Recently I’ve realized that during these conversations (in which I play both roles) I project what I assume other people are thinking about me. What makes the whole thing even weirder is that I believe other people actually don’t notice me much, but this is coming from someone who’s having full-on chats across her corpus callosum so, you know, take it for what it’s worth.
At the gym, for example, if I haven’t noticed that my iPod playlist is finished, I suddenly find myself thinking at the guy doing biceps curls six inches from the mirror.
“You’re blocking the free weight rack,” I scold. If he’s 30 or 40 or 50, I add, “You’re old enough to know better.”
If he’s 17 or 23, I warn him, “I know your mother.”
“Don’t be so crabby,” they answer. “You shouldn’t even be down here. You need to be upstairs on the cardio machines, working off that belly.”
“I’ve done my time on the treadmill,” I snarl back. “Now I have to lift some weights so I can set an example for your girlfriend/daughter/neighbour over there who needs to eat something before she gets osteoporosis at 25.”
“Oh sure.” They eye the swag of my upper arm. “You’re a great example.”
Or if I’m cycling through town and a driver guns his motor and swings way wide to get around me:
“My butt is so not that big,” I tell him. “If you only realized that you’re just illustrating what a lousy driver you are. You don’t even know how big your car is.”
“F- you, lady,” they snipe and swerve right, forcing me to choose between slowing down to ride in their exhaust or jumping the curb.
I stretch out my arm, two fingers extended in a salute. The gesture incenses them even further and they jab one finger in the air.
“I have good karma,” I say smugly. “What have you just gained?”
They rev their engines in response and roar ahead to the red light.
And I carry on, my self-righteousness squirming just a little because deep beneath my oh-so-evolved cerebral cortex, way down in my lizard brain, I know that I’ve used a global sign for peace to piss off a stranger.
Except that’s not the way things work in this town, so as I pass them in the intersection I add, “Say hi to your mom for me.”