Turn The Paige
by Rob Cottignies
"I won't say anything because I don't care."
I'll get back to those words in a minute.
I went to a brewpub early one afternoon because I wanted to eat in relative silence. The only other people at the obsessively-clean bar were an extremely-stereotypical biker couple. Him- leather, tattoos, beer gut. Her- leather, tattoos, beer gut. They seemed nice enough, though who knows what that actually means. They finished up shortly after I arrived and left, laughing the whole time for some reason. After the obnoxious fart sound of their engine, I got the silence I was seeking. The bartender asked how I was doing and I said "Fine" with a genuine, confident smile.
The door then swung open and a hipster walked in with a middle-aged man, who I assumed was his father based on absolutely zero knowledge of the duo. Ignoring the dozens of empty seats at the bar, they sat two down from me. And I was on a corner so they were pretty much right next to me. Furious, I texted my friend Melissa because she understands. I told her what was happening and that if they started talking to me I was going to freak out. But they (loudly) kept to themselves while my eyes went nowhere near their direction. Mortgage rates, bank loans, the housing market, hunting trips- they were running the gamut of my disinterests.
Having no choice but to listen to this garbage, I heard the hipster mention Paige, who I quickly learned was his girlfriend. Apparently he was set to buy a house with Paige and a marriage proposal was being discussed. Wait a minute. The older man wasn't the hipster's father but Paige's father and this was THE conversation. My mild appreciation that the hipster was being a traditional gentleman couldn't possibly compete with my rage of having to listen to their conversation. Awkward questions, bad jokes, giggling like schoolgirls; I just knew they were going to rope me in somehow. My eyes focused only on my meal and phone, yet I could constantly see Paige's father looking toward me via my peripherals. But my conviction was strong and my cheesesteak was good.
The manager came over and asked if I wanted anything else. While a loaded, unregistered revolver would have been great, I went with "Check, please", like they do in the movies to get out of awful situations.
On his way to the register, the manager noticed Paige's dad and shook his hand because of course they knew each other.
"…and this is my future son-in-law."
"Isn't it a little early to be telling people?" the hipster protested.
"You're right. But only the three of us know. And this guy next to us, but he won't tell anybody, right???"
I was about halfway through a book written by a psychiatrist who advocates telling 100% of the truth 100% of the time. The theory was interesting but I didn't really see the practicality of it in today's society.
Physically feeling the burning awkwardness of their stares for what seemed like hours, I looked up to meet six eyes and three pathetically-beaming smiles.
"I won't say anything because I don't care."
I said it quickly and returned to what was left of my beer. I wasn't there to spoil anyone's good time. 'They' say that honesty is the best policy and what reason would I have to lie to strangers?
But holy moly did I feel great. I thought it, actually said it, and executed it perfectly. I texted Melissa immediately for her approval, which was quite hearty. Then we said some mean things about Paige and these bozos but I obviously kept those quiet. (My favorite was, 'I hope they have a November Rain video wedding.')
Then I began to ponder and the uncertainty still sticks with me…
Was I wrong? I've never known in situations like this. Most people would have congratulated them, shaken hands, even bought them a round of drinks. I've always considered myself not most people. Why was I supposed to care about their situation? Because they were near me and knew I overheard them speaking loudly? Because the hipster and Paige might boost the marriage success numbers? Because they were happy? I do like seeing people who are genuinely happy but it stops at seeing. I don't want to participate. This situation reminds me of people who announce that it's their birthday to everyone they see. Most people blindly say 'Happy birthday!' Again with that whole 'most people' thing.
Being completely uninterested, what could I have done? I saw two options: 1) The way it played out. 2) I could have wasted time and money lying to strangers. Sure, I could have vomited out a 'Congratulations' but it wouldn't have been that simple. This was a no-win situation though I somehow came out victorious. I sort of wish I was at the bar drinking away some big problem so I could have brought them into that world. I think it would've been fair.
I hate obligations and being falsely kind to these people was one I proudly avoided.
Way to go, me.
More people need to understand that honesty does not equal rudeness or 'being mean'. The truth can be expressed in a nice way but the bottom line of it is what you honestly think.
You, dear reader, can get your own train of honesty moving right now by letting me know what you think about this article, my curmudgeonly stance on most things, or whatever else you'd like.
Good luck and have at it!!!