I was waiting at Forest Hills MUNI station while on the way to the Aquarium yesterday. My energy was low so I was sitting quietly on one of the benches.
An older man stood at the platform. The trains were running late so a lot of us were standing around. The older man was wearing a uniform that suggested he works at AT&T/Pac Bell/whatever the name the Giants ballpark is now. He and an Asian man struck up a conversation. The Asian man was also older and wore white shorts, tan ball cap, t-shirt and carried a backpack. He had good sized calves and a lot of spots on his skin.
The men talked about the Warriors (very exciting what's going there), working at the ballpark and why MUNI runs all the trains in one direction and no trains in the other sometimes.
Then the older man started rattling off some jokes:
"Paris Hilton's going to jail. When she gets there, they're not going to put a mint on her pillow."
"When Paris Hilton's in jail she's going to have a bunch of bad hair days."
The older man then explained that he writes stand up comedy. He was just getting warmed up. He proceeded to launch into a series of very bad jokes. So bad that we all just stood/sat there without reacting. Throughout this entire exchange, I sat on the bench looking steadily at the floor. When the guy first started talking I could sense something like this was coming and I didn't feel like pretending I cared. Sometimes you don't feel like talking to people you genuinely aren't interested in.
Next to me was a kid about twelve or so. She was wearing a yellow hoodie and reading "Sabriel" by Garth Nix. I'd see that book around and wanted to ask her about it, but decided not to. At one point, she looked up at the older man as he cracked his jokes and then went back to reading her book in that dismissive kid way. The Asian man moved to the wall and stopped pretending to chuckle. We just waited for the older man to stop talking. He finally did and then the train came a little while later.
Looking back on this incident now I wonder about my apathetic reaction. There are so many lonely people in this world. When I was younger, I used to be a magnet for them. People would seek me out and talk my ear off. A lot of them were strangers, people I didn't know and would never see again. I got tired of pretending to care, I got sick of pretending to chuckle so I make a conscious effort to avoid these situations. These people just wanted to talk and talk. They weren't interested in me, or my opinions or thoughts at all. I can spot these folks coming at me from a mile away so now I completely ignore them.
I wonder about myself, though. Will I be alone someday, even more alone than I am now? Will I seek strangers out just so I can have a conversation with someone, anyone to assuage my loneliness? Will the tables turn and will I find myself there in ten, twenty, thirty, forty years?