I can be very confusing to people trying to figure me out. One day I am the center of attention, in the middle of a crowd, speaking my mind, being loud, soaking it in like a huge glory sponge.
Then there are times I am the one sitting in the corner, fading from view, observing in silence while avoiding eye contact, listening intently and smiling to only myself.
I am a pendulum swinging between introvert and extrovert. Day to day you never know which me you’ll come upon. Even I can’t tell what side of the pendulum swing I come down on for any particular day.
But I can handle it.
It’s the worst when I find myself in the grip of extreme introversion. I do not want to deal with people at all. Just leave me alone. Do not engage me in small talk. Ignore me completely. On those days, I’m not mad at you, everything is fine.
It will soon pass.
There are rare occasions when I feel the thrall of this isolationistism draws on too long and I have to force myself into the public just to remind myself what community feels like.
Last week, during one such episode and I found my trapped in a local pizzeria. I was sitting in the corner booth of the restaurant furthest from the door. It was after the supper rush hour so I knew it wouldn’t be busy and I was nearly finished my meal. The room was wide open and from my vantage point I had a clear view of everything, or at least I would have if not for the large fireplace directly in the center of the room; it blocked my view of the main doors and a few of the tables behind it.
I was happy where I was. I could be in the world, watching it revolve, people coming and going, picking up and placing orders, yet, far enough removed so as not to have to interact with the going ons. There was a large flat screen TV on the fireplace itself above the mantle. Just For Laughs Gags was playing. The hidden camera prank show made me laugh as I watched people of all shapes and sizes being placed in unsuspecting circumstances and having their reactions recorded.
A unexpected sound of laughter came from the tables hidden behind the fireplace. I had been so engrossed with the latest practical joke that I hadn’t realized the restaurant had gained a few extra patrons. The laughing was loud and boisterous. It seem there was a debate of some sort and the group had split into two opposed sides.
Oh great! Just what I needed, extroverts!
Leaving the restaurant required me walking past this table of loud, rowdy, verbal hooligans and in my extreme state of introversion I just could not bring myself to face that challenge yet. With all the laughter I couldn’t determine exactly what the discussion was about, so what if as I was leaving they wanted me to vote on their debate, expecting me to choose a side, determine a winner. How could I do that, render a fair and proper judgment without all the facts?
Worse still, what if, as I was headed for the door, one of them looked at me and said, “some cold outside.”
I know it’s cold outside! People have been telling me that all winter! What is it when people look at me? Do they see something in my face indicating I have no way of knowing how winter feels? Why do you think I have this thick beard? It’s January! I know it’s cold outside! Stop telling me obvious things!
With such scenarios haunting my thoughts I decided I was in no rush to be anywhere else and sat in my booth with my empty dishes, playing with my phone as though I was posting world changing, life altering tweets that urgently needed twittering. In reality I was checking out pictures of swimsuit supermodels. (It is January after all. It is cold out there. Got to stay warm somehow.)
After ten minutes the other side of the restaurant quieted some. There was still a discussion going on but in a more civilized manner. The people hidden from view didn’t sound so scary and threatening. This would be a good time to make my escape. I looked up at the front counter where one lone woman was waiting for her take-out order. I would wait for her to leave hoping that her exit would distract the crowd seated near the door allowing me to dart out in her wake before anyone had the chance to tell me what season this is.
The woman had her order, a large pizza box held with both hands, on top of that was balanced a large bag containing doniars and sauce, and a second bag holding several cans of soda. She moved to the exit and when she vanished out of sight behind the fireplace, I stood up and put my plan into action.
You know this is never going work!
I rounded the fireplace to see the woman, with her arms full, walking back towards me. She had forgotten straws. I stopped, allowing her to step to the counter to get what she needed. I may be an introvert, but I still believe in manners and common courtesy. She smiled and thanked me then headed for the exit.
I was right behind her.
She reached the exit’s first set of double doors. Balancing her load with some difficulty on one arm then proceeded to opened, with some difficulty, the door. I had stopped behind her to wait and being curious about the the group of extroverts that kept me trapped in the restaurant for the last fifteen minutes I glanced down this side of the fireplace at the tables previously hidden from my view. They were all empty. Not a person in sight! I heard a burst of laughter. Oh no! I’m being recorded on Gags! I looked around for the hidden camera.
The lady with the armload of food thought is was only fitting to repay my earlier act of courtesy with one of her own. Balancing her family’s supper meal on one arm she held the door open for me with her fingertips. I could see the door slipping as she struggled to keep it open. I had not realized she was doing this so I immediately jumped and grabbed the door with thanks.
She turned to the open the outside set of doors as I glanced over my shoulder at the empty tables. I know I had not imagined the loud group of people. There was a chuckle that drew my attention to the fireplace. This side of the fireplace had a TV screen as well, set to a different channel. A panel, deep in discussion, were laughing and arguing on screen. My extroverts were a bunch of talking heads!
Not wanting the woman ahead of me to struggle with holding the outside door open for me, I quickly stepped forward, while still looking back over my shoulder. The outside door stuck and the woman stopped.
I did not.
I collided with the woman, pushing her up against the door in an awkward embrace, she nearly lost the pizza. In my head I apologized profusely but when I tried using actual words it came out as mumbled, unintelligible droolings. She got the door open and laughed as we exited.
To her credit she handled it well, better then me, and better then her husband seated in the truck idling outside the door in the bitter winter cold. He glared through the partially defrosted window. I like to think it was cigarette smoke rising to circle his reddening face not steam pouring from his ears. It looked like he was fumbling to find the door handle, but unable to do so because of his rage.
I turned away and walked to my car just quickly enough so as not to considered running.
One terrifying thought pounded over and over in my head,.
He’s coming to catch me!
He’s coming to catch me and tell me!
He’s coming to catch me and tell me how cold it is out!