April 20, 2007

First Person:
By Al Carlos Hernandez


Don’t know about you, but there are some people I just don’t feel like dealing with so I do my best to avoid them, no matter the cost. There are sometimes when you just don’t feel like shooting the breeze, chopping it up or chewing the fat.

No doubt there has been many times at the mall, at a store, or walking down the street, when you see the neighbor from across the way, or a guy you used to work with, or some bumbling of acquaintance, when you are forced to take evasive action to avoid an ignorant conversation.

Depending on the severity of the potential chance encounter, evasive action could include a simple pretension of looking the other way, to, getting into the car going home, not answering the phone and never shopping there again, or, if you are ethnic and the chance encounter includes an ex-significant other… moving.

Women are particularly good at the duck and cover technique. Mom’s pass this ability onto their daughters, but rarely to their sons. Maybe Mama’s try teaching the little guys a particular social ambivalence, but boys never really pay attention. In public, boys are all about toys, babes, or getting something to eat. Age has no effect on these visceral impulses.

Time tested female evasive actions include going to the nearest store and sticking their heads into a rack of sweaters, taking a sharp turn into the underwear section, or taking a kid to the restroom against their will.

For men it is different; our reaction time is too slow, we run sometimes on a 5-45 second delay when it comes to perceiving when a potentially uncomfortable social situation that is starting to manifest. Dudes are hard wired to ignore everybody and in the worse case scenario will grunt out a “Hey,” “What’s up,” or “Howya doing’.”

Men have no idea who their women want to talk to and who she wants to avoid. I have erred on the side of, “Hey Babe, look who I found, see, she ain’t that fat anymore….”, Or, “What do you mean you saw my Tia and didn’t say Hi, and tell them where I was? Did they see you? They did? And you still didn’t say anything?”

I said “What’s up wit it”.

Women have a complicated social radar when it comes to avoidance behavior, they can anticipate and evade putting themselves in an embarrassing social situation, and when cornered can improvise better than the comics on “What’s my line”.

Females have a caring social finesse, men are usually blunt to the point and blurt out things like; “Why were the Cops at your house last week? Whose Camaro is that in your driveway when everybody is at work? The old man still hitting the loudmouth soup pretty hard? You’re brother-them out of jail yet? Who got a bucket for sale?”…

Men should be aware that in any improvised unintentional social encounter, he is responsible to explain every extemporaneous question to the woman he is with, be it wife or daughter at length when he gets home. The axiom for men is simple, the less smack you talk in the street, the better chance of getting something good to eat.

Catching people off guard is a good way to get the scoop, their comments are usually unrehearsed and they give up the readers digest version of the most important things going on in their lives. Some women are particularly adept at grilling the unsuspecting.

If and since this is true, this leads me to surmise that if women are smart enough to avoid an uncomfortable chance encounter, they are indeed smart enough to orchestrate a social ambush.

This leads me to wonder how many people have successfully avoided me in public? How many of the “chance” encounters I have had with people I don’t usually associate with, is set up, an ambush, they knowing that if I’m cornered I am naïve enough to give up the family business when my wife is not there to edit me?

I have found that the best way for me to avoid an uncomfortable chance encounter is to always go out in public dressed in such a way as to make a normal middle class person to be embarrassed to be seen with you.

This can be easily accomplished by wearing wrap around sunglasses, biker sweatshirts, Pendleton shirts buttoned to the top, beanies with James Desoto bail bonds embroidery, and selected police issued baseball caps, my favorite being Oakland PD.

We were at the mall last night, I told my wife; don’t you think it’s weird, that with all the people we know, we never run into anybody we know? She smiled and shook her head knowingly.

They were there.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood

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