On rude guys at interesting places
The train compartment is packed (eight people in). It is small. If you are tall you must lean your legs against the person in front of you. Frustration mounts in such a situation so you put your headphones on and try to dissolve your thoughts in nice music. What else can you do? Nobody talks. You like people and talking but this is not the best place. After an hour a man in front of you is unpacking a box of cookies and trying to share it with the rest of the passengers. Nobody takes it. You do. There aren’t many rules you hold to but this is the one: you always take cookies when they are shared. You’re eating a cookie and suddenly you’re reminded of your mother telling you not to take cookies from strangers. Although it was in the kindergarten twenty five years ago but still… you know… mum… “Well, I’ve just remembered my mum told me not to take cookies from strangers” – you laugh. A woman sitting next to you is nodding: “I was just about to tell you…” You start chatting – you didn’t plan to but it happened. She is a dentist and the guy sharing the cookies is a young pilot. They have so many interesting things to say – about teeth, about flying and you are happy to share your experience because they are so interested and keep asking questions. You almost miss them after they leave…
The same day you get to your destination. You are going to spend a weekend with a friend and as you arrive he introduces you to another guy. They both work in media and have come for a conference. It is going to be a great weekend at an amazing place! You plan to spend an evening together. Just the three of you and whisky. Then your new acquaintance starts to talk. You have no idea what he is talking about, and his flow of names you don’t recognise feels like diarrhoea. You try to catch up by asking questions or starting another topic but he interrupts. He keeps talking for 15 minutes and when you try to say a sentence it feels like you had to forcefully interrupt him. You ask him the same question 5 times and after he doesn’t answer you give up and go to bed.
These two situations happened to me the same day. In the first I expected no contact and what happened to me was a nice conversation, the second time I expected a nice conversation and what happened to me was no contact. And you may say that a difference between these two cases was the fact that in the first place I met nice people and in the second I met someone who was rude. However I think there is something else that makes these cases different. In the first we had to stay in a place where there was not much to do, in the second we were surrounded by a zillion of interesting events. The new friend could still make an effort and pay attention but I am pretty sure he could be as empathic as my friends from the train if he was on a train. We quite often explain people’s behaviour by their personal traits forgetting about circumstances and these two situations are a very good example. Does this happen to you?