Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Somewhere in Utah – You generally don’t want to get stopped by the cops in Utah, so I’m careful to obey the speed limit. Doesn’t help. The cop says that he could see the crack in my windshield, and that’s why he pulled me over.
“Oh, thank God! This is just about the windshield?” I ask. “So it’s cool that I’m really, really high, right?”
Yeah. I totally said that. Right. Because Utah cops LOVES them some pot jokes.
You might wonder how a cop, or anyone, could detect a crack in a windshield in a vehicle traveling 70 mph in the opposite direction. Well, if you saw the windshield on my van you wouldn’t wonder. There are two huge cracks, one bisecting the other, like a sideways capital T. Apparently this is over the legal limit for windshield cracks. At least in Utah.
The cracks have been there since I bought the van a few years back, and I’ve gotten used to them; the same way I’ve gotten used to having only one working windshield wiper, no gas gauge, a driver’s side door that doesn’t close properly and will sometimes open on its own while I’m driving down the freeway, and … the list goes on, but why bore you?
The cop let me off with a warning and a stern talking to. Now I’m back on the road, ticket-free, doing some reflecting on my summer in Canada. I feel the need to narrow my summer’s worth of experiences down to just one story – and it’s this one.
It’s just a few weeks back, and there’s a guy in the second row who refuses to look at me, despite being about 6 feet away. Ordinarily I could understand someone ignoring me, but he did pay to see a show, and, well – I’m the show. Even if you’ve found yourself in a movie you don’t like you’ll still glance at the screen occasionally, right?
All summer long I’ve been performing in some pretty intimate venues, meaning I can usually see the audience pretty well. They aren’t always as well-behaved, still and attentive as I might hope. In fact, sometimes I’m convinced that they think I’m a TV and can’t see them at all. Earlier in the summer I wrote about the woman who sat in the front row and lotioned her feet during my show. I thought for sure that would be the best audience story of the summer. I was wrong.
I realize that in order to have true freedom you aren’t supposed to care what anyone else thinks of you, and that seeking the approval of others is not a good way to conduct your life. There’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t like you, for reasons that you can’t control, so letting it go is the best way to be. I’m OK with all that. Mostly. Or at least I’m learning to be. It’s a spiritual journey, after all, and progress can happen slowly.
But this guy in the second row, man – he REALLY doesn’t like me, and he makes sure that his body language screams this at me. Screaming body language is hard to ignore. He’s got his arms folded and is staring at the back of the chair in front of him, his über-hipster “I’m SO over you” posture leaving no room for misinterpretation. Other people are enjoying the show, so I focus on them instead, but each time I scan the room there’s that guy, front and center, hating on me.
Then, with about 10 minutes left in the show, I look down and, well … this next part will sound made-up for comic effect, but you have to believe me – this really happened.
I glance down just in time to see him plunge his pinky finger deep into his nose and then quickly into his mouth.
Whoa! He ate his booger! And he doesn’t know that I saw him eat his booger!
I’ve never seen an adult do this. And I’ve only seen a few children do this. I’m stunned. I stop midsentence for a second or two before I’m able to collect myself. Wow. Really … wow.
And then something beautiful happens. My need for this person’s approval completely disappears! Just like that. Poof! I go from “Wah! How come you don’t like me?” to “Yay! You don’t like me!” in one quick nibble.
They say that if you’re nervous about speaking publicly that it helps to picture the audience naked. Well, the next time I feel the need for someone’s approval, I know EXACTLY what I’m going to picture them doing.
Ahhh … sweet, sweet freedom.
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