I’m just not thinking. When Making a Murderer came out in January, I happened to be out with some friends and I asked if they had seen it. None of us had, so I suggested we start it afterward.
My friend made a face, so I added, “It’s gotten really good reviews. My roommates have already binged on it.”
Friend: “I’d rather not.”
Me: “Okay, well, don’t watch it without me.”
Later my friend asked why I would bring that up. It totally slipped my mind my friend’s brother had been killed in suspicious circumstances in high school. I still cringe at my bull-in-the-china-closet moment.
Last fall, I went to Shields Market in the Fan of Richmond (a convenience grocery store if you will). Starved, I debated between a grilled chicken wrap or some chicken and orzo dish in their refrigerated section. I asked the cashier which he preferred. He pondered for a moment, then said, “That might be the hardest question I’ve ever been asked.”
Me: “You obviously never went to grade school.”
I didn’t mean to be an asshole! I’m sorry!
At least the cashier laughed at my joke?
And at least I wasn’t the kid who came up to me last week in the gym. I had been doing pullups and could tell he wanted to use the equipment, so I asked if he wanted to work in. His response?
“I just need to hang myself.”
What did you say?
He proceeded to hang himself from the pullup bars – by his arms. Phew!
I’m trying to censor my words as of late. It can be difficult. Only this week I was running a meeting and the presidential primaries came up. “Everyone should go out and vote,” I instructed the room. “Unless you’re voting for Trump.”
Now I’m not one to be politically divisive, and given that Donald Trump was leading the Republican field, it’s probable there was a Trump supporter in the crowd. (But seriously you’re voting for Trump? I’m not saying vote for Bernie or Hillary either. But Trump?)
Anyway, I’ll stop talking now.