Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pissing Contest

 Someone asks you a question, which you answer in as straightforward and guileless a manner within your ability to do so.  The questioner puts a hand on your arm.  "No, really?"  he says.

In one splendid gesture, your interrogator has evaluated your answer, decided he did not like it, then pressed you for another answer, one closer to his framework of acceptability.

Two simple words, "no, really," have attempted a conversion in the desert, a usurpation of your own opinion.  Never mind what the question was; you couldn't recall it now on pain of water boarding or some other excess of interrogation technique.

You have been a participant in a great dialectic, where your opinion is solicited, in this case from an individual unknown to you except for one of those remarkable social conditions where a common bond is shared.

In this case, the common bond was the fact of you both being in line for a chance at the unisex lavatory at Cafe Luna.  Two men, bonding over full bladders and the individual experiences of having been in similar situations over the course of your individual lives.

You hold your ground by repeating your original answer to the question.  "I can't believe this," your interrogator says, turning away, most of the previously established bond all but vanished.

For a few moments, you are both silent, you beginning to wonder which of you will first do the next ritual of the current culture, pull forth his cell phone to inspect it for incoming messages.  Perhaps seeing none, a quick check of the news.

But this is not necessary.  Your interrogator again.  "You, you're retired, right?"

"No,"  you say, somehow intent now on demonstrating if not outright friendliness than at least no outright hostility.  You express your sincere belief that you would never be able to afford the luxury and burden of retirement.

Once again, your interrogator is on the offensive.  "You're kidding, right?"  

You assure him of your seriousness, but it is an unbalanced seriousness which you try once again to cut with affability.  Both you and he are trying not only to cope with this apparent social disaster on its way to happening but as well with the complaints of two bladders, wishing to express themselves.

"What kind of work would a person like you do?"

You tell him.

"They let you do that? "

They let you.

"I mean, at your age.  I hadda give up stuff when I was your age."

You are growing more sincere in your hopes that the present occupant of the one lavatory has now reached the hand washing stage because of a growing suspicion of what is going to come forth in the next round of questions.  Your suspicions are based on experience.  Such experiences are primary contenders for primacy among any arguments you might have about such things as Fate, Inevitability, and The Natural Order of Things.  You are not given over to such beliefs, but there is in such "conversations" as you are now having, a sense of cosmic irony.

Your interrogator nods toward the closed door of the lavatory.  "Bet you whoever it is that's in there, that person is as old as we are."

Now, you are convinced of the outcome.  You try to nod in a noncommittal way, your moral high ground being you will never see this person again and you are not under any need to attempt to have any effect on his manner of thinking.

To your relief, the door opens.  Indeed the occupant was what you would describe as an elderly gentleman.  "See,"  your interrogator reminds you.

Without responding to him, you take your turn in the lavatory.  You have escaped what will surely come about, your interrogator's discovery that you are older than he is, perhaps by as many as five years.

The interrogator intercept you on your way out.  His observation is the relatively short time you were inside.  "Pretty good plumbing for a guy your age,"  he observes.

A noncommittal nod from you as you seek the comfort of the meeting you absented yourself from.

"Say--" his voice calls after you, the question mark in the forthcoming question already beginning to have the nasal, otherworldly sound of a muezzin at prayer.

You know what the question is and what his response will be.  You increase your stride to move away from it and him.  "Hey, aren't you gonna tell me--"

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