Thursday, February 10, 2011

I want YOU to stop being such a dick

When I see really, truly nosy people, I'm always surprised when they don't come from one of those places where everybody is nosy, like China or Turkey or the Amazon or something, when they're not ex-villagers or tribesmen accustomed to seeing everybody naked, knowing what everybody's shit smells like and when every woman has her period and commenting openly on the minutest details of other people's lives then giving them unsolicited advice. Or are older than the age of 10. No one is bothered by a staring child or a meddling Vietnamese neighbor, but in good Protestant nations it is the norm to only stick your nose in a stranger's business until you've been caught, at which time you whistle innocently and slyly wait for your next opportunity to look over their shoulder without being observed doing so.

I'm also surprised every time an asshole tells me I should not allow myself to be bothered by his assholiness. Like, really dude? That's all ya got? Yeah you're a dick but I'm the one with the problem? I guess in a way they're right: they're an asshole and they're cool with it, but also, they're an asshole and I'm not cool with it. Who's got the actual problem?

I'd love nothing more than to go on some hippie tangent about shaping your own reality and being at harmony with the world and that but honestly, more than anything in the world, more than a pony or the reversal of global warming, I wish for a day when people would just quit being dicks to the people around them. Just... stop.

How hard can it be? To take two seconds to NOT be a dick. I mean, really, it takes more effort to BE a dick than it does to not be one. At least in the provocative sense. It's easy to react like an asshole, but to be one out of the blue requires dedication. Premeditation, plan Bs. The careful construction of a social interaction, in which you turn out to be the dick. And this is your goal.

So I'm sitting here in one of my favorite Berlin bars and tapping away at the computer screen. Writing. Clearly engrossed. Could be writing anything from an email consoling someone on the untimely loss of a spouse or a terminal diagnosis (not the case) to updating my CV or writing my super vitally important thesis (also not the case) to an argument on an internet forum (the case). All of a sudden the bored dick sitting next to me decides it would be a good idea to stare unabashedly at my screen. I look at him. He looks at me and laughs. I wait for him to stop. He keeps staring, entertaining himself to no end. I partially block his vision with my right hand.

Unprompted, he advises, "You know, you really shouldn't get so excited about people reading your stuff."

(excuse me bitte schön but did I say a word to you?)

"It's my natural right sitting here to look at whatever I please in this place."

"And it's also your right to be impolite?" (that is the closest Germans have to rude. Another word they don't have which I would have loved to use is the word "nosy". Just doesn't exist. Because Germans are rude and nosy. There are no special words for it, it's just how people are. And if we believe what the linguists say about language shaping the norms of a society then we can reasonably assume that the reason so many Germans are both rude and nosy is because they have not created a word for either trait which describes it in a disparaging sense.)

"Let me give you a tip. If you sit--"

"Excuse me, YOU'RE going to give ME a tip? Haha ok bitteschön"

"Yes and here's the tip Schatz. Don't get so bent out of shape about people reading over your shoulder. You're the one with the problem. People are going to do whatever they want."

"That's the tip, is it?"

"That's the tip. I will read whatever I like and there's nothing you can do about it."

(silence. I literally have nothing to say, in either language, to this buffoon. I nod at him with a look on my face that says "you're a madman and I clearly have no constructive response to your madness you mad person you.")

The guy stares some more, and after having been startled by his intrusive, painfully conspicuous social retardation I'm no longer looking annoyed or surprised, just sitting there with my hands away from the keyboard, unwilling to type a single stroke more until he's quite finished. Finally the game gets boring even for him and he goes, "not that I even feel like reading right now anyway. I'd read it if I felt like it but it doesn't even interest me." Huff.

The main reason I get annoyed by people reading over my shoulder is because I'm nearly always reading or writing in English and people here think that they can be "impolite" and "curious" (that's the closest you get to "nosy") to you because you are just a dumb tourist and what are you going to do about it anyway? There're also a lot of people who assume that just because you're reading or writing in English that you don't speak German and this makes their game even more fun because what could be better than needling a stupid foreigner who couldn't even be bothered to learn the language of the land? They don't like it? They can go back to wherever they came from.

I don't have a detailed description of how I react to such behavior in the States because it very rarely happens with anybody other than 10-year-old Chinese children with Down's Syndrome and autism at the same time. Everybody else knows better.

But the truly baffling part came next. When he was finished harassing me, the guy turned to his buddy and continued the conversation he'd been having before. I had quite naturally assumed that because I'm sitting at the bar of a cheap, smoky communist dive and being bothered by a stranger that he was drunk and alone and therefore not responding very gracefully to being rebuffed at what could have been a simple attempt to make contact with another human being and really, what can you expect when you sit at the bar of any bar but to be chatted up by other people on their own; it's a given, to be anticipated and if you don't like it you should have sat in a dark corner by yourself somewhere, with your jacket and bag on the empty chair and all your books and newspapers and pencils and shit spread across the table so as to eliminate the possibility of any unwelcome intruders placing down a second drink. But no. He actually interrupted his own conversation to make me feel uncomfortable and give me a "tip". And to call me "Schatz" (literally translated, "treasure", when spoken by a man to a strange woman takes on the equivalent of a bitchy, queeny gay man condescendingly calling you "sweetie" or "honey". Which was surprising because while the guy himself could have been gay I would never have pegged his companion as so and I didn't get the memo that straight guys were hanging solo with gay guys in dirty smoky communist bars these days. Maybe they were brothers. Adopted.)

So now, this guy has so little sense in his stupid pointy head, that half an hour later, he decides to try his game again. This time, I'm reading and not writing, so I just let him point his stupid face at my screen and read away to his heart's content, knowing that the reason he is being such a stupid cunt about it all is because he can't read a word of it anyway. He tries to get a reaction out of me, stretching out his stupid neck and looking at me and laughing, then trying the whole sad action again, and failing to get a reaction.

Seems if he'd really expected me to take his valuable tip to heart he'd have not bothered trying to get his jollies from attempting to rile me up. I mean Lord only knows that it makes all logical sense, accosting people minding their own business at the bar and then accusing them of reacting poorly and THEN having the nerve to give them tips on how to deal with bastards like yourself.

One of my favorite things to say to nosy people is, "I'm here minding my own business, just like you ought to be doing." Didn't have the words for that in German. Must apply myself to finding a suitable translation. Not that it would probably do any good, nosy bastards, the lot of 'em.

Douche. Bag! Get a life, loser, and seriously, why you gotta be such a dick? Life could be so much easier for all of us.


Stephanie Faris said...

People are so caught up in their own worlds, they don't stop to see how their actions affect others. That's all I can figure. But I refuse to let them dampen my day...then they win. I just thank God I'm not them and go on!

jc.tryps said...

yes, the germans and their (in)famous 'directness'... i seriously think you are on to something big there, the fact that the language lacks words for 'nosy' and 'rude' really says a lot about the culture. and that weirdo was also displaying another interesting trait, what i like to call the 'educational approach' to directness. i'm not sure this is limited only to germans, i have encountered it in other nationalities as well, but it does add an extra flair of annoying to an already profound asshole attitude. one of my favorite scenarios is when you are trying to ignore someone and your attempts are met with a "it doesn't hurt to smile you know". no, but a punch in the face does, which is what you'll get if you don't take a hint and leave me the fuck alone right now asshole.
i'm impressed you actually managed to refrain from punching him in the face, because you're truly right about that, the whole live and let live only works if applied by the counterpart as well. it's not that easy to not be bothered by someone's assholiness if it's all over your face!
and thank you for sharing this wonderful account of fucked up human behavior!