Monday, August 18, 2008

Silence This

The other morning I was hiking in Griffith Park with a friend. We were walking single file down a narrow trail when an elderly Armenian man appeared from around the corner. (I think he was Armenian, or Russian maybe. One of those old balding guys who hikes in dress shoes and a sweater vest, while smoking.) As he approached us, I smiled broadly and said, "Good Morning!" He looked at me for a second, and as he passed he growled under his breath, "Shut up."

I am not here to bitch about this. In fact, it made my day. I love this man. I even considered writing a short film about a younger American woman who becomes obsessed with an elderly Armenian man after he snubs her on a hiking trail. At first she wants just to cross his path again, hoping to change his mood - put a smile on his face! But each time he passes, no matter how cheerfully she greets him, he offers the same grim salutation. Even when she offers him a carton of cigarettes. Then, cookies. Her obsession grows. Why does he snub her? Why does she care? Could she be falling in love with this inexplicably hostile, swarthy, aged foreigner? What would her friends and family say? Surely they would disapprove. She is tantalized by the possibility of this Forbidden Love. She follows him home. She peers through the bushes at his stout little Armenian wife, who sits waiting, wordlessly, all day, upon the brown and beige plaid sofa on their porch in a long black dress. Waiting for what? No one knows.

That's as far as I've gotten.

Anyway, today, I am at the Los Feliz branch of the Los Angeles Public Library . I come here to work sometimes because it's air conditioned, because the studious atmosphere tends to encourage me get down to business instead of talking on the phone, or watching tivo'd episodes of Snapped and Women Behind Bars, ( not to be confused with these Women Behind Bars )and because it's quiet.

Oh, sure, there is the schizophrenic lady who sometimes can't resist pacing back and forth and rustling her shopping bags while mumbling something about the coming Armageddon, the sexy blond blind woman who loudly stumbles in the door behind her not-so-well-trained seeing eye dog, and the weird old man with the crushed box of Soft & Silky tissues who invariably sits too close to me and asks for help preparing an Excel spreadsheet. (What on earth for??)

But that's ok. If I'm going to be distracted, I want to be distracted by people who somehow fascinate me, a homeless drunk inviting me to share his ham sandwich, or a dotty old actress telling me about the old days at Metro. These people have character, they have stories to tell, they live interesting and/or desperate lives. They are inspiring. They are what hanging out in a public space is all about for me. I don't mind these people interrupting the silence. In fact, I like it. No, I live for it.

This is who I do not want to be interrupted by: Bob Odenkirk. Sure, he's made me laugh in the past. One time I saw him perform in a sketch in which he played Charles Manson as Lassie the dog. Hilarious. And Mr. Show! I've heard that makes other people laugh. I get it, he's edgy, or whatever. But if I want to be amused by one Mr. Robert Odenkirk, I will march on over to the Steve Allen Theater, El Cid, UCB, Taix, etc., and buy a ticket. If I'm not paying him to perform for me, and we are at the library, which was not an underground comedy venue the last time I checked the L.A. Weekly, he can just Observe Fucking Silence, like the rest of us. (Except Armageddon Lady, because she, like Paul Revere before her, has an urgent message to spread.)

And by Silence, I do not mean instructing his nanny and children in a loud, decidedly non-edgy, baby voice, "We may watch Discovery Channel, we may ride our bikes outside, but we are not going to watch videos today. Ok? Are We listening?" Yes, Bob, we're listening. After hearing him discuss his daily schedule and his latest career moves with a couple of other grownups who happened by, I finally did something I have never done before. I shushed. I didn't say, "Hi? Could We please keep Your voice down?" (Which, in retrospect, I wish I'd thought of then.) Instead, I just clenched my teeth together and let out a, "Shhhhhhhhh," in his direction. And it worked. He stopped talking and quietly left the building.

Thank you, my Surly Armenian Love. Thank You.


Sarah said...

i hate that guy too.

Jeff! said...

You served your city well today, Lucia.