Or so I had hoped.
Something unfortunate happened yesterday. A good friend of mine was free for coffee in the middle of the morning, which is not usually the case, and since we haven't had a chance to just sit and talk like we like to do—generally in a stream of consciousness—we met at My Favorite Place for Joe. I didn't say this up front, but I only had about an hour because I had two other errands to run and had to get some work done.
We hadn't been seated more than five minutes when one of my friend's old pals walked in, and we both waved to say hello. My friend went over to the guy to offer a more generous hello, and and he followed her back to the table. In the past, this man has had trouble remembering my name, so my friend took this opportunity to see if he could come up with it. He did, kind of, by referring to my articles that have been appearing in the paper.
I mentioned that someone had written a letter to the editor just the day before in response to my article about our local Latin stores and how the writer transitioned from Latin stores to the burden immigration has had on our country, not specifically in the form of bleeding the welfare kitty but in adding further stress on our already strained work force. The writer thinks we should close our borders to every immigrant from any country so that our own unemployed workers can find the jobs the foreigners take, as if all of the unemployed people from the financial district are going to run out and get jobs in the chicken processing plants or do manual labor for landscapers or work as day laborers on construction sites or make beds in hotels or cook in our restaurants. I'm generalizing here, a point that will come into play a little bit later, but the suggestion is foolish.
Anyway...this guy at the coffee shop took off from there and proceeded to lecture while standing beside the table for 55 minutes. 55 MINUTES, I know because I timed him. At first, it seemed we were having a discussion, and we debated the rights and wrongs of generalizing and profiling. We talked about how he suspected a family of Iranian immigrants of quite possibly moving to this country with the intention of killing us all and posing as business owners in the meantime, although he later talked about another immigrant he knows from Lebanon who is a good guy, he said. I wondered why he doesn't suspect that man of being a plant and why one family can move here to better their lives, but the other is suspicious.
I stopped interjecting my opinions when he switched to gun control, and then environmental laws and the "myth" of global warming, and then back to immigration, and then onto the Apocalypse, ....and then my brain went numb, and my head fell hard on the table. I started fidgeting with my Styrofoam cup, twisting the plastic lid to make a squeaky noise and lining the sipping hole up with the graphic on the cup just so. I checked my email on my iPhone, and I checked the time on my iPhone. I clenched my jaw and stared blankly, and I sighed.
When I had taken all I could stand, not having had a chance to ask my friend a single question about what's new in her life or where she got her cool necklace and did the sweater she was wearing come from JJill or Eddie Bauer where she has been shopping lately and her hair looked nice tucked behind her ears, I finally grabbed my coat and scarf and excused myself because the hour was up. I beat it for the counter and tossed my two bucks at Coffee Shop guy and said, "keep the change," and I hit the street.
So, here is what irked me so much besides missing out on some chat-time with a good friend: I can take having a conversation with someone who disagrees with me on nearly every subject addressed, but this was not a conversation. It was a lecture, one spouted off by a man full of self-importance, someone who smiles broadly with each disagreeable sentence because he knows how to use his charm. He has charmed so many people in town to their detriment.
He's interested to see how everything he said will affect my future articles and asked that I leave his name out of them. I did mention his bloated sense of self-worth, didn't I? I will not be writing about him or his opinions. I will say this, though: I'm pretty sure I've got an editorial running next Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Day. It's all about how there are plenty of rights to go around, and I wished I had the words to say that to my father years ago when he was feeling so threatened by King and his predecessors.
I believe that's true, that there is plenty to go around, but not if some people are going to hoard and stockpile while others can only dream about having decent shelter, enough food for their children to eat, a reasonable education, and hope for a brighter future. And I believe that while there are bad people in the world, viewing humanity through suspicion and generalization is a sad way to live.