So I met a guy in the airport yesterday. Or rather, he met me. I was sitting in the Ubon Ratchathani International airport, which is not an international airport, contently waiting in front of the body message parlor (inside the airport in front of security) for the flight back to Bangkok. This guy comes up and asks me how he can get an internet connection. I must have looked like an authority or something because I was on my iPad.
He was from Sweden he tells me holding his phone waiting for me to give him directions. Right away the guy annoyed me. First of all, I was playing a puzzle game on the iPad and was really into the game. Secondly, don’t know where it was coming from but he didn’t smell that great. Thirdly, he asked a stupid question. He says, “I am showing a Black Mountain location for wifi, but I guess I need a code?” I say, “yea dude, see that big sign that says Black Mountain Coffee? You’ve gotta go over there and get the code.” He says, “guess I need to buy a coffee or something.” I say, “guess so.” I didn’t feel compelled to tell him I got the code just by asking nicely.
So then he says, still standing there, “hey, that’s cool, is that an Apple product?” “Yep,” I say. He asks if I’m connected to the internet, and I tell him, dude, I’m playing a puzzle, look! (I then cover up the little wifi connection icon with my thumb, as I had just uploaded the gum post prior to starting the puzzle). I wasn’t trying to hide anything, I just kind of wanted him to go away. No such luck, because now he sits down next to me and starts peppering me with questions about the iPad. Not put off by my one-word responses, he starts telling me about other tablets, and laptops, and phones, etc.,etc. I tried to care what he was talking about, but I didn’t.
He then shows me his Sony Ericson phone, brand new, 4g, all the goodies. He shows me his camera and video resolution. He plays me a video that he recently took of his girlfriend (a least you’re not a Q boy, I’m thinking), and sure enough, the video looks better than real life. Being my mother’s son, I couldn’t just tell him to go away, but I was being as short in responses as I could have been without being mute. But his oder was unpleasant. I switched off the game and tell him I forgot about some important notes I’ve got to write. Finally he walks away toward Black Mountain.
There sure are times when it’s valuable to engage other humans, especially one with stories, knowledge or history. But if all that is not relevant, it’s just not relevant. We all run into lots of times when we would be better off making the effort to listen. And maybe not just listening, but also hearing. Or making the effort to making a connection. But all engagements don’t need to turn into connections. And not all engagements are engaging.
My friend and potential associate comes back from buying local food products to hand-carry for his cook back home and sits down beside me. I was glad to have him back just so the Swede wouldn’t return. Luckily he didn’t.
When we boarded the plane, I was surprised at how packed it was. No empty seats. My friend and I had the two opposite isle seats in the last row of a 757. As I settle into my seat, who do I have to make room for but the Swede and his girlfriend. The goofball lets his girlfriend in first and sits in the middle seat next to me. The smell was back. And so was his nonstop jabbering. Where was I? What kind of work did I do? Have I ever been to Thailand? How may times? Where? For how long? Yada, yada, yada. My responses were all one word. And I didn’t have to ask him the same questions, he volunteered all the information. His Thai girlfriend lives with him in Sweden for six years, she now speaks Swedish, they come to Thailand every year for one month, he works for an IT company (and he’s asking me about the Internet?). More yada, yada, yada. Then he starts in with the upcoming political elections in Thailand. I should have cared, but I couldn’t have cared less.
It wasn’t until I started dozing off while he was talking that he said, “oh, sorry, you look tired. I’ll stop bothering you.” “Thanks dude,” I say, while I’m thinking, ‘I just don’t care.’