Pleasantries………..a short story by me.
I once read, in the newspaper, a description of the inside of the casinos in Atlantic City: “a vast room full of shoulder-to-shoulder old people with a remarkable tendency to just stop.” Keeping that in mind, I was headed to the cashier at the casino in Atlantic City yesterday. There is a “rope line” set up near the cashier but no one was in line but you are still expected to go, you, know, through the ropes. So I was headed there at one angle and an old guy (yep, I’d say 10 years older than me) was coming from another angle. We were just about 3 feet from the entrance and he stops. I didn’t know if it was the “old persons’s stop”, or if he was waiting for me to go first, or if he needed a sudden oil change in order to continue. So, I say “Excuse me” and head into the ropes. I get two steps and I hear “Excuse me ? What the f*ck was that?” Think Gene Wilder in “Blazing Saddles”: “Oh, dearie dear.” I turn and say “I said excuse me. You stopped.” I move my right arm from right to left in a “go ahead” gesture and say ” Go ahead, Mr. F-bomb.” He mumbles something as he passes me and I say “You are a classy guy, Mr. F-bomb.” He was at his cashier now and without turning his head he says “Drop dead, sir.” I was approaching my cashier now as I replied, “Oh, I think you’ll get there first.” It’s this kind of friendly conversation between total strangers that is one of the many differences betweeen all of us humans and the animals.
Here’s another example. Last night, after playing cards for quite awhile, I decide that it’s late and I’m going to go and sit at the bar and have a couple beers. They have those video poker machines right at the bar and drinks are free if you are playing the games. There are only a few seats open that have machines in front of them. I pick one that has a good view of the TV and get my beer and put some money in the machine. I can’t help noticing that the guy sitting to my right, let’s call him “Jose”, is facing right. He is talking across 3 empty seats to another patron. Let’s call him “Larry”. I had seen Larry in the bar the night before. In fact, I had spoken with him and, although he was pleasantly inebriated at the time, he seemed like a normal guy. Larry recognizes me as I pick my seat and waves and says “Hey, there’s my buddy.” I wave and sit, like I said earlier. So Jose has a Phillies hat on. I only know this because I can see the MLB tag on the back and the hat is red and he is telling Larry that he is from Philadelphia. At this point, I notice the Jose is QUITE inebriated. He’s trying to tell Larry something about the Philadelphia Eagles but a lot is being lost in translation because he is really slurring his words and not making much sense. Larry tries to be a good guy and returns a comment. Jose is a big talker, though, and I’m thinking Larry has no idea what JOSE is talking about. I know I can’t understand him. I doubt that Jose even knows what he is talking about or, for that matter, that he is talking at all. It goes on for awhile and I’m admiring Larry’s patience and I’m thinking he’d really like to get out of this conversation. It’s at this point that Larry actually does say:
“Sir, would you mind if we don’t talk anymore ? I’m really not sure what you are saying and you’re starting to freak me out.”
Jose: “You don’t want me to talk to you anymore?”
Larry: “Yes. Please”
Jose: “OK, d*ckhead.”
Larry: “Did you just call me a d*ckhead?”
Jose: “Yes, I did.”
Larry: “OK. Whatever.”
So, you see, it’s this kind of pleasant, social interaction and communication that I admire in people and gives me hope for our society.
Oh, instead of turning his sights on me, as I had TOTALLY expected, Jose picked up his drink and went somewhere. It was the best break I caught all day.