So. I like to walk on my lunch hour. Now that the weather is getting colder, I have been walking inside, which presents many challenges. I always seem to run into people I know, even at the farther reaches of campus. Also, I seem to have an “Ask ME!” sign floating above my head where-ever I go. I dislike being interrupted when I’m out for my walk. That’s my “me time,” my time away from people, my time to be alone with my thoughts. However, I don’t like to be rude, so if someone snags me for help finding a restroom, or I run into an acquaintance who wants to talk, I end up accommodating them at my own expense. ( I should note that at any given time there are thousands of people on this campus – there is always somebody who can help a visitor who is lost. I should also note that I don’t always want to avoid conversation. There are a handful of people with whom I always like to talk, when I see them. Of course those are the ones I rarely encounter.)
I decided to start taking my iPhone with me, and my earbuds, so that I can listen to music while I walk. This makes the time go faster – walking indoors is boring. It also allows me to send a pretty clear signal – “Leave me alone. I’m on my break. Don’t approach me.” It works! I walk fast, I avoid eye contact, and if I see someone I know, I smile and wave a hand and keep going.
So what’s the problem, you might be wondering.
Well, yesterday while I was motoring along, I encountered my boss and “X,” who were on their way to a meeting. I nodded and smiled at them. Thought nothing of it.
Until “X” came to my desk a couple of hours later to lecture me. “Oh, I see you’ve become one of those headphone zombies, being antisocial.” I said, “What? Excuse me?” “You heard me. Walking around wearing headphones so nobody can talk to you.” I said, “Look, I am entitled to ONE HOUR out of the day to be free from people sucking at me.” He took it personally. “I don’t suck at you!”
Oh, please. The wall across from my cube has black scuff marks on it, from his shoes, where he leans with one foot on the wall to yap at me for ungodly amounts of time every day. But everybody thinks he’s the exception, right? “I know other people are constantly bothering you, but I don’t.” SPARE ME.
I was so exasperated I said, “Of course you suck at me! Everybody does!”
He didn’t like that. We didn’t argue about it, but I am still brooding about it today. He has complained to me before about people riding the shuttle buses who wear headphones and tune everybody out. I’ve tried to tell him there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe these people don’t want to hear some yahoo’s loud cell phone conversation. Or maybe they are just tired of conversation and want to be left alone. What the hell is wrong with that?
Now, I do think that when we are out and about in public, we should not be so absorbed in our phones or our music that we’re not paying attention to our surroundings. We need to stay mindful of what’s going on around us. I ride my TerraTrike on bike paths and it drives me nuts when I try, as is proper bike path etiquette, to let a walker or jogger know I’m about to pass, and they can’t hear my horn or my voice because they have their earbuds in and their music is so loud. But that doesn’t mean we should never use our earbuds to listen to music quietly or even just to send the signal, “Please don’t talk to me.” I see nothing wrong with that. Why is my desire to be left alone any less important than somebody else’s desire to talk?
I really resent it that some people like “X” seem to think that I should just be available 24/7 for anybody who wants my attention, that I have no right to disconnect, tune out, and refresh my mind. What the hell.
What do my fellow introverts think?