When I take my breaks I sit with my computer and sometimes write or edit shit like this.
There’s limited outlets in our cafeteria for me to plug my laptop in, which sometimes puts me in the part of the cafeteria where all the cleaning crew sit for their breaks.
I sit and try to edit or type but it’s hard to do around the cleaning crew cause they never shut up. There’s always some pointless talking about stuff like weekend trips to Walmart and ponderances about why the cost of something has increased by a few cents. The rest of the table is then offered the opportunity to agree with more pointless blather like, “Well, I (emphasized) don’t buy Crest. I buy Colgate. I buy the Colgate Total. I buy it in multi-packs since it saves money, but sometimes the packs are sold out, which makes me mad. I buy the paste even though my husband prefers the gel. He always bitches because I buy the paste and not the gel. So I tell him, ‘If you want the gel then………..'”
You get the picture. And then it keeps going around for anybody else to chime in about their toothpaste or toilet paper preferences and experiences.
It’s mindless prattle like that and an endless stream of bitching and fussing about their jobs. It’s become a point of amusement, as I eavesdrop, to ask myself, “What could the point of all this noise be?” Usually, there is none. It’s just their attention being passed around their tables like cards in a poker game without any jackpot. A poker game being played for the mere exchange of the cards and the acknowledgment they all understand the rules of the game. A poker game played out of habit, with nobody caring about winning or losing since there’s nothing to win and nothing to lose. And if it’s not them talking, it’s one of them on their phone screaming into Facetime, often about child support or how somebody fared in court that day.
I try ignoring it. But sometimes I can’t.
The other day one was talking about her grandson. She said he got into a fight at school.
She said she and her husband have raised him since he was a baby. He’s their grandson but, being the only parents he knows, she says he calls his grandfather “Dad” instead.
She said last week his grandfather went to school to pick him up. Their grandson told another kid, “There’s my dad to pick me up.”
Apparently the other kid said something like, “That’s not your dad. He’s your grandad.”
So the boy – the quasi-son – grabbed the other kid by the throat, drug him to the ground and started choking him.
Grandma told the table that grandad (or Dad) was called into the school the next day. They had to have a talk about the previous afternoon’s fight.
Grandma told the rest of the table, “The principal said our boy needs to learn to control his anger.”
Grandma gave the table a moment to agree or rebut. As she allowed the tale to air, I, at my table behind my computer, thought, “Yes. That seems very reasonable. Some counseling in anger management would seen appropriate. And a lesson in how to better accept harsh realities might be in order too.”
I wondered what Grandma’s response to the reasonableness of the principle’s advice would be.
She told the rest of the table, “That boy don’t understand anything but that his grandad is his dad. It’s all he knows since we’re the ones that raised him from an infant. So any boy that says otherwise ought to expect an ass whipping. That’s just the way it is and it’s what the school ought to know, so I guess it’s what they ought to expect.”
“Ah, yes,” I thought. “Of course, make it about the school and their inappropriate response. Fuck giving any consideration to the little terrorist who likes to fucking pretend that grandad is really his real fucking father.”
Nobody at the table spoke up about that boy needing to control his anger. Nobody asked about his age. Nobody said anything about the reality of the situation being the boy’s grandad isn’t his real dad and how the boy that got choked was only speaking the goddamned truth.
I sat there behind my computer thinking, “That’s how psychopaths are made. Or, at least, it’s how a future criminal or sociopath gets groomed. It’s how futures and lifestyles get undermined by criminal records with violations and misdemeanors that always somebody else’s fault.”
It’s how fuck-ups learn to blame the cops or the government or their spouses or their employers for all their fuck-ups. It’s how and why they never learn from their goddamned mistakes cause the mistakes are never theirs. It’s how you’re groomed/tutored/mentored from an early age by idiots to learn how to shirk responsibility for your own actions. And it’s oddly accepted in some circles as just the way it is.
I sat there, glad for once, that for a minute or two they’d spoken about something worth listening to.
I sat there wondering if people like them ever shut up long enough to think or truly listen and try to comprehend a goddamned thing. It’s like any slight measure of meaning or importance gets drown out in the overwhelming tsunami of meaninglessness. Hearing but never listening, nothing of importance registers as they wait, formulating their additions to the ocean of meaningless once the deck of cards is passed to them. Sitting there, swinging the bat in the on-deck circle. Trying to get into the zone of being at the plate, thinking about nothing but the bunt, the grand slam or sacrifice fly – whatever it is they need to do to move the game along.
I know how this sounds like the pissings of an old curmudgeon. And I understand there’s a social utility to small talk, even gossip. But, at a distance, it also seems like there’s a hefty social inutility to so much senselessness that we so casually absorb and are so casually, instinctively absorbed into. We become accustomed and consumed with so many random, bleating notes we lose complete sight of rhythm and melody. In fact, they’re shunned in polite company cause rhythm and melody are much harder for any group to maintain than the cacophony of a bunch of screeching, random notes.