Ruth: So you think Austin’s gotten too big and too busy? Most of the time, I agree.
Other times, I don’t think it’s nearly big enough. Have you noticed how hard it is to avoid people you never want to see again? They’re everywhere. They won’t leave. They want to be where you are.
As usual, I speak from experience.
A couple of months ago, I had a terrible day at work. I spent half an hour on the phone being ricocheted from one representative to another at a giant telecommunications company, trying to trace a bill I’d paid. After 20 minutes of base insults about my memory and my financial integrity, the latest representative suggested that since I already “enjoyed” a service provided by her company, maybe I should consider “bundling” even more services. She appeared shocked that I felt that was a bad idea.
We didn’t part as friends.
So I left work early and headed to yoga. (Crisis-yoga-crisis is a dominant pattern of my life, obviously.) I flung myself on the floor and started breathing deeply and relaxing. It was dark and quiet and people came into the room silently. I was just starting to feel better — you know, calm and centered and all that — when I finally opened my eyes. There, in the row behind me, was the last person in town I wanted to see.
I knew he’d taken up yoga since he’d dumped one of my best friends and treated her like dirt. I guess it was part of his new, cool, aware persona that required a hip, with-it zip code, a younger, adoring girlfriend, and a wardrobe that fit like sausage casings.
Well, fine. More power to him (the creep). But jeez. Out of all the zen joints in the world — why did he have to come slouching into mine?
So much for my calm, my centeredness, my deep breaths. I spent the next hour avoiding eye contact with him. At the end of the class, during shavasana (i.e., corpse pose) I continued to lie there, pretending to be in a coma. Out of the corner of my scrunched-up little eyes, though, I could see he was hanging around, waiting to talk to me.
So I jumped up and began power-yakking with my friends. (I was busy! I was popular! I didn’t have time for him! Couldn’t he get the hint? Fat chance.) He stood there, intently, like a bad piece of sculpture, blocking my way. I told him hello and I barreled out of the room.
“He’s coming to our yoga class?” my next-door neighbor said, when I told her about the experience. She started grumbling about reporting him to the yoga teacher and having him ejected because she didn’t want him bringing “all his negative energy into the class.”
“Isn’t that a little drastic?” I said. (I could see myself getting kicked out of the next yoga class for my own occasional bouts of ill humor and negative energy. Let’s not be hasty.)
“Well, maybe,” she said, grudgingly. “But he’s got a lot of nerve. Did you tell him off?”
No, of course I hadn’t told him off. I’m passive-aggressive. I spend most of my life thinking about telling people off — not telling them off. (One of the many reasons I’m not practicing law.)
“I can’t believe you didn’t let him have it,” my next-door neighbor said, disappointed. “After everything he’s done.”
Since then, I’ve run into the same soon-to-be-ex-husband of my friend a few times. He always seems eager to talk and all I want to do is clobber him across the kisser. Not that he ever seems to notice.
Here’s what I think. There should be a rule about this, some kind of etiquette, in a town this size or any size. If you’ve ditched someone’s good friend, you might get the hint she doesn’t want to talk to you. You might want to give her a wide berth.
Or, best of all, you might want to stay in corpse pose a long, long time. It’s supposed to be really relaxing after you’ve been there a few years. Please — let me know once you’ve tried it.
(Copyright 2007 by Ruth Pennebaker)