I'm always thankful I'm not tipped off to these situations in advance.
Yesterday, I arrived ten minutes early for doctor's appointment and took a seat in her waiting room. No big deal, right? Waiting in waiting rooms is part of the whole doctor appointment ritual usually they're running a bit behind, yes?
In a typical, spacious room, I'll scan the area and peel open an already well-perused periodical like TIME or Sports Illustrated or maybe even Highlights or Your Ballooning Prostate Monthly when the selection is sparse. Then I'll perch myself in the chair which affords the maximum buffer of personal space from the germy masses who occupy this communal zone.
But yesterday, the waiting room resembled the space of a large elevator. Harboring a lamp, a coat rack and a small table with a fake plant, precious little space remained for two chairs and the two humans who were forced together for seven minutes yesterday afternoon.
As I attempted not to brush against him, I gingerly placed myself in the chair next to the guy. He was apparently waiting for someone behind the doctor's closed door since I had the next appointment, and he didn't appear pleased to have me there.
I nodded as I sat, but he obviously desired no part of it. Even though we sat inches from each other in that cramped Barbie's Dream House of a space, he looked everywhere but at me, which was basically two other places—a faded painting of some birds and the floor.
It would have been the perfect beginning to a low budget gay porno—like really low budget—meaning no sound either.
The guy's wife ultimately emerged from behind the door as I was busy mentally communicating with a spot on the carpet and her husband studied his non-ring ring finger cuticle with a level of concentration normally reserved for eye tumor removal.
Seven minutes of my life has never felt so long nor seven inches in distance so short. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it was really uncomfortable.
Guys have a tendency of doing everything besides talking to each other when faced with close, awkward situations. We enjoy space, and lots of it.
As I've stated previously, two guys urinating next to each other is a commonly shared experience, yet urinal talk is verboten. Occasionally, guys will even enter the restroom engaged in conversation, yet when it's time to perform, their eyes glaze over and their heads bow in homage to their urinary sanctum.
Often, the floodgates are wedged shut and the best cure may be some distracting sports talk. But no, we must endure in thick silence while strenuously pondering waterfalls and fire hoses while passively competing for the first trickling wellspring of progress.
At my age it's difficult enough even when no one is standing next to me.
Besides default sports topics, I'm not really sure how to remedy salty silences between myself and other men, since I usually say something embarrassing and embarrassment is awkwardness's kissing cousin.
On a recent trip to Las Vegas, my family rode to the airport in a hybrid Toyota Prius taxi. If you've ever ridden in a half electric car, you're aware that when they stop, the gas engine shuts off.
With the rest of my family in the back seat and your humble blogger riding shotgun next to the driver, we had stopped at a light, which stayed red for two full cycles as an ambulance passed in front of us.
The prolonged silence deafened us all, and after we all heard the driver's stomach growling, I decided, Okay. That's it. I'm going to chat up the cab driver. I'm tired of listening to the faint whistles of people's noses in this tiny car.
"So." I turned to face the driver. "Are you familiar with the airport?"
I felt the burning energy my teenage daughter's mortified star and a dull kick to my lower back as I scanned the "Orange Airport Cab" logo on the driver's baseball cap.
We rode the remainder of the way in silence.