Since I’ve stopped working full time, I haven’t had to commute as much. The occasional client meeting is scheduled, and I drag my unwilling body through the traffic-choked roads of Mumbai. An upshot of this situation is that I have far fewer stories of commuters than I had before. [And that’s the ONLY thing I miss about my commutes.]
The other day, I did have a client meeting. It promised to be a protracted one, because I had to get this lady to talk about herself, the company, and her work. I was drawing a blank with respect to website content, and I needed the fundamentals to get started. She had been so busy for the preceding two months, my team and I were left dangling.
So I planned to spend my ride there thinking about questions to pose, in case she ran of things to say. It was essentially along the lines of an interview, and I needed to keep her train of thought moving constantly. The easiest way to do this is to ask open-ended questions, and then follow up ones. And thus I was contemplating.
But I wasn’t alone in the car. Of course not.
At first, I wasn’t unduly perturbed by the specimen in the front passenger seat. I grant you, he was listening to music with the volume turned up so high, I could hear the lyrics of the songs, in spite of him using earphones. This was mildly obnoxious in of itself, but then he got a phone call.
Now the caller was evidently a girl, and during the course of the conversation, I got a strong feeling that she was interested in him. Why? Because he was abysmally rude to her during the whole conversation.
She suggested meeting up; he said no. Then said yes, but only wanted meet up near his place. Then he said he wanted to go to a particular restaurant, and when she presumably demurred, he was churlish.
He called her a number of names, but when she said something in response, he claimed it was “offending” and sulked audibly.
He derided her for “reading Shakespeare for sure”, and vehemently expressed his absolute hatred for romances. Then went on to talk about reading Mein Kampf, patronisingly telling her that it wasn’t a romance (d-uh, because I HATE ROMANCE. Yuck.) He went on to describe the book in the most general terms possible, telegraphing that he either didn’t get very far or he wasn’t taking the text in at all.
There were many more instances of what I thought was awful behaviour. And since I couldn’t escape the aural assault, I figured I might as well try and understand why someone as abrasive and unprepossessing as this piece of humanity was clearly so attractive to his caller.
And then it hit me; he was a cool dude! He had a Nirvana shirt on, he drawled lazily, he listened to music, and I saw that he smoked, once he got out of the car. Basically, he exuded “bad boy”, and that sort of vibe is catnip for certain people of a particular age.
While I was taking all this in, I started feeling very old. I too found bad boys attractive at some point in my college years, although I sadly did not have the same effect on them. But I now realise I have grown out of that phase completely, and I now can’t stand them.
It made me shudder to think that at one point of time in my life, I would have been the girl on that call, quietly bearing this bad behaviour because I was at the mercy of my fledgling emotions, desires, and insecurities. I wouldn’t say I know completely better now, but I thank my stars that discernment is part of my current mental makeup.