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Our Cognitive Negligence

Lady Neurosis is a woman I come across not infrequently. I say she’s a good person for two reasons: because she, inherently, as with most people I meet, is and wants to be a good person, and because the social mores of polite referencing have donned it socially acceptable to say so before talking smack about her.

This behavior is most commonly exemplified, but certainly not limited to, most females since the dawn of stipulated social consciousness. We’ve been trained to hear when the smack-down’s coming because there’s usually a preemptive raising of pitch to downplay the caddy-ness:

“So and So’s a really good person…”

and sometimes an “…and I love her to death” cues the recipient in to properly respond:

“Oh, yeah, I love So and So, she’s great” followed by an exchange of leading glances to pave the way foooooooooor:

“BUT (the ominous, proverbial BUT)  this, that, vent, vent, complain, vent, vent, wah wah I need validation for a perfectly natural feeling of annoyance that I’ve been conditioned to be ashamed of.”

We all learn about this when we’re forced into social interactions with people we normally wouldn’t want to be around but have to because of school, work, or because our buddy really likes Person A so be a gem and occupy her friend for me, will ya pal? Thanks. So what do we do? We’re polite to said friend, pretend to pay attention, and nod in agreement: “That’s true, yes. No, you make a good point. No I’ve thought about that (stupid) point a lot actually (no I haven’t).” Meanwhile the little wind-up monkey violently bangs his cymbals together in our heads and that’s it. That’s all that’s going on upstairs.

I’ve done it to people and people have done it to me. Lady Neurosis was just such an occasion.

There’s a quiet desperation in this woman’s niceness. She’s bright and chipper, but when she talks she looks at me expectantly to respond to every comment about her pens, her method of cooking rice, and her trip to Staples that I just don’t care about. What bothers me about this whole scenario is that I feel like I’m the jerk, when I shouldn’t.

The effort to engrain a sense of genuine empathy for people is one that I believe should be constant. Real, bona fide care for others is a delicate and beautiful art that requires effort and will to improve one’s own character. This is an ideal that I strive toward. Although this ideal will never be reached, I want to live my life ever-presently conscious of it. I want to care. We all do, but this means we need to be more conscious of the words we choose to occupy others’ time with. There’s sharing, and there’s talking out of your ass. Sharing implies a communicative positive effect between both parties. Talking out of your ass is just panicked word vomit.

She’s talking about making copies at Staples and the guy who cut in front of her. That’s it. That was the crux of her talking. She didn’t care about my morning. She needed a receptacle to bitch into. I have no idea how to respond to this series of declarative statements. I never have, and when I try the only thing that comes out of my face is insincerity and feigned interest. Most if not all people see right through me when I do this because number one I’m dramatic, and number two I suck at pretending to care. In this instance, she absolutely sees through it, and she does NOT appreciate it one bit.

What gets me, again, is that all people do this. No one actually gives a damn about the mundane details of someone else’s day. What positive impact can this possibly have on ANYONE? None. This is because when people talk about the mundane details of their day, they don’t actually care about the effect their mediocre choices are having on their recipients time. These people are energy vampires that suck THAT WHICH IS GOOD from others, over time causing a doldrum in the cognitive evolution of humankind.

Lady Neurosis is uncomfortable with silence, and the aforementioned desperation I hear is her need to fill that silence. What a waste of conversation. What a waste of time. So, I react not. If I went on and on about my plan to clip my toenails and display them evenly on a contrasting satin surface to ME: I’d have the decency to tell myself to shut the hell up and respect my listener enough to at LEAST make the story compelling. Make it interesting, or even mildly comical. Throw a twist at the end about how letting that douche-bag cut in front of you inspired you to join the fight against AIDS. Then ask me to find the connection. That is both insightful and thought provoking. I just might be inspired to follow suite and start a Dance For Life team.

In this way, the talker talks TO her recipient and hails a response requiring cognitive function by both parties. No time would be wasted, because in the very least someone’s neurotransmitters spark.  That someone would be more inclined to, in turn, put more thought into actions directly following that conversation, that could lead to not just one, but a SERIES of good decisions inevitably changing her course of life for the better (save the whales). Both parties would also be less inclined to feel dull and empty about their days, and less likely to waste some other person’s time talking about their boring half-hour with the good people of Staples.

‘Those poor people at Staples.’ That’s all I can manage to think about between the beating cymbals from that wind-up monkey in my head, at 6:30 in the morning, before I’ve had my coffee. This happened to them and they couldn’t get away because customer service policy states they have to smile, nod, and offer a friendly alternative to color-printing as part of a world-wide Go-Green effort. I think all of this, but all that’s coming out of my zombie face is:

“Yeah man. pfff! No, you’re right. No I’ve thought about that on several occasions.”  At least that’s what I would have said AFTER coffee. The only thing I could manage to mutter up was “mmmuhhh, well…pfff…life…you know..i don’t know what you want me to say here”

Like I said, I know Lady Neurosis picked up on all of this because she called me a grouch, slammed the cabinet shut, and stormed out of the room. I burped, yawned, and carried on with my coffee trying to process the locutionary drive-by that just happened.