Uncomfortable Social Situations

Uncomfortable Social Situations

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John Linnell - Mohegan Sun - August 9, 2008Ever get stuck talking to someone that you’d really rather not be stuck talking to?

I’m not talking about how sometimes it seems like you’re the go-to guy when someone needs the time or something. Though I don’t wear a watch, and that’s plainly visible to all around me, it seems that anytime I’m in a public place, a stranger will single me out and ask if I have the time.

Because I don’t regularly carry a cell phone either, the answer has always been, “Nope, sorry…”

Anyway, last weekend at the casino while waiting in line (for 3+ hours) to get into the They Might Be Giants show, we ended up behind a kid that was by himself.

I’m not one to judge — actually, I am, but I wasn’t on this occasion… I’ve gone to concerts by myself too. It’s one of those things that you almost have to do when you’re not really into Top 40 or mainstream music. Or hockey. Why doesn’t anyone like hockey?

Anyway, to better pass the time, pretty much everyone who stands in line by themselves is sorta looking for someone to talk to and something to talk about.

While I would have been perfectly happy silently observing people at the blackjack tables right near us, or just commenting on all the people walking by with my wife, this kid needed to talk to someone and I was the someone because I just happened to be the guy right behind him.

At first, it was a pleasant banter like, “How many times have you seen TMBG?” or “Where are you guys from?”

That’s fine. I answered honestly and kinda figured the conversation that I wasn’t real keen on having anyway would fizzle out in a few minutes and I could go back to playing blackjack over some stranger’s shoulder.

But he wouldn’t stop. And he was weird!

“I play bass in a two man band. That’s all I have to say about that…” And then he’d, like, air guitar some bass lines and wiggle his fingers.

Um… Okay?

I mean, how am I supposed to pleasantly respond to that? In any other situation, I would have smiled politely and walked away, but I wasn’t about to give up my place in line.

As the time passed, and more awkward moments ensued, he decided that we should list the TMBG songs that we hate.

Yeah, that’s a great idea. Here we are standing in line to see a band that we supposedly both like a lot, so let’s list out their songs that suck. Yep, that sounds fun…


I played along and apparently every song that I wasn’t real fond of (or pretended not to like) was one of his favorites. I get it; he wants to be Mr. Confrontational.

This whole time, I’m thinking, “Please let this conversation end.”

Then he went on a bit of a tangent talking about how he works a dead-end nightshift job at a gas station and how sometimes guys in their 60’s will come in to buy cigarettes or something and say “Hey there, what kind of music do you listen to?” and he responds with something rude like, “Yeah, let’s not go there. We’re just wasting both of our times…” because he’s in to bands like, well, he listed off a bunch of indie crap that I’d never heard of.

Now I’m thinking, okay, not only is this kid a social weirdo, he’s a rude jerk too… I should have told him an hour ago that I didn’t really want to talk to him… Too late for that now…

I told him my second favorite band was the Jonas Brothers… No, I’m just kidding.

Then he started to list off all of the TMBG albums he had as if to impress me or something. Yeah, kid, of the 200 or so people standing in this line, I’m pretty sure 80% of them have every album you do. Then he started contradicting statements he’d made earlier when listing the songs he hated…

“Yeah, this song sucks, this one too, that one… Basically tracks 1-12 are terrible.” An hour later, to him, that album “was a pretty strong record. That’s all I have to say about that.” Sigh…

Apparently, “That’s all I have to say about that” was his tagline. He didn’t say it like Forrest Gump, but I couldn’t help but hear it that way.

Then he started quizzing me so as to show me up or something. I think that in some ways I surprised him with my knowledge. I mean, physically, I don’t scream psycho fanatical fan of a band few have ever heard of. But at the same time, I do happen to know about as much as those psycho fanatical fans. I just keep it in the closet.

Fine, you can be the bigger fan than me — that’s fine. I let him win. I’m perfectly happy owning all of the albums, knowing all of the words, and going to a concert or two every time they come to my area. He can be the guy who drives 8 hours for free shows for a band that endlessly tours in New England anyway and recite set lists of shows he never attended. (Kinda reminds me of those guys in high school that could recite the batting order of the 1927 NY Yankees, but wouldn’t actually swing a bat in gym class…)

Then, as if he hadn’t said enough, he started to get all philosophical… Talking about how such and such an album was the soundtrack to a really nostalgic part of his life…

Um, yeah, I really don’t care. That’s your life, not mine, and quite honestly, yeah, I just really don’t care. Of course, I didn’t vocalize my thoughts…

Finally, around a half hour passed without him saying anything… I thought I was home free.

Then he turned around and said, “Have we met before because you look really familiar?”

Having never actually been inside a gas station before, I said, “Nope, don’t think so. Unless you were at this show last year. Or the year before. Or at a show in Lenox, Massachusetts back in 1992…”

At the mention of 1992, he was shocked and asked, “How old are you?” I told him I’d be 32 in a few days… He said he was 25. Hmmm, might explain why we had pretty much nothing in common (other than this band).

He turned back around. It was at his time that I started to do a little math in my head… The album that he claimed to be the soundtrack of the most nostalgic time in his life came out in 1990. He would have been seven.

I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t having many eventful life altering moments when I was seven. At the very least, nothing that I would call “nostalgic” to a complete stranger.

I had some pretty sweet birthday parties at that age and a few nasty wipe-outs on my bike that I recall, but really, nothing that would make me all misty eyed now thinking of days gone by. Maybe that time I drew a moustache on myself with a sharpie. Nah, that was just cool.

Then, as luck would have it, a weathered sketchy dude (there are a lot of them at the casino) came up to the line, like many passersby do, and asked who was playing tonight. The kid responded, “They Might Be Giants”.

The dude, looked over at my wife and said, “Smurfette?”

Sketchy Galore knew my wife!

Nice guy, but the type that you’d almost expect to find at a casino. Yeah, that sounds like a dig, and it sort of is, but I really had nothing against him. He seemed like a nice personable guy and better yet, he’d actually seen They Might Be Giants before. Probably back around 1992… Basically, in this line and at the time, he was an ally that I wanted to have. Gave me some street cred — through association.

He hadn’t seen my wife in over a decade so it was a really neat moment (dare I say nostalgic?) for her.

For me, I was like, cool, this guy probably scares the crap out of the kid in front of me and now that he can see that we’re like friends or something, he’ll leave me alone.

He and my wife caught up for a few minutes and at the end, they sighed, “Small world… Great seeing you.”

I was thinking to myself, yep, small world but a big freakin’ casino.

Now, last year I mentioned that one of the members of the band, John Flansburgh, worked the line handing out stickers before the show and how I was shocked that no one in the line seemed to know who he was. Honestly, they treated him like an average roadie or something.

This year, about an hour before show time, the other member of the band, John Linnell, walked right by the line twice in an “I’m lost” sort of way (obviously trying to get his bearings before finding something to eat before the show). My wife noticed him, gave me the nudge, and I was like, holy crap, that really is him. Cool.

Again, this year, no one in the line noticed it.

Even the kid in front of me didn’t acknowledge it. Wait a minute, this kid was just claiming to be their biggest fan ever and he doesn’t even know what they look like… What’s up with that?

As if it couldn’t get any worse, he turned back around and said, “You know, you look like a combination of two people I know…”

I snidely responded, “Oh, you’ve met my parents?”

This response got a chuckle out of the woman behind me in line. I had a feeling she was feeling my pain listening in to this epic conversation that was clearly uncomfortable from the start. She lucked out and chatted with my wife for a bit while I was stuck keeping the socially challenged occupied…

Who hasn’t heard of Charo?When the venue finally opened, we thankfully weren’t seated at the same table as him… Big sigh of relief.

This year, again, we were to the left of the stage, but also again, less than 10 feet from the band.

Total bill for the night was $4.

Tonight’s free show is Charo. Cuchi-cuchi!

Speaking of Charo – the kid in front of me had never heard of her… Does he live in a cave? She even did a Geico commercial?!

Anyway, we’re not going… Can you imagine the people in that line?


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