Monday, 23 June 2008

MEET BRIAN*, PART ONE

aka THE CONVERSATIONALIST

*NOTE: Brian is not the dude's real name. I use some real names, but seeing as I'm basically slating Brian non-stop I figured "give the man an alibi", right? Only I keep fucking typing his real name (which isn't Brian) and then having to go back and edit it. This is some complex shit, dogs.



This, along with the SHORT TALES OF CHAOS bit, will probably become a semi-regular feature until I run out of stories on the respective topic. Seeing as every single time I see Brian he does something either pathetic or stupid, this is basically guaranteed to be a feature that runs forever.

We'll kick things off with a brief description of Brian:
  • 38 years old
  • Works as a pizza delivery guy
  • Doesn't own his own car, so has to drive the store's moped
  • Has been working in the store for 7 years but consistently fucks up simple drops
  • Maybe the worst poet/author in the world
  • Self-publishes his own "work" and tries to sell it to his colleagues
  • Only EVER talks about himself, or his latest project, or his favourite things; seriously he is the worst conversationalist in the world
  • Borderline homophobic, in the sense that he thought gays were gross when he was 8 years old and hasn't matured since then
  • Borderline racist, in the sense that he lives in the Southwest and has never bothered to step outside it
  • Goes to the gym three times a week (and constantly talks to you about it - see bullet point number six) but remains just as fat as ever
On the whole Brian is a pretty sad individual, but it's hard to feel any degree of pity for him because he's SO. FUCKING. ANNOYING.

You know how normal conversations go? Where you see someone you know, and you say "hey! how are you?" That person then responds with "yeah i'm okay, just got back from the a check-up at the dentist, how about you?" Then you respond with a comment on your day thus far, and continue your line of enquiry into the check-up at the dentist. Okay, that's a pretty fucking systematic approach to a conversation, but it's pretty standard nonetheless.

Brian's approach is to tell you how he is, and then comment on his latest book of totally shit poetry for a while. Then he does basically the standard thing for conversational bores who only really want to hear the sound of their own voice: he asks you a question about something you're likely to know nothing about.

It's the most annoying, and fucking obvious, tactic in the world. He wants to keep talking and impress you with his limitless knowledge on his latest topic of interest (which he basically researched on wikipedia - seriously his latest "book" was this "history" of Bonnie and Clyde which basically read like it had been lifted straight from wikipedia, and it had), so he casually enquires as to what you know about basic nutrition or Rosa Parks or the motherfucking beat generation.

If you just say "yeah I know about that" he presses you for information, and keeps pressing until he hits a question you can't immediately answer. Then - oh boy, then - he launches into his spiel, and doesn't stop until you just walk away. Sometimes, and I'm being totally serious here, even walking in the opposite direction isn't enough to stop him. He just turns and inflicts himself on the next nearest person.

The most common topics of conversation are his numerous published works. This is how he refers to them: published works. I suppose, technically, they are, but the fact they're self-published - and self-published by a company that churns out things that look like leaflets advertising a really poor cult - makes his insistence on calling them "published works" a little, well, pathetic. What makes it about a hundred thousand times worse is that he memorises them word for fucking word.

I'm not fucking kidding.

The other night I'm minding my own business, putting together some pizza boxes while waiting for the next drop to come out the oven, when Brian comes back from his drop. There are no other drivers around, so this is not good news. Just me and him, and you bet your fucking ass he's gonna have something he wants to tell me about.

Sure enough, he makes a beeline for me, and before I even have a chance to say "hello" he's launched into the interrogation.

"Do you know much about the Dust Bowl?" he asks.

The Dust Bowl? The fucking Dust Bowl? I'm a Theology student who works in a pizza place, mate. I've also only ever set foot in America when on holiday at the ripe old age of 10. So no, I don't know much about the Dust Bowl... but fuck off am I going to admit it without a fight.

It becomes like a game: try and convince Brian that you are more educated on a topic than him, even when his wikipedia knowledge clearly surpasses your own made up bullshit. When you win, though... it's a feeling that can't be beat.

"Yeah, sure," I announce confidently, deftly folding a box in the time it took the two syllables to leave my mouth. This is something else terrible about Brian; how he doesn't even give a miniscule shit about the job. Fair enough, mate, you're 38 and you're a pizza boy, something's clearly gone horribly wrong, but you could try making a box or at least fucking try and look busy while we're standing around. Even when me and the other studenty staff are trying to build a box fort out the back of the restaurant we manage to look like we're doing more work than Brian.

"Yeah, sure," I repeat, "I know about the Dust Bowl. That was when there was a storm and loads of shit died, right?"

Describe something bad happening as vaguely as possible... check.

But it's not enough for Brian. It's never fucking enough for Brian.

"It was a period of very severe storms that caused serious agricultural damage," he says, neatly paraphrasing wikipedia. "Do you know when it happened?"

No, Brian, I don't know when it happened. I don't know because I don't need to know, because regular everyday conversation isn't a fucking pissing contest where we compete to show each other who knows more about stuff that you can read about on the internet.

Of course, I don't say that.

"Yeah, sure, I know when it happened," I say, flashing him a winning grin as I work my way through another box. How vague will he let me get away with? Can I say it happened in the 20th century? I'm pretty damn sure it happened then. Maybe the 1920s? Or the 1950s? Or some time in between? Or before. Probably not after, though.

"Yeah, it was in the... early... 1920s?"

The look on Brian's face is one of primal triumph, and I hear the "wrong answer" buzzer from Family Fortunes in my head.

"Early to mid 1930s, actually," he says smugly, and just about vomit from regret. So close, but so fucking far... the 1930s, man, it's totally bloody obvious. But I didn't get it; I stumbled at the second fucking hurdle. Not a good showing at all. To get Brian off the scent you've got to get at least five or six correct answers, and you've got to do so with an attitude that clearly indicates that you hold a doctorate in the particular topic of conversation.

"Yes, it was caused by severe drought coupled with decades of extensive farming without crop rotation or other techniques to prevent erosion. During the drought of the 1930s, with the grasses destroyed, the soil dried, turned to dust, and blew away eastwards and southwards..."

Of course, if you fail at dissuading Brian from unleashing a "conversation" on you, there's always Plan B. As his literally encyclopedic description of the Dust Bowl - and seriously, is there not a more interesting topic to spend your lonely evenings reading up on? (no offence geologists, you do some important work and I respect you for it) - continues, I turn and walk back through the store to the front desk.

The sound of Brian's monologue follows me for a moment, but then it begins to grow fainter. It's still continuing, though, and as I reach the front of the store and turn around I see why. It looks like it's Maciej's turn to wish he was dead (I alternate this with wishing Brian was dead, just to keep things balanced).

I let out a brief burst of laughter: I just can't help it, it's the best feeling in the world when you know you've escaped and someone else has to pretend they give two fucks. Maciej hears me - for some reason he doesn't seem to have been listening to Brian too closely - and turns my way. I grin, give him two thumbs up, take my drop, and leave.

It's a slow day, and when I get back 20 minutes later the scene is completely unchanged. Maciej's gamely trying to make some pizzas, and Brian's being Brian, probably viciously pressing the poor man to admit he knows NOTHING about tectonic plate formation.

A new drop comes out of the oven and gets bagged up. Maciej turns and actually acknowledges Brian's presence at his elbow for the first time.

"Isn't that yours?" he asks, waggling a finger in the direction of the pizza.

Brian looks crestfallen. He was this close to impressing Maciej with his knowledge of totally bullshit things! Heroically, I leap into the fray.

"I'll take it if you want, mate," I say, clapping Brain heartily on the shoulder. "You're going soon, anyway, right?"

"Yeah," he replies, smiling. "Thanks, mate!"

"No problem, mate!"

I pick up the drop and head out the door. In the doorway I pause and turn back. Brian's best effort at conversation continues, and Maciej looks like a man who just found his own severed penis in his box of Sugar Puffs.

I give the poor lad the double thumbs up again, this time matching it with the biggest, jolliest grin I can muster. Hell, he needed something to cheer him up.

Apparently that didn't work, though, because all I get in response is a covert middle finger. He really didn't need to hide it, though; Brian's so engrossed in firmly nailing the fundamentals of wind erosion that the rest of the world has paled into insignificance.

They say ignorance is bliss. Brian seems to be having a pretty good time, so I'd say there's some truth in that.

7 comments:

Disco Stu said...

You are the worst person on Earth, and that was awesome.

Betty said...

I think every pizza place on earth must be exactly the same. Our 38 year old would get into arguments about poorly-thought-out theology, though, so you could have totally owned him. He was also totally a racist and homophobe, which must be requisite.

He also loved reminding us of the time his band had their picture in Rolling Stone in the early 80s, although we all suspected they were just in the background of a concert photo of Def Leppard.

You spin a good yarn, sir.

Mr. Gale said...

Nice.

I met a woman, she was a whore but you know its the same principle, who had developed her own theology and political system. And would explain it to you, in massive detail.

It was some weird mish mash of Heinlein and Pratchett books, it was weird, and she had "plans" for her "friends" to run for political office and take over the world with her new, badly thought out philisophy cribbed from fictional books.

"like, you know, man... if you die, maybe you dont go to heaven or hell, you go where you THINK you will go... wow, man... think about it"

Lesson being basically, dont take a bunch of drugs with Sephira/Rippers work mates in a house you cant make a handy escape from.

Melancholic Goat said...

I fucking LOVE it when Brian forgets what I'm studying (he forgets immediately because he is not listening, he is simply waiting for his turn to talk) and tries to bring religion to our little question-and-answer sessions.

Yeah, Brian, we're done. You can go and pretend you know about Martin Luther to someone else now.

The Iron Colonel said...

Betty is right, all pizza places are the same. I've worked at two different pizza places with, for all intents and purposes, the same guy. He's always wanting to tell you about how karma is his religion (whatever that means) or about his latest independent film project. It's not startling how many abject failures work in the pizza delivery industry, but it is strange that so few of them are aware that they are hopeless.

Nonetheless, it was a bit cruel to inflict that kind of pain on your coworker. I hope he has the good sense to beat you with a 2 liter bottle of soda for your trouble.

The Silly Addiction said...

That was fucking hilarious, although I did feel a moment of sick horror when I realised that I often do the same thing as Brian. I've caught myself asking a loaded question of a workmate in the full knowledge that he knows shag all about Scientology, but is soon to learn more than he ever imagined.

It's a little different in my office because no one even attempts to bullshit me. They just let me keep talking, staring at me blankly until I run out of steam and slump away, deflated.

I will be very careful about my choice of profession when I'm 38.

bloodslides said...

Oh dear God I have known so many people like this.

The tragic thing is, I get a sense that for people like Brian, talking at people about Wikipedia crap is basically the only way they know how to communicate - it's a way of reaching out and trying and failing to get some human contact.

And yet, they're such incorrigably selfish dickwads that it's hard to feel any pity for them, in spite of this fact,