My brother Yan and I meet up once a week to have lunch and drink beer, and insult each other savagely:
ME: Still older than me, I see. My goodness, you look like a zombie.
YAN: Still calling me Yan, huh? The creative writer can’t think of a better pseudonym?
Yan and I both like a bit of beer variety; when I was a youth I spent a long time drinking Coors Lite, the Silver Bullet, and I still feel a strong urge to do penance for that. So we usually try to find a bar that offers a decent selection of beers on tap. We also like our bars much like we like our souls: Empty. I’m an old man, so shouting over EDM is undignified, and we both just prefer a bit of space and the ability to actually get a bartender’s attention. Crowded bars are a young man’s game.
Empty bars have there own problems, of course. On the one hand they tend to go out of business, seeing as they’re empty all the time. On the other hand, when you’re the only people sitting at the bar, it leaves you vulnerable to The Intruder.
The Intruder is that guy (and it is always a guy) who has nothing better to do but wander into bars on his own (because he is always alone) looking to have a conversation with … anyone.
Yan and I were sitting at the bar in this absolutely empty place, insulting each other, and The Intruder walked in, taking the form of a pudgy middle-aged guy in a bowling shirt. He made a joke about the place being empty when he walked in, and Yan and I made polite responses because we’re not, you know, animals.
The Intruder then tried to make conversation with the bartender, but lady bartenders are well-trained in shutting down eird guys who try to chat them up while they’re working, and she made short work of him. So he sat down right next to Yan and began his attempts to intrude on out conversation. Yes, the bar was empty. And he sat down next to us. As far as I am concerned that makes him a monster of horrific proportions, undeserving of mercy.
I was facing The Intruder, and in my peripheral vision I could see him repeatedly stare at us in a clear posture of wanting to make a comment and insert himself into our conversation. I began drinking faster.
Look, I know what some people might say: He’s lonely. He’s a lonely guy just out looking for some human contact, why couldn’t we include him in our conversation? First of all, fuck you. Second of all, he’s not lonely, he’s a monster. Third of all, in my gentler youth I did in fact sometimes treat Intruders kindly, and all it got me was a lot of conspiracy theories, conservative political diatribes, and, oddly enough, resentment. Plus, experience has taught me that the Intruder will never leave or stop talking. Once he latches onto a host, he will extract all of your garmonbozia, believe me.
So, we speed drank and called for the bill. The Intruder tried to start a conversation literally as we were walking away from him, but we employed the friendly-wave technique and just kept walking. We went to another bar down the street (one of the joys of living in bar-infested Hoboken) and continued our conversation in peace, and the Intruder, I assume, consumed several less savvy people that afternoon, growing large on their souls and offal.
The lesson? My brother and I are unfriendly assholes, certainly. But also that the Rules of Polite Society should be sacred, and one of those rules is: If people are having a private conversation, you should not intrude on it.