All the Lonely People, or Captive Audiences


Apropos the fellow who was in GameStop talking the counter clerk's ear off, I've noticed that New York has a large number of a peculiar breed of lonely person. Many lonely people (I can't use a more quantitative quantifier because I'm speculating without data) just keep their unsatisfied desire for meaningful human contact buried down deep in a tight little ball. Sometimes this all gets released when they start secretly killing strangers off the street, but I imagine most people just go through life feeling alienated and unsatisfied. To some degree, I find myself in this group.

On the other hand, some lonely people, and there seem to be a lot of them in New York, go out and grab their human contact come Hell or high water. Because they're not very good at the whole socializing thing (or else why would they be lonely?) there aren't many people who will willingly converse with them. To surmount this obstacle, they seek out people who have no choice but to stand there and listen to them, generally people in customer service. Hence, the socially maladapted fellow spouting about video games to the bored GameStop clerk. Or the woman at Morton Williams today who held up a massive line while she tried to find exact change (Despite having a twenty in her wallet that would have taken care of everything) and used the opportunity to chat with the annoyed check-out person.

One subset of this group that are particularly sad are the old people. I would imagine these are people who actually are, or were, good at socializing, grew accustomed to human contact throughout their lives, but who have now been discarded by their family and society, and seek conversation whereever they can find it. A few weeks ago I was mailing a package at the post office, and the line was held up for about 15 minutes by one old man. I was getting mad, but it changed to pity when I found out that his only transaction was buying stamps. He was taking so long because he had come into the post office to ask the counter attendant's advice on which stamps to buy (The American Authors series? Great African-Americans? Whatever the latest pop culture stamp? The bird-of-the-month?). It's really hard to get angry at a person who's so starved for human attention that he goes to the post office to start a conversation with a postal worker about stamps.

It's hard to get too mad at any of these people, really. Sure, they hold up lines and can be painful to listen to, but it's not really their fault that they're lonely, and at least they're trying to do something about it. Maybe I should start a public interest foundation of people who'll visit with lonely people.


Your public interest foundation sounds like my idea of Hell. On the other end of the spectrum from these people you have Dianna, who has taken to wearing large occlusive headphones on every occasion when avoidable human contact might occur. Mind you, I do love music, but more importantly, as long as my attention is conspicuously occupied by something else I cannot be engaged in small talk or spontaneous conversation for the sake of social interaction.

It could be thought of as a public service, actually. If one of your lonely chatting people is looking for a person with whom to chat and happens upon me, they will become aware that I am not that person without my having to growl at them. In short, to you, clearly the more patient and charitable one in this regard, I leave the social (interaction) work.

Let's not jump to conclusions; I said I'd start a foundation, implying acting in a leadership and administrative capacity. I'd have other people to do the interacting, people who like that sort of thing.

And I see the benefits of my foundation as two-fold. First, it benefits the lonely people. They get someone to talk to, and probably someone slightly more interested in hearing what they have to say than the random customer service people they harass right now. Second, my foundation benefits society. By directing the conversations of lonely people into a controlled environment, an impact-free bubble, we prevent them holding up lines and inflicting annoyance on innocent by-standers. And the volunteers get that whole "joy of volunteering/something to put on their college application" thing. Everybody wins!

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on October 22, 2005 7:35 PM.

Things I Overheard in GameStop Today was the previous entry in this blog.

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