GRUMPY OUT OF CHARACTER
On the weekend, at a crowded street festival, I did yet another thing completely out of character. A guy was walking along just in front of me. He briefly looked at his little son walking just behind, and put out his hand in a clear indication that he expected the little boy to take his hand. He looked up and ahead again and did not see that the boy was still walking along but had not seen his father's hand. He was interested in other things. So I put my own hand out and this complete stranger and I walked along holding hands.
We made it a lot further along without the guy realising than I thought we would. Somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute, the guy actually gently squeezed my hand, a sign of fatherly affection. What was going on here? Did the little boy have exceptionally large hands? Were mine much smaller and child-like than I realised.
Needless to say that by the time the guy turned to look at where his son's face should be, then quickly up an my own face, I was just about pissing myself with silent laughter. Making eye contact, I lost my shit entirely.
“I don't believe you actually did that,” The Dreaded One told me in what would normally be admonishment but this time was a kind of dumbfounded amusement.
Completely out of character, and yet somehow strangely familiar.
Like the time at the self-checkout at the supermarket when we'd finished scanning all the things with barcodes and I grabbed a potato and tried to scan it. Again and again, with more frustration each time. I looked over my shoulder at the helper and shrugged and made a face, like what's the deal with this potato? Is it broken or something?
“Please don't make him come over,” The Dreaded One said, eyes closed, slight shake of the head.
“Awesome,” I replied. “He's coming over."
In pure Apu from The Quickie Mart, the man asked, “Excuse me sir but is there a problem?”
Somehow, I dead-panned it. Still scanning the potato I told him, “This potato. It won't scan. Everything else went through fine but the potato? Not happening.”
Swipe. Swipe. Swipe. "See? Nothing."
Swipe. Swipe. Swipe. "See? Nothing."
“Sir, it is not necessary or indeed possible to scan the potato. With the potato, you simply...”
He explained the procedure for dealing with potatoes in a very professional manner which carried just the hint of amusement, like he knew damn well he was dealing with a smart-arse rather than a moron. I was barely holding it together. The Dreaded One was smirking and shaking her head silently. A couple at the next register was giggling.
Again, so out of character.
Like the time my publisher boss asked me (an editor at the time) to join him in a meeting with the designers. One the way to the meeting, he got called to the phone. In the meeting room were the designers with the only available chair being the one at the head of the table with my boss' things spread out. I paused, then sat down in this chair. The meeting hadn't really stopped, it just carried along sounding very meetingy.
When my boss entered the room I remember thinking that a normal person would apologise, stand up and give their boss their chair back. But suddenly I wanted to see what would happen if I just ignored the guy. I stayed seated, resisting the urge to fiddle idly with his things, but considering it. The meeting kept rolling along. My boss cleared his throat, hovered for a bit, then left the room. I imagine he told others what had happened and how he just didn't understand why I would do such a thing. I can also imagine what their reaction would have been.
Again, it's just not the kind of thing I do.
Or the time I scored the DJ spot for me and The Dreaded One, long before we had a clue about mixing. At a party, as a joke, a friend told a promoter on the lookout for new DJ names that we could DJ. The promoter approached us.
“Someone told me you guys can mix.”
“We are awesome mixers,” I replied with confidence.
“Really? That is what I heard.”
“Love mixing. Nothing like it. It's my favourite thing, mixing.” I cocked my head to the side so that my right ear was resting on my right shoulder, then I did a really tight mix on my air decks.
The Dreaded One was looking at me like she didn't know who I was.
“Would you like to play at my next party?”
“That would be fantastic. We'd love to.”
“So I should book it in then?”
“Book us in. Thank you. Thank you so much.
As the promoter walked away, the Dreaded One looked at me and said, “What did you just get us into?”
What I got us into was a very steep learning curve, and a pretty satisfying first DJ gig.
But yet again, this simply is not the kind of thing someone like me does. Just ask me – I should know.
Grumpy is freelance writer Lee Bemrose (firstname.lastname@example.org). He is a man of characters.