A year and a half ago, at three in the morning, I was sitting in a camp chair at Bedford County Agriculture and Education Center, nodding off.
It was the middle of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life – my second Relay ever, and my first as a member of the county organizing committee. I had not sat down with the intention of napping, but if I had nodded off at that point, it would not have been a bad thing. My services as a committee member weren’t in high demand at that hour of the morning, and a little bit of a nap might have helped me get my second wind.
The trouble was a man I’ve known since we worked together in high school. He saw me sitting there and came over to talk.
He talked, and talked, and talked. My end of the conversation consisted of the occasional “uh-huh.” I kept hoping he’d pick up on the fact that I wasn’t really interested in sparkling conversation at that point, but he’s apparently tone deaf in that way. He kept talking and talking and talking and I never did get my nap.
Today is Halloween. It’s been a busy week at work, and even more so today as I tried to make up for the vacation day I’m taking tomorrow. Because of severe weather which had been forecast for tonight, the city had recommended that trick-or-treaters be through and home by 6 p.m. I did not buy any Halloween candy; I don’t usually get many trick-or-treaters in a good year, and I didn’t want to be left with a big bag of excess candy. But I wasn’t completely sure how the unusual schedule might affect things. I decided that the best way to unwind after a long and busy day at work would be to go to Waffle House and enjoy a leisurely breakfast-for-dinner. I walked in, a copy of Wired magazine under my arm, sat down at the counter and ordered a cheesesteak omelet, hashbrowns scattered and smothered, and one of their new jalapeno cheddar biscuits.
A couple of stools down from me, there were some dirty dishes. I figured that whoever had been sitting there left just before I arrived.
I had just started reading the magazine, when the owner of those dirty dishes returned to his stool.
You guessed it: my talkative friend.
I hoped that maybe I’d just be in for a few pleasantries and then he’d head out, having finished his meal. No such luck. Again, he talked, and talked, and talked, and again, I sat there and grunted. Instead of the leisurely meal for which I’d hoped, I wolfed down my omelet, paid my check, and spent the remainder of my sentence up the street a bit at Walmart.
Once I was safely in my car, driving through the drizzle up Main Street, I felt appropriately guilty for having been rude. Surely, if I were half the Christian I pretend to be, I would have been genuinely interested. If I were a quarter of the Christian I pretend to be, I would have at least done a better job of feigning interest – not out of hypocrisy, but out of common courtesy. Instead, I just sat there and thought about how much I wanted to go back to reading my magazine.
I am a never-married 51-year-old man without children or a girlfriend. I am, frequently, a fifth wheel. I am absolutely certain that there are people in my life who have been every bit as annoyed with my presence as I was with my old co-worker’s presence. Most of them are a lot nicer to me than I was to him.
Regret, of course, is much cheaper than actual obedience.