There are some people who make my face twitch. People who I just can’t stand, for any concrete reason. They come from all walks of life – city, suburbs, Fox News (sorry, easy joke from the obvious liberal). I’m reminded of a kid I used to work with who fell into this category. Not only was he particularly irritating, he was generally clueless in a way that really made me fear for his overall well-being. We had a conversation once that left me mind-boggled. It featured me, the co-worker whose desk was next to mine, and Irritating Guy:
Guy Who Sits Next to Me: Hey, is the Heritage Festival this weekend?
Me: Yup. If you go, you should stop by my booth. I’ll be there Saturday and Sunday.
Irritating Guy (IG)(interrupting conversation): Why do you have a booth? Are you working there?
Me: Yes, my theater company has a booth.
IG: You have a theater company?
Me: I’m part of it.
IG: What do you guys…do?
Me: (Pause) What does a theater do?
IG: Oh. So why do you call it a Company?
Me: (Flummoxed) Because it’s a group of people…
IG: (Blank stare)
Me: It’s a business.
IG: Oh. What kind of plays do you do?
Me: Well, we just did “Hamlet”…
Me: Riiight…we did “The Glass Menagerie” last year.
IG: The what?
Me: Glass Menagerie? Tennessee Williams?
IG: (Blank stare)
Me: Tennessee Williams? Ever heard of him?
Me: Really? One of the preeminent playwrights of the 20th century?
IG: (Blank stare. Picks up a pen to write the name down.) T.S?
Me: TENNESSEE. (Pause) Look him up. (Pause) Really? You never…really?
At that point I just smiled benignly at him, sighed and went back to my desk where I immediately emailed my mother. We had just had a conversation about incorrect punctuation, mostly regarding my major grammatical pet peeve — inappropriate use of the apostrophe — so I figured she was the best person with whom to share this item. (She’s an English teacher.) I wrote for several paragraphs, going on about how this guy had never heard of Tennessee Williams, the state of public education, and should I be surprised that he hasn’t heard of him, what are they teaching kids today, boy I won’t let that happen when I’m an English teacher, yadda yadda yadda. Her response?
“He’s an idiot.”
My mother has a gift for nutshelling things.