You Cannot Be Serious

First things first, I hope that we’ll see you tonight.  Good, now that that’s settled, back to regularly scheduled programming.


Reema reached over and had a gentle hand rubbing just below my shoulder blades.  The gesture wasn’t flirtatious in any way, rather it was a calming, circular motion that communicated a non-verbal “you know I agree with you but don’t start an argument with that guy – you can’t win because intellectual arguments with the unarmed still, somehow, leave everyone bloodied.”

Reema and I are frequent bar mates and almost always in political agreement.  We initially met a couple of years ago when she asked me where I got the “Yes We Can” – in Hebrew – sticker on my computer.  She’s a Hebrew speaking Indian Jew – not as rare as one might think, she keeps insisting.

Early on this random Tuesday evening I sat between Reema and an unfamiliar gentleman to my left.  At one point, Reema or I – my memory fails – asked for the channel on one of the televisions to be changed from FOX News (I had to type that three times before I could force my fingers to form FOX versus FIX) to a game.

As the channel changed, my accidental bar mate to my left said “oh, I was watching that.”

The bartender and I said, in almost unison, “Sorry about that, would you like to change it back?”

“No, no, I’m good” he replied.

In what was, at the time, a question of genuine curiosity, but in retrospect a very large mistake, I asked this gentleman “Do you watch FOX for entertainment, news or both?”

“Absolutely, both… I mean they’re the only ones putting the real news out there.  Come on, Glenn Beck is like a modern day Thomas Payne.”

Many of you may not believe me, but I really don’t seek conflict, and I tried to back away from this one by saying “Oh, I understand” and turning back towards comfortable conversation with Reema.

It took about five seconds for me to learn that starting another conversation would not end the previous one.  “I mean, FOX is the only major media outlet that talked about Obama’s birth certificate, the death panels the democrats are proposing as a health care solution, the fallacy of global warming, and all kinds of things that the left wing media ignores.”

This was the first moment I felt the calming influence of Reema’s hand on my back.  Her hand was the reason my tone was moderated, and my response a restrained “Yeah, well we disagree on this issue, and agreeing to disagree is never a bad thing.”

“You must be one of those typical lefties that think disagreeing with a conservative position is the height of intellectualism, but when conservatives disagree with liberals, you just shut down the conversation because you don’t respect our opinions.”

Reema’s hand urged me to take a moment and a deep breath before responding “It’s not that I don’t respect your opinions, Sir, it’s that I think that they require a dramatic rewriting of history to reach… the notion that Thomas Payne, a vociferous advocate of the equitable distribution of wealth, shares more than a passing resemblance to Glenn Beck is a laughable notion.”  My powder was still mostly dry, and my voice well within acceptable tones, when I continued “That you really consider FOX the bell ringer of unbiased information is as laughable as the people who consider Keith Olberman to be that as well; it’s not that I don’t respect your opinions, rather, it’s that I think that they are so diametrically opposed to mine that there is no middle ground on which either of us could change the other’s mind, and therefore, it’s best that we leave things with a gentleman’s agreement to agree to disagree.”

This conservative gent to my left capitulated to my neutral-corners offer for about five minutes before he offered “So I guess you hate Sarah Palin too?”

Reema was in the restroom so the calming influence of her hand on my back was absent when I finally snapped back “You’re about two sentences from convincing me that you’re a real ass – not because of your political view, but because you seem insistent on arguing about it with someone who has made it clear that they do not wish to discuss such things with you.”  I took another deep breath before concluding with “I don’t know why you insist on trying to snatch conflict from the jaws of peaceable drinking, but…”

My voice trailed off as my mind caught the place my mouth was about to go.

“…Listen, when my friend gets back, I’m going to talk to her; but I do wish you a really happy holiday season, sir.”

He finally got the hint – and his check.

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14 Responses to You Cannot Be Serious

  1. A says:

    A little education can be a dangerous thing. Have a good (and peaceful) Happy Hour. Wish I was there.

    In this situation, which one of us has the little education?

  2. brookem says:

    conversations like this always make me so very uncomfortable. admittedly, it has a lot to do with my niavete on the subject matter. i wish i could get more comfy with it all. i guess a first step in doing so would be to educate myself more on the subject matter, but that in itself also seems a bit nerveracking to me.

    … that all being said, you handled this with extreme class.

    They make me a little uncomfortable too. I may be known to enjoy banter with my friends and even argue a bit, but I don’t seek conflict with strangers.

    Hey you in the corner, stop laughing, it’s true.

  3. Liebchen says:

    The sad thing is, I think I understand where this guy was coming from, but he really wasn’t helping his case at all. Good for you for staying calm much longer than I probably could have. It’s amazing the calming power that someone’s hand can have.

    I will acknowledge that there is a certain intellectual snobbery on the left, if those on the right will acknowledge that there is a movement on their side to portray intellect as the enemy of common sense.

  4. Vie says:

    “So I guess you hate Sarah Palin, too?” Wow. Good for you for attempting civility. I would have asked him what the hell he was doing in DC.

    There are plenty of reasonable, and incredibly intelligent Republicans running around DC.

  5. kitty says:

    there are people in this world who attract different types — there has to be something about you that attracts assholes.

    I think I need to change my cologne.

  6. k8 says:

    Drunks and old guys are attracted to me. You just get wing-nut Republicans.

    It must be my cologne or something.

  7. Gofahne says:

    I don’t enjoy (or go looking I should say) for confrontation either, but stupid either runs rampant around me or I too attract the people who love to push buttons just to see a reaction. Good for you for not wasting more breath than absolutely necessary. I’m not sure I could have been that civil.

    It’s that whole thing about the right to drink in peace, it’s on the boozer’s bill of rights.

  8. shine says:

    I have to walk away from people like that or I’ll make an ass of myself. Good for you for keeping your calm.

    I am not sure if I went into the restaurant business because of this skill, or I developed it as a result, but it is certainly among the reasons I was good at it.

  9. titania says:

    This reminds me once I went out on a date with a republican just to try to understand their mental process, basically to argue with him. It wasn’t such a good idea. Our mental process and rationale are just completely opposed and it appears to be that any type of communication is just not possible. How sad. I am impressed you were able to keep your cool, I don’t I could have.

    I have long held that reasonable people can view the same set of facts and reach divergent conclusions. The problem is that so many people on the far right distort those pesky things called facts… oh, and if you’re wondering if you are on the far right, watching FOX News for actual news is a pretty strong indication.

  10. Uhg.
    Steve does the calming hand thing with me but it’s a “look” that he throws me. A pleading one.
    There are times when it’s very necessary.

    It was the first time that I’ve had that feeling in a while. It was a very necessary thing.

  11. […] I begin by explaining my belief in you – it has never wavered.  Sure, there was that one time in fourth grade when I may have pretended to be a non-believer, but that was just a front.  I only let people conclude such heinous things because snotty-nosed Johnny, who I am certain received lumps of coal that year and many that followed, was leading a chorus in which he and his evil cronies accused all believers of being “big fat little sissy babies.” Setting aside his horrific and illogical sentence structure, I assure you, Santa, that I only denied you once and only because even then I deemed arguing with the ill equipped to be a fool’s errand. […]

  12. […] went against my usual find-away-to-confront-discomfort tendencies but my response wasn’t calculated… just the instinctual […]

  13. […] I begin by explaining my belief in you – it has never wavered. Sure, there was that one time in fourth grade when I may have pretended to be a non-believer, but that was just a front. I only let people conclude such heinous things because snotty-nosed Charlie Clark, who I am certain received lumps of coal that year and many that followed, was leading a chorus in which he and his evil cronies accused all believers of being “big fat little sissy babies.” Setting aside his horrific and illogical sentence structure, I assure you, Santa, that I only denied you once and only because even then I deemed arguing with the ill-equipped to be a fool’s errand. […]

  14. […] I begin by explaining my belief in you – it has never wavered. Sure, there was that one time in fourth grade when I may have pretended to be a non-believer, but that was just a front. I only let people conclude such heinous things because snotty-nosed Charlie Clark, who I am certain received lumps of coal that year and many that followed, was leading a chorus in which he and his evil cronies accused all believers of being “big fat little sissy babies.” Setting aside his horrific and illogical sentence structure, I assure you, Santa, that I only denied you once and only because even then I deemed arguing with the ill-equipped to be a fool’s errand. […]

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