So yesterday I'm taking the Metro home from work, just as I do every day. A seat opens up and I sit down next to a woman, probably early 40s, looks to be of Asian descent, slightly heavyset, shoulder-length hair, magenta Filene's-type dress. In other words, just a normal-looking woman.
I open my book and start reading. By way of background, I am currently reading the "Harry Potter" series, which I am tackling now because a) as a writer, I should probably be familiar with the biggest literary phenomenon of my life thus far, and b) I'm concerned that if I don't read them, it could open a sizeable cultural gap between myself and the young people which will only exacerbate as the years go on.
So I'm just sitting there, reading and minding my own business, when the woman next to me leans over and initiates the following exchange:
Her: "Did they convict Mr. Tubbs* yet?"
Me: (looking up) "I'm sorry?"
Her: "I see you're reading Harry Potter...have you gotten to the part where they convict Mr. Tubbs?"
Me: "Uhhh...no, not yet. I haven't even come across a character with that name."
Her: (incredulous) "You mean you're reading the Harry Potters for the first time?"
Me: "Yep." I detail my aforementioned reasoning.
The exchange ends. I return to my book. But as I'm sitting there, a nagging irritation is taking root in my gut. A question takes shape in my brain...
Did this woman just ruin these books for me?
Irritation now rising like bile, I close the book, return it to my bag, and begin wondering if I should Say Something. Say Something, my little voice says. Say Something! But as the seconds tick away, I decide my window of opportunity for doing so has closed, and I can't rightly bring it back up without coming off as overly strange or aggressive, either of which would probably overshadow any effective outcome related to my Saying Something. So I sit and stew, silently.
But then, luckily for me (not so much for her), the woman can't leave well enough alone. She re-starts the dialogue. My window slams back up, wide open.
Her: So do you like the books so far?
Me: Yeah, I do. (somewhat jokingly) I just hope you didn't just give away something important.
Her: (tittering) Well, yes and no.
Detecting no significant hint of apology in her tone or her titter, I move in for the kill.
Me: Okay, well frankly, I don't know why anyone would do that. But whatever.
Blindsided, she stiffens like a board, and appears to hold her breath for the rest of the train ride, which takes another three or four minutes. We sit together in stony silence. As the train pulls into the final stop, I get up and step past her.
I don't bring this up to sound like a bad-ass (because this story isn't particularly bad-ass - if you want to swap some bad-ass stories, let me know. I've got a few of those, too.). I bring this story up to highlight two things: First, WHO DOES THIS? Who starts a dialogue about a book, film, TV show, or anything else which someone is clearly right in the middle of by blurting out - with no warning - a major development in the story arc? I thought this kind of verbal interplay went the way of the dinosaur years ago, right along with the racial epithet and Esperanto. I know she was just trying to be nice, but hey, if my Saying Something makes her think twice next time she wants to pull that kind of thoughtless crap, then I did my good deed for the day. Sorry, but screw her.
And secondly, and perhaps most importantly: This is why people don't talk to each other on the Metro. There's just too many crazies out there.
* (Names and actions changed to prevent story spoilage. The vicious cycle ends here.)
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