As I’ve said before in this blog, I like making off-the-cuff jokes to strangers. It’s in my nature to do so, but I also want to see if they will recognize the beauty of my witticisms, or if they’ll esteem me as the weirdo I probably am. What can I say? It’s a way of me making the city life I find so abhorrent into something more sufferable. Here’s a scorecard of my recent performances:
A) There’s this one guy I occasionally see who yells—not talks—to himself in a high-pitched voice. He’s that kind of “Cross the street to get away from that nutjob” kind of crazy. I’ve seen enough to not be afraid, but the first or second such encounter can be quite jarring. He happened by as I was waiting for the bus several days ago, having his usual vehement argument with his imaginary friend.
“Don’t worry about him,” I reassured my fellow waiters, “he was the voice in an ‘80s cartoon and could never get out of character.”
“He needs help.” (-1)
B) The guy next to me at the library Saturday was an obvious headcase, blaring his Pantera or Slayer (what I call “angry music”) at obnoxious decibels. He flailed his arms wildly as he expressed his enjoyment for the “music.” When the female librarian could not get the attention of this Mosh Pit Hero to tell him to act like a civilized human, the guy on the other side of him tapped him to signal her presence.
An inevitable mental breakdown ensued (probably his 1900th). The guy started yelling, pushed his chair in forcefully, and hurled racial epithets at the guy who had tapped him. Before he went out the door (which he broke), he yelled, “I’m going to put a Glack [sic] in you, you fucking Ethiopian! I’m ex-military, motherfucker! I’ll eat your brains!”
The guy laughed in response to the threats, so it seemed I could add some refreshing comic relief.
“Eating brains; would that call for a red or white wine?”
No response. (-1)
C) I don’t know if this next incident could be attributable to mental illness or drugs as well, but I stopped at 7-Eleven later that day. The one customer was a very loud talker. “A PACK OF NEWPORTS AND…” When he left, I said to the guy behind me in line, “If that was his indoor voice, he must have been raised in a basketball game.”
“Or a barn,” my audience humorlessly replied. (-1)
Not looking too good here, dear readers.
D) I saw two guys walking together yesterday, the one wearing an Orioles shirt, the other sporting a Yankees jersey. They must have been on their way to the bar to watch the contest between the two teams. They chuckled when I commented, “Good to see you guys are pals. And yet the Israelis and Palestinians cannot achieve peace.” (+1)
E) I don’t know quite how to score this last one, because it’s a canned joke I make on a regular basis when applicable. Later that evening, the (free) bus was very packed, a situation that tends to occur at such times. “If we pick up anyone else,” I will say to the seven people who are inside my personal space bubble, “people will have to start riding on the sides and the roof, like you see in India and those places.”
Sometimes this elicits some laughter. (+ .5)*
Based on these data, the verdict is that I should probably not try to become a comedian. And definitely not a social worker.