This post is going to be a mix of topics separated by three dashes, just so you know what’s happening.
Imagine you attended an event by yourself. Solo. Tout seul. No bff/bf/gf. Just you, walk into an event, knowing only the host (who has a room filled with over a 100 people to worry about, and babysitting isn’t on her job description for the evening) in New York City.
Wait, for those of you who don’t know the solo NYC scene, remember this. It’s like walking into a room with spinach in your teeth, your dress tucked into your pantyhose, and tissue paper stuck to your boot. Everyone can see it, but no one gives you a second glance to even tell you of your current misfortunes, because, well, they don’t know you. You could be going for Katy Perry circa “Last Friday Night”… they don’t know your mission. Try speaking with them, and expect the reaction to be similar to Katy Perry circa “Last Friday Night.” Catch my drift?
So for me, someone who can’t read people’s crazy meter, hasn’t mastered a smooth exit, gets so nervous I begin to sweat from every pore in my body typically streaming down my face (to everyone saying, “Jesus, Tillie! This STILL happens?” Yes. Yes, it does.), I’ve created this habit which I feel has hindered me in my approachability sector, more than helped. Here’s what I do. Check-in at event. In lieu of checking my luggage (handbag) and my coat (typically a puffy parka designed for an Inuit or and olive brown “where’s your shotgun” jacket designed for hunting), I say, “No thank you. I’ll hold on to it. But my four bags of groceries I picked up on my way here… can you check them? You know, I don’t want to be THAT person.” If I have actually brought groceries, which I have done many times before [no joke. I did this a couple of weeks ago at Bloomingdale’s and mentioned I was afraid someone was going to take my ginger snaps.], whoever is at coat-check will feign a smile or rudely hand me a number and tuck my produce in the dungeonous region. The rest of the evening (the 30-minute minimum I force myself to stay anywhere) is filled with superficial chitchat or pretending to stare off into space in the corner. [If there are activities at the event, I’m so focused on them, that attending solo doesn’t bother me.]
But Thursday night, at the Camden Brewery launch event, something happened. Something in me said, “Put your damn purse down!” And I did. I placed my hunting jacket atop my handbag, sipped water (beer, gluten, you get it), and talked. Like real conversation, talked. I was introduced to a wonderful woman who by the time I left, we hugged and exchanged cards. Spoke with the founder, Jasper, on a level that was more engaging and familiar, than the stiff and contrived clichés. It felt more like the old me that would interrupt someone’s conversation to complement their hair, or their scent, or them. It felt authentic. It felt natural.
And I liked it.
Now here’s my question to every awkward person who can relate, what do you do? How do you stand around and not look visibly awkward or uncomfortable and most importantly not sit down and be glued to your sinister phone?
On my way to the aforementioned launch, I was scoping out the podcast scene to see what I’ve missed. I’ve been listening to podcasts for years now (close 10 actually). Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips and One Thing in a French Day were probably the first one’s I had ever subscribed to, and still listen to now, but the cast game has evolved into something bigger and more innovative. There are tons of options for everyone, in different languages, about different subjects… it’s like the Audible version of the Guide Channel lineup.
Anyway, I found one that was a four-part series within a regularly broadcast podcast, Reply All. Reply All, for those of you who don’t know, is a part of Gimlet Media. Gimlet Media is the product of a really great podcast called StartUp. [Everyone, please, please, PLEASE, listen to season one of StartUp if you haven’t already. If this doesn’t empower you, I don’t know what will. Plus, this confusing paragraph to some of you will make lots of sense after.] Reply All, for me, after the first couple of episodes didn’t pull me in as I’d hoped it would, so I stopped following it. So, when I came across thi four-parter, it wasn’t until the first few minutes that I remembered exactly my subscription was cancelled.
The storyline, which I will get to in a moment, was thought provoking. The execution, not sure that’s the proper term to use, was annoying. Like, to the point that if it were a Netflix show, I would stop watching it no matter how far I’d gone. But because all the visuals were created based off the voices, I stuck around to hear the end. And the annoyance came solely from the hosts of the program. For instance, when they would talk amongst themselves there always seemed to be a lag in response or an unnecessary, exasperated moment… as though they weren’t actually in the studio together, or trying to seem more conflicted for effect. You know how bad actors take every action so literally? “Bro.” Wait three seconds. “That’s my girl.” Wait 2 seconds then shove. “No, one,” pause, “takes her chair,” pause then pull seat from under him. It ruins everything about it. That’s how the producers/hosts sounded like on every episode.
And their opinions, or own personal verdict, happened way to often for this storyline. Paul (essentially the lead in the story which I’ve yet to have explained) is serving a life sentence, with no chance for parole, but a chance to reopen the case. Sounds similar to Sarah Koenig of Serial, yes? But, no. I could have been spoiled by the journalistic style and ethics of Sarah, but Sruthi Pinnamaneni (producer of Reply All), ruined it. Too often she prefaced and followed up her findings with it-seems-like-he-did-it nudges to the listener. Moments that should be provided with no bias, aren’t. It was as though she was telling us how we should feel about him every step of the way based off her views, because she did all this research, and spent a year doing her homework. But this bias, with it being so public, could ruin his chances in reopening the case. This could hinder a potentially innocent man.
Now, the story. Paul Modrowski is serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison in Illinois, for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. The interesting thing about this story is that Paul has a blog. Because there is no access to technology, he writes long, thorough letters to his mother, who then types it onto a blog that she created for him. Another thing you should know about Paul is that he has Autism. Something they’ve known about since he was a child and was never brought up in trial. [For anyone who has worked with children and adults with Autism, you may notice it from the first call.]
In my opinion, I don’t believe he committed the crime, but I’m not the judge or the jury, so none of personal views matter.
Listen to it, and let me know what you think.
Speaking of podcasts, there’s one my friend turned me onto while we were sitting on benches in Tribeca called, This American Life. There have been quite a few stories that leave me questioning aspects of life. With the results of last week’s election, this episode brought up new feelings of sadness and a bit of understanding. It’s a definite must listen. Click here for episode.
Until another moment of randomness,