Hello, Mr. Angry

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes while traveling we run into people who are just clueless about how to act in public. I was riding on a hotel shuttle bus that was dropping four sets of two people at various restaurants at various points in Market Square and along the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Philip, me, a couple of women, and two sets of guys, all either tourists or in town on business. Not a lot of cross talk, mostly, we were all waiting for our stops. I was sitting with a couple of guys heading out for steaks. Philip was sitting in front of me with two women going out for Mexican food. It was a random grouping of strangers who happened to be in the same hotel on the same night, and I’d not recognize any of them if I saw them today.
Out of nowhere, one of the guys sitting by me began going on about politics. Specifically, he began to discuss, loudly, his hatred of politicians. And his possibly made-up-as-he-went-along belief that something should be done–like blowing up buildings.
Although it was clear he was a blowhard, who might or might not have been spending some dedicated time at a happy hour before heading out for the evening, everyone’s private conversations stopped and it seemed like we all perked up our ears.
“Keep talking, I’m recording you,” said the man’s buddy.
And the man did keep talking—which clearly was not what his buddy hoped.
“We hear you, too” said a woman in the seat in front of me.
And the man started again.
Then I quoted Arlo Guthrie and said, “And they all moved away from him on the Group W Bench.”
My comment flustered him to the point he paused. And his friend took the opportunity to jump in, “I haven’t thought of that song in years.” The friend began singing lines of “Alice’s Restaurant” until the shuttle got to the steakhouse and he and Mr. Blowhard left the shuttle.
Do I believe this man would ever really blow up a building? No. But none of us wanted to hear him blather on about it, just as no one wants to hear people joking about blowing up a plane while they are waiting in line at the airport. It was an uncomfortable moment that can happen when strangers are thrown together even for a short shuttle ride. But I can say I usually have more comfortable moments with the people I run across in the course of my travels.

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