I've always been too big a smart-ass for my own good. My life is riddled with events where, if I had just shut the hell up instead of trying to get the last word in or needling someone over the edge with one more "witty" barb, things could've gone much better than they did. I've talked myself into way more ass-kickings and public humiliations than a single person should endure before deciding to change up their approach, and yet still I find myself in situations like last night:
I was wandering around Ballard, a neighborhood in Seattle, trying to find the theater where I was scheduled to have a rehearsal with a sketch comedy group I'm performing in. The space was in a tiny basement theater that was one of those spots where there's a street address, but when you find that address it's actually a music store or a mini mart or something, and it turns out you're meant to find the tiny hobbit door off to the side of the building that leads down a stairwell into a dark hovel where art unfolds like so much black mold behind the walls.
As I walked from my bus stop to the theater, I heard a guy yell over my shoulder from behind.
"Hey, man, you got a cigarette?" I turned and looked back to see pretty much exactly what I expected: long hair slowly twisting itself into dreadlocks, tattered and faded tie-dye shirt, sandals that should've been replaced eight years ago, scraggly beard. Typical homeless dude setup.
"Sorry man, I don't smoke," I answered, continuing on my way and fully expecting that to be the end of our interaction. I sighed as I heard his steps speed up to keep pace with me.
"Well, between you and me," he said, "boycott Black Coffee. That's all."
"Okay," I deadpanned, hoping he would take the hint and move on. I didn't even know what he was talking about. I thought maybe he just hated coffee, the drink. I had to look it up to realize there's a co-op locally with that name. We walked in silence for not even 30 seconds.
"Yeah, well obviously with all the May Day stuff and the way they treated me, the word needs to get out," he continued. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to give him in this situation. A friendly ear? Consolation? Was I supposed to ask him to explain what the fuck he was babbling about and let him launch into whatever story he has about being wronged by a coffee co-op? I didn't want to get tangled up in whatever bizarre web he was spinning.
"Okay, man. Got it. Thanks," I spat as I picked up my pace. He matched my steps.
"The thing is," he continued unsolicited, "I'm going to be on 'Dancing with the Stars.' And 'So You Think You Can Dance.'" At this point I should've just said I wasn't interested and moved on. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything and I should've just walked away. I mean, obviously I should've walked away. But I didn't walk away. Instead I got aggravated that this guy felt like he could just inject himself into my life and start spewing his bullshit my way like I was obligated to listen. So, like an asshole, I decided to fire back.
"Oh, yeah? Like when they have all the crazy people on the show for auditions the first day?"
"What?" his smile faded. Suddenly I realized I was actively taunting a person who had obviously decided the normal laws of society didn't apply or appeal to them, which might result in my being pummeled by a dirty hippie in the middle of a busy sidewalk. Luckily, he just redoubled his efforts to convince me. "Actually no," he said with a smug chuckle, "because I actually won both of them so I'll be on every episode."
"And I'm pretty much the best dancer out of everyone in this city." I like to bullshit. I can exaggerate or spin a yarn with the best of them. Which is why I truly hate when someone insults my intelligence with such an obviously-fake and easily-verifiable piece of bullshit like I won Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance while they are begging cigarettes off passersby and looking like something out of a Mad Max movie. For all I know he might really be on those shows, I don't watch them; but come on. HOW ARE YOU ON DANCING WITH THE STARS? YOU'RE NOT EVEN A STAR.
"Is this a thing for you? Is this what you like to do: walk up to strangers on the street and just start lying to them?"
"I'm not lying," his eyes narrowed. "I'm serious. I'm on those shows."
"Okay," I sighed, "you're not on those shows, and even if you are I don't care so just stop bothering me about it, crazy man."
"Oh yeah?" his voice jumped an octave and he flashed a toothy Joker smile. Oh, right. I'm taunting a crazy person. This is where I get stabbed. "Well you're fat!"
"And you're insane!" I shot back as I crossed the street. He kept yelling it after me, You're fat! You're fat! You're fat! until I had made it across the street and his crosswalk signal turned green.
Nothing gets me ready to rehearse some sketch comedy like mingling among the general populace.