Thursday, December 11, 2008

At Least it Wasn't a Photo of Paula Abdul...

I had lunch today with a friend. Seated in a table near us, was a man sitting alone, drinking coffee and mumbling softly to himself. While we were eating, he showed us an article he had printed off of a computer website. It had a large picture of Clint Eastwood on it. “See this article on Clint Eastwood?” He said.

My friend and I looked at each other for a split second, acknowledging the awkwardness, but we both politely nodded our heads yes to him. The man then said, “He’s been in a lot of movies, hasn’t he?”

I said yes, he had, and then my friend and I continued with our conversation. While we lunched, the man continued to mumble to himself and he showed the article to another couple of ladies seated close by. Their reaction was identical to ours. At one point, the man started gesturing wildly and shouted loudly at someone across the restaurant. “HEY ED! ED!” he called, waving his arm until the man waved back at him.

I was pretty sure that he was just lonely, wanting someone to talk to. But I’ll be honest. He made me nervous. My overactive imagination started thinking of the headlines: Woman Shot By Clint Eastwood Stalker Man at Bagel Shop. Family Says Christmas Won’t Be the Same Without Her. I hope my family would say that. Well, and not mean that it’d be a better Christmas for them… But I’m drifting off course here.

Focus.

I wasn’t rude to the man – I am obsessively polite to strangers. I looked him in the eye and nodded to him, and agreed that, yes, Clint Eastwood has indeed been in a lot of movies. So why do I feel like I let the guy down somehow? It seems like I did the poor guy a disservice because I was getting all itchy sitting there by him. There was a small part of me that was honestly worried that he’d go off his rocker and pull out a gun. The Husband would totally roll his eyes at me for having this thought in the first place, he thinks I worry about and over analyze everything. (Should I worry that he thinks that about me?) But seriously, you guys, this stuff happens. Remember the guy who opened fire at a Von Maur in Omaha last year around this time? I was sitting in that booth chatting with my friend about work, but all the while, my mind was whirling in a million directions, always keeping track of that guy’s movements.

After we left, I started to feel guilty for those thoughts. How horrible for me to suspect violence or craziness from this guy who probably doesn’t have many friends. Isn’t it sad that I jumped to those conclusions just because he wanted to talk to us about Clint Eastwood?

I tend to think of myself as a positive person, but my recent glass half empty post and now this don’t support that claim very well, do they?

4 comments:

WebGal said...

I think that was a pretty normal reaction. Both at the time and the feelings afterward. Or at least I'd feel the same way. (Not sure if that'll make you feel better or worse...)

Barb said...

"they" whoever they are.. say that when someone makes you feel uncomfortable, you should NOT ingnore that feeling and that women's intuition is usually pretty acurate ~ so, don't feel bad. I think you did the right thing.

Mom In Scrubs said...

You and my husband. If you two were married you'd never go anywhere!!

But seriously, I understand your reaction, and you shouldn't feel guilty. And you SHOULD listen to your intuition.

Most likely, the guy is mentally ill in some way. It's possible that he hangs out in that bagel shop, and it's a place he feels welcome. Maybe the staff even look out for him: "Oh, that Harold. He's a little 'out there' but he wouldn't hurt a fly."

Or he's a gun-toting psychopath. You never know!

Prairie Chicken said...

Scrubs is probably right. The guy was probably either mentally ill or developmentally delayed. And trying to find some connection with people. My guess is he was very unlikely to go ballistic on you. But his behavior is outside the norm, so it naturally makes you uncomfortable. If you saw him regularly you'd probably come to understand where he was coming from and know better how to interact with him. I think we have to be careful not to jump to the most scary conclusions—bad things—random acts of violence-- do happen, but happily the incidence in our country is low although it's widely publicized when it does happen. The media tends to teach us to fear our neighbors rather than to value them. On the other hand, I just dealt with a person I know who went off the rails—it was not pretty. Tune in next week for more of PollyAnna's Priceless Pearls!!