Of all the dances that human beings perform, none is more mystifying, mundane and murder-making than the “passing a stranger on the street” tango.
You know how it goes. You’re walking down the road, nearing the corner, and some random fella/lass is walking towards the same corner at a perpendicular angle, and it becomes painfully obvious that you’re both going to attempt to occupy the exact same bit of concrete at the exact same time.
This morning I experienced the most painful and prolonged sidewalk samba known to man. The only way I can do this story justice is to slow down the action (like that scene with Quicksilver in the X-Men movie) and treat you to some internal monologue, so you can truly appreciate every lame moment.
Here’s how it went down:
Shari and Random Fella, two shapeless lumps of multiple sweater and coat layers, heads wrapped in overwhelming hat-scarf combinations permitting only partial eyeball functioning, approach corner of 9th Avenue and Garden Street at 90° angle. Even with their limited side-eye, they quickly realize that they’re gonna “dance”.
Shari (internal monologue): Oops! Totally going to let you go first, even though I’m late for the bus. Like, really late. However, out of politeness and as a fan of the human race and all that, I’m stopping–
Random Fella, for whatever human race-loving or politeness or simple survival reasons of his own, also stops.
Shari (internal monologue): Awesome, you’re picking up on my lateness vibe. Thanks!
Shari steps forward. As does Random Fella, who obviously mistook her internal monologue pause for an invitation to proceed. With mutual uncomfortable chuckle, they both stop again.
Shari (internal monologue): Woah! Totally misread that cue, didn’t we? Kind of amusing, and yet a mite annoying, this temporary simpatico thing we’re doing. But no biggie, because obviously we can rectify by me allowing you to go first.
Shari sends out “please, go ahead” vibe. It is met by Random Fella‘s “go ahead” vibe without the “please”. This masculine edginess of Random Fella makes Shari even more eager to be kind and generous, which mildly paralyzes Random Fella with what appears to be chivalry confusion, for if he takes her up on her offer to walk ahead, will this make him a tool? Simultaneously, Shari and Random Fella decide that enough is enough, and both step forward. And stop. Then step forward. Then stop.
Shari (internal monologue): Not to get too deep on you, because we barely know each other, but you’re now challenging my Christianity. I so obviously tried to pull a “WWJD” and you interrupted my self-denial. Then I tried to be assertive, because hello! who pushed over all the money lenders’ tables in the temple, but you rejected that offering as well. So even though I try not to judge, because we all know who said judging is wrong, I’m now thinking you’re doing this on purpose to mess with my mind and I’m filling with black hatred for your Infinity Circle scarf and plaid jacket, you raging Lumbersexual.
Teeth gritted, Shari and Random Fella decide to try the new tactic of stepping to one side to allow a mutual passing. However, when Shari steps to her left and Random Fella steps to his right, they reach an impasse, which is French for “totally bump into each other”. They finally make eye contact, each half-eyeball filled with hopelessness and need for a denouement, which is French for “end this before I take my own life”.
Shari: (internal monologue) I see now that our dance of despair is not your doing. We have been simultaneously swept into our own Infinity Circle, doomed to eternally try, and fail, to pass each other on the sidewalk if one of us does not sacrifice ourselves to the heinous act of physically manhandling the other. So… I am Spartacus. No! No, you idiot, don’t be Spartacus too or you’re gonna screw this whole thing up.
Shari puts her hand ever so gently on the breast of Random Fella and shoves; as RF stumbles backward, he shoots her a look of such relief and gratitude that Shari’s original desire to serve mankind is fulfilled. And as she sashays forward, the music of the spheres sings out, “so you think you can dance?”
Shari (external monologue): “Oh yeah. I can DANCE.”
But she still misses the bus.