Posts Tagged ‘street people’

Earphones

Posted: April 6, 2010 in ADHD, Life
Tags: , , , ,

Apparently, business travellers are prone to deviant behaviour.

I attended a film yesterday, and the above was the explanation offered by the film’s police desk sergeant to a woman whose husband was killed in a hotel room after he apparently made raging sexual advances to a female police officer.

That was only one of a number of unintentionally funny comments made by straight-faced actors in this supposed drama. I wish I could tell you the name of the film but it escapes me. I’m a business traveller on occasion. The only really deviant behaviour happens in my head, where thoughts fuck each other like bunnies, and produce crowds and crowds of little baby bunny thoughts. The curse (or blessing) of the ADD afflicted exploding mushroom brain. But that happens when I’m at home just as much as when I’m on the road.

It happens at work too.

“Sir, I’ve noticed that you have your earphones plugged in all the time. Is that your way of keeping other people at bay?”

I took out my earphones. “Excuse me?”

The security guard repeated his question.

I laughed. “Oh dear God no! I like people! I really do.” I thought for a moment. “This is just my way of keeping all the marauding thoughts in my head from overwhelming me.”

He looked at me, one eyebrow raised. (I could never master that. I’ve tried, but each time I’m only able to raise both eyebrows at once, like a sexually suggestive creepy circus performer.)

I elaborated. “Are you familiar with ADD or ADHD?” He indicated he had. “Well, listening to music is a way of letting parts of my mind focus, while another part can concentrate better on the work.” The attempt at explaining the dynamic was valiant, if flawed.

Still, it sufficed. He said “oh. I understand.” Which is more than I can say for myself. Kudos to him.

And why is it that people see these honking in-ear earphones rocking in your ears and still think you can hear them?

Especially bums people of the street. Maybe it’s because they feel they’re predictable and you should know what they want without actually having to hear their words. You scoffing entitled asshole moneyed class, you with your brand new K-Mart sneakers and your oh-so-proud flashy Cubic Zirconium rings, with your “I’ve got a job and you don’t” Cheshire Cat smile.

Don’t know what it is. Maybe I’ve lived in the big city too long. I rarely give money to anyone who outright asks for it. If someone is doing street performance however – I feel grateful for their entertainment and so I’ll throw them a dollar or two. The ones who ask for money though – well, they mouth the words (which I can understand, despite the enticing strains of One Eskimo’s “Kandi” playing in my ears) and I’ll give my customary negative head shake. Some of them respond with “God bless you” which I suppose is better than “fucking asshole”. The thinly disguised attempted guilt-provoking sarcastic response has no hook on me. I’m a red-sun Superman charity giver walking down the street of a largely impotent yellow-sun world.

Maybe some of the people living on the street are there legitimately. Maybe they just wouldn’t make it in the working world. Clearly, some of them would make lousy salesmen. Especially those who come up with a long-winded setup to enhance their begging agenda.

“Sir, I live in Shitsville, Florida, and I’ve lost my passport and wallet to thieves. My wife kicked me out and I came up here to start a new life but now without my wallet I can’t even get to the next city over for a job interview tomorrow so I wonder if….”

“You would like some money.”

“Yes, sir, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Sorry”.

He looks so disgruntled as he turns away to try his story on someone else. He hasn’t learned the salesman’s most important lesson: know your audience. He should have picked an openly pleasant smiling na├»ve person, not me. I’ve gotten so good at deflecting these stories that if I don’t hear what this stranger wants within the first seven words I’ll cut him off and say “look, what do you want?” It’s disconcerting and it interrupts the flow of their carefully crafted con, but it works for me.

I’m trying not to say “sorry” but it’s hard. “Sorry” is a Canadian trait, you understand. It’s in our DNA. We offer it at the slightest provocation, at the mere wisp of a glancing touch. We don’t *want* to say it, but we’re often helpless. It’s not politeness. It’s a reflex.

A blonde jogger was standing at the condiment station at a Starbucks when I was putting cream in my coffee. She wanted a napkin so she reached over me and said “sorry”. Recognizing the impulse I smiled and said “no you’re not.” She grinned. “No, I suppose I”m not”. I cocked my head (which is easier to do than you’d think) and replied “funny how we always do that”. She stirred her coffee, before taking a sip. “Yes. Don’t know why though.” I shrugged. “We’re Canadian”. She nodded, smiling.

Maybe saying sorry to a street person is a form of anticipatory proactive safety. If you say what you really think (“fuck off! I’m tired of people like you asking for some of the money I made working every day, while you get welfare and free meals whenever you want, and I know you just want it for your extras, like booze and drugs. You made a choice, bub, not like the beggars in India who have no choice but to sit out there on the street with their missing limbs and missing teeth. Hey, here’s a thought – gain some credibility – saw off an arm or a leg. You might find people will give you more. I tried giving one of you a meal voucher the other day and he told me to go fuck myself, so now I’m telling you do to the same, aiight?”), you might be asking for trouble. Really, is it worth it getting into a fist fight with a stranger because you don’t want to give him a dollar?

No, it’s not worth it. “Sorry” is better.

I’m not though.

Other people accost me on the street while I’m wearing these obvious noise-cancelling earphones. (Seriously these Shure earphones stick way out of my ears. They’re obvious, like a pair of muddy work boots sitting on an otherwise pristine dining room table is obvious.) Invariably, someone who is new to the city will avoid other walkers and make his way to me, the ONLY person wearing earphones, to ask for directions.

I don’t mind, not at all. But I am curious. Why me? Maybe this is God’s way of tilting the world game so that the only rolling quester can’t help but bump into me.

Sometimes the constant earphones work against me too. Like when I see the gorgeous woman on the subway and we exchange smiles, and I can’t get the earphones out fast enough without looking desperate. By the time I’ve maintained my cool by taking them out gradually, she’s gone. (Don’t ask me how to take out earphones gradually. It’s just possible. Take my word for it.)

Still, I love my music and my earphones. I love how it stills some of the chaos-storm in my head.