Lifestyle

Hear No Evil

It's not eavesdropping if you're yelling in my ear and I wish you would shut the hell up

I'm at the Sacramento airport and there's a guy on the phone with his girlfriend. Actually, I think it's his ex-girlfriend, or at least I strongly hope so for both of their sakes. He says he's upset when he “tries to reach out to her” and she doesn't respond. He says this several times. The phone call eventually ends.

He then makes a call to someone else, and complains about how “Janine is so mad and she just won't listen.” Then the conversation segues into how he had an amazing time at his brother’s house over Thanksgiving, and how they went to this amazing bar. Then he goes back to how he just can't deal with the Janine situation, how it's just tearing him up, he “literally just can’t deal with it.”

At this point I'm thinking, “Well, if you can appreciate the small/medium pleasures of an amazing Thanksgiving/bar, it seems like you're not too upset about Janine, right? But, if — as you say — you "literally" can't deal with the Janine situation, well, it seems like there's a pretty good solution to that, and that is ceasing contact with Janine, since all of it seems to be initiated by you anyway.

Most importantly, why did I have to hear all this? I think back fondly to the moments before I knew about this person and Janine. I was a little more innocent then. Not so innocent that I find myself now “literally” unable to deal with how I feel now, but close.

I remember when cell phones first came out. It seemed the loud conversations that took place in those early days tended to be about business. And they were generally positive, rarely along the lines of, "What do you mean I am not the right person for this job?” or “I am furious this deal isn’t going to go through.” They were generally conversations designed to let you know how successful the speaker was, and how the trajectory of their career was upward: "Jim, I'm so excited to be working on this rollout with you" or “Suzanne! Great to hear about the bonuses.”

I have a theory about all of this. I wouldn’t say it makes a lot of sense, but I will promise that it makes more sense than repeatedly calling someone you don’t want to talk to, who doesn’t want to talk to you. OK, here it is: Career bragging moved to Facebook and Twitter. ("Guess who the new VP at Everyone’s a VP Land is? Me! So humbled to be among so many other wonderful VPs!") And, also, it’s harder to brag about one’s career these days when so many people don’t have a lot going on with their careers, what with the income gap and all.

But what does everyone have, even if it sucks? A personal life. And if you’re not getting a lot of attention (or compensation) in the rest of your life, but you still want to feel like your life matters, what better way than to involve everyone within a twenty-foot radius of you in your fucked-up relationship or ex-relationship?

I was in line at the post office the other day, in the small town where I live. It is a very quiet post office. Sometimes there are people in line, but they just stand there. Post office lines are, I think, a popular place to take stock of one’s life. But one of the guys in line was having an extremely loud conversation in which he was, I kid you not, begging his girlfriend not to leave him.

“Please,” he said. “I really think we can work it out. I don’t think you really are into that other guy. Hang on a second ... Yeah, can I get a book of stamps, please? Hey. I’m going to come down to Sacramento, and we’re going to talk about this, OK?”

When someone interrupts a loud, public, one-sided break-up to ask a postal clerk for stamps, you know a civilization is hovering on the edge. Won’t you join me in saving what, if anything, might be left of it? Keep the serious stuff to whispers, or to texts. Better yet, stop talking to people who clearly don’t like you anymore. And Janine, if you can hear me, please just change your number.

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