Sunday, May 22, 2011

New strategies?

Following up on the last blog entry, Change of Seasons, the problem that "has been lingering for a long time" is figuring out how to respond to uninvited and offensive behavior from strangers when in public. What I might have "figured out" is that reversing the problem (rather than because there is something wrong with me, the stranger is offensive because he or she is trying to fill a power void) makes the situation a lot more bearable.

That said, there is value in confrontation. A few weeks ago, after picking up a coffee or something, I was walking from the 7-11 back to my office. As I crossed a small intersection, someone waiting for the light shouted from his car, "Hey, big guy!" I kept walking. When I reached the opposite curb, he shouted again. "Hey, you!" I didn't stop. A few seconds later, he called out once more, "Hey, little man." By that time, I was about twenty feet away from the intersection, feeling pretty good because the man's shouts sounded as if they were filled with desperation. If my theory above was correct, the desperation came because my failure to acknowledge him meant that he was unable to fill his power void. He called out a final time, just as his light was turning green and I would have been a good distance up the block. "Hey, MOTH Story Slam," he cried.

I kept moving, but my pace slowed. Once the man called out MOTH, I recognized the voice. It was the EmCee of an open mic I had participated in back in February. The fourth Tuesday of every month, a club in Chicago called Martyr's hosts an event called Chicago MOTH. The night of the event, anyone who wants to tell a five-minute story puts his or her name in a hat. Ten names are picked each month and each person tells a story, which is scored by three sets of judges. The person with the highest score competes in a story competition at the end of the year. My name was picked back in February. My story, about my experiences meeting women on DATEALITTLE, didn't win, but I felt very good about it.

Now, I am sure the EmCee who saw me outside the 7-11 wasn't calling out to me because he loved my story, thought it a shame I didn't win, and was ready to offer me a publishing contract. But maybe he would have said, "I liked your story," or "I hope you come back to MOTH someday." Maybe he just wanted to say hello.

But even after I recognized the voice, I didn't turn around and go back. For one thing, the light had turned and his car was moving across the intersection. It was too late. But also, I didn't want to betray my system of dealing with people who shout out to me in public. Because after all, when I put my name in the hat at MOTH back in February, I gave them a phone number. He could always just call if he needs to reach me.

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