This is what I get for exchanging pleasantries with strangers. I should just follow my natural inclination, which is to keep my ear buds plugged into my phone and into my ears at all times. I usually do that on planes, buses or any other public place where I feel I might get suckered into having a conversation with a stranger.
I have a socially awkward brother who bases every decision in his life around how to avoid interacting with people he doesn’t know. I’ve always thought that had to be exhausting for him, constantly evaluating every move he makes to avoid being social, but now I’m starting to see his point.
This is one of the downfalls of having a dog that you enjoy taking out in public.
When I go hiking or to the park and my dog starts playing with other dogs, it seems necessary to at least acknowledge the other owners. I always thought it would be so weird to ignore those people as our dogs take turns violating each other. But now I’m thinking it might be the way to go…because the alternative is to be in a one-sided conversation with a weirdo who wants nothing more than a captive audience to push their bullshit theories on.
I thought the dude I used to see at the dog park who was trying to be a comedian was as bad as it would get. He always wanted to try out jokes on all the other dog owners. It was one of those “I have to laugh because I’m his only audience right now and it’ll be so painful to not laugh” situations (side note: This guy would also walk around the park with a spray bottle and spray other people’s dogs when he thought they were misbehaving. Totally acceptable behavior).
But now I long for the days of Wannabe Comedian in my life.
Last week I was hiking with Molly and she started playing with these two dogs. The owner was a guy in his 40s who seemed normal enough when we exchanged pleasantries. Our dogs kept walking and playing, so we kept walking together. One thing led to another and all of the sudden he’s telling me that A). he moved to LA because his girlfriend died in a plane crash a few years ago and he had to get out of New York to stay sane, and B). there are many advantages to being a vegan and I should seriously consider it.
I couldn’t think of the right follow up question to ask about the plane crash situation, and I didn’t care to discuss his vegan lifestyle because I’d rather die than not be able to consume animals ever again.
Undeterred he continued to talk for the next 45 minutes—about how he broke up with a girl last week because she wouldn’t give up hamburgers for him, about how I should really give my dog the rattlesnake vaccine, about the quality of women in LA versus New York—and I just basically nodded along while secretly hoping my dog would attack one of his so we’d have no choice but to split up.
My favorite part of the interaction was him telling me he was unemployed and focuses on volunteer work. But then he proceeded to hand me his business card…
Now because of his 45-minute rant, I already knew he was vegan and into animal rescue activities, but ladies clothing manufacturer? Such a random business card, such a random dude, but not nearly as insufferable as this next guy.
Another business card from another unemployed guy. With the first guy, I really had no choice but to socialize with him. We were walking in the same direction, our dogs were playing with each other and there was no one else on the path. But the guy who handed me this confusing business card totally swindled me into a conversation.
I was at the dog park where there were a bunch of people so it’s not like I was stuck somewhere with just one guy. But this gentleman came right up to me and feigned interest in my Red Sox hat (I asked him, “Oh are you from Boston?” “Nope.” “But you’re a Red Sox fan?” “Nope, I just like that hat.”).
Then he asked me if he could try out my “Chuckit” dog launcher because he had the larger version and didn’t like it that much. And finally, he pretended to be interested in my dog. Before I could answer his questions about Molly, he cut me off and said, “Do you mind if I run something by you?”
The next 20 minutes was a full sales pitch from him on why I should go to his website to learn about Buddhism. He talked about how he found spiritual enlightenment, and that it was because he chanted those words at the top of the business card that he was getting everything he wanted in life (except for a job, apparently).
You can imagine how quickly I scurried away from this individual after he was done, but sure enough he found me sitting on a bench a little while later and said, “Surely there’s enough room for both of us on that bench.” And then I had to withstand 20 more minutes of his thoughts on religion, how he works in the public safety business but it’s all politics now and it drives him crazy, and how he started a dog-sitting business recently, with some help from chanting “NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO.” Chanting out to his gods apparently gave him guidance on how much to charge for dog-sitting.
I swear none of this is an exaggeration.
I left the park telling him I’d check out the website and give him feedback next time I see him. I will make it a point to either never see him again or train my dog to destroy his dog so that we can’t be near each other.
I can’t figure out what it is with unemployed people and business cards, but I feel like they all have them. As an unemployed veteran, I think the self-promoting business card is a waste of money. But like my parents always taught me….when in Rome…
The moral of the story is I hate talking to people who just want to talk about themselves and push their beliefs on me. I might start asking a stranger before I talk to them whether it’s going to be an actual conversation about normal shit, or if it’s going to be a one-sided sales pitch on why their lifestyle is better than mine.
But one thing’s for sure…everyone at the dog park is getting a Ross Gariepy business card.