‘I know you’re a bit of a hermit (I prefer ‘recluse,’ I interjected.) OK, recluse. So does that mean you’re uncomfortable in social gatherings?’
‘Not necessarily,’ I replied, ‘as long as I can leave when I want to. I hate feeling trapped.’
The problem with people like me (and I’m not alone) is that social gatherings generally function at the level of the lowest common denominator – simple consensuses like time-honoured cultural axioms and so on. And people like me (who isn’t alone) don’t readily function well at that level. In order to do so convincingly, we have to access a part of ourselves which we’re not much practised in using. It takes effort to remain focused on it, and that does eventually become uncomfortable. That’s when we begin to feel trapped and have to leave.
It’s why I prefer one-to-one connections, which might sound familiar to some people. It’s also one of the main reasons why I dislike weddings so much. (Another is the hats the women wear, but I’ve already done that one.)
* * *
The same person who called me a hermit rode past me on a bike this evening. The bike was very close and it startled me a little.
‘I reckon you must be deaf as well, Jeff,’ she said. ‘I’ve been ringing my bell all the way down the lane.’
‘I reckon you must have a quiet bell,’ I called to her receding form. What else does one say? In retrospect, it occurs to me that I could have said ‘as long as you don’t try to ring my bell, there’s no harm done.’ Then it would have been repartee and qualified to be considered mildly amusing. But I didn’t; my brain wasn’t in thick quinking mode at the time. It does, however, appear to have resurrected an old taste for spoonerisms.
And there’s a couple who frequently ride past me on bikes when I’m out for a walk. She always says ‘Hi, Jeff,’ and he always says ‘Good evening.’ Never varies. I think there might be something of deep psychological significance about that, and I still wonder why people speak to me.