Friday, March 02, 2012

One Of Those Things Or Maybe It’s Just Me

There are certain things that happen to me in the course of any given day that I find myself convinced couldn’t possibly happen to anyone else.

Most of them are related to clumsiness or the non-functional nature of my hands, and, to be fair, the “this could only happen to me” thing is a momentary thought that has more to do with being bitterly amused than holding a firm view of myself as the butt of the Universe’s jokes (mostly).

In any case, there are certain other things that happen to me that, given that they have nothing to do with my peculiar physical dysfunctions, I’m not so certain could only happen to me, but I’ve never really observed them happening to anyone else, so I’m left to wonder.

The one in particular that comes to mind is something of an assumption that people seem to make when they’re talking to me.

The first time I really noticed it was many years ago, during my drinking days, and at the time I chalked it up to the nature of interacting – unwillingly – with random drunken strangers at a bar.

I was sitting in my regular bar minding my own business (my own business being getting drunk) and waiting for any of the other people in my social circle to show up when I made the fatal error of making eye contact with the desperately lonely drunk sitting next to me who took this as an invitation to – clumsily and drunkenly – engage in some level of interaction with another human being.

As an aside, the force field of hostility I seem to unconsciously generate usually keeps people at bay, whether I want it to or not, but some people – due to drunkenness, general cluelessness, desperation, or some combination thereof – are able to overcome its effect.

In any case, Drunky McForeverAlone, with whom I had never previously interacted, started talking to me about the time he had broken his leg 38 years prior.

As far as cold openings for conversations from random, lonely drunks go, this wasn’t especially odd or noteworthy, but what made it stand out was the manner in which he presented the story.  Despite the fact that we had never previously spoken, he related the story to me as though we were old friends and he was simply expanding on the level of detail for a story with which I was already familiar, as though I knew about that time, more than a decade prior to my birth, when he had broken his leg.

He literally started off the conversation with, “It’s like that time I broke my leg…” as though he expected me to say, “Oh, right, that time when you went sledding when you were a kid” in response.

I don’t remember how I eventually extricated myself from the conversation – I ‘m guessing that either my friends showed up or the bartender took pity on me and burst in on the conversation; being a professional drinker, I numbered most of the bartenders among my friends – but I do remember finding the familiar tone distinctly odd, but, at the time, I wrote it off to simple drunkenness and social awkwardness.

However, since that time I find that something similar happens to me a lot with people that I actually know.  Essentially, they’ll tell me something that requires a certain amount of background information which I don’t have at my disposal, but which they assume that I do.

My boss in particular does it to me all the time, but pretty much everyone I know does it to certain extent.

I guess I can understand why it happens, particularly with people I know well.  I mean, they just assume that they had told me the other thing, or that I somehow knew about it through osmosis or something.

The overall effect, though, is sort of like that episode of Futurama in which everyone was skipping forward through time at random and finding themselves in dramatically different places and situations from where they had been just moments before, having skipped over all of the intervening events.  “Off you go…apparently…”

Anyway, I’m curious as to whether this is a Jon-specific phenomenon, or is it something that commonly occurs in the interactions the rest of you non-Jons have with each other?

2 comments:

Merlin T Wizard said...

Happens to me all the time, mostly with Stacy. She has entire conversations with me in her head and is then surprised to find that I have no idea of what she's talking about. It happens with other people when they mistakenly recall i was at some event or another. I do that myself quite often, that, or I forget who I've told the anecdote to already and just blunder on as if the listener knows what I'm talking about.

Jon-Paul Maki said...

I figured it probably wasn't something unique to me, but I've never really observed it happening to other people.
I don't think I do it to other people very often. I think I have the opposite problem to a much greater extent: I tell people the same things over and over again.
That's mostly, I think, because I make an underlying assumption that nobody was listening to what I said the first time, or that it wasn't especially memorable because it was something I said.