Monday, November 26, 2007

You Look Wonderful Tonight

There's a homeless guy in a wheelchair who spends a lot of time on the corner of Cherokee and Sunset. I too spend a lot of time on the corner of Cherokee and Sunset, although mostly in transit. So we see a fair amount of each other.

And, if you go by what he says, he thinks that's swell. He thinks I am a nice-looking lady, and he is not shy about saying so. Sometimes, like tonight, he will lead a chorus of appreciation for my attractiveness from the other homeless guys gathered around him, who dutifully play along, saying things like, "I like her hair."

This is not a post about how that makes me uncomfortable, because the conversation is never lewd or unseemly. I assume, in fact, that the idea is these compliments will brighten my day, and maybe I will hand over change. This is a mistaken strategy, because a) I am not very good about handing over change and b) I am even worse about handing over change when I feel like there will be some accompanying complicated interaction. If I am going to hand over change, it will be to somebody who I never have to see again.

But, despite the fact that I suspect his ardor is insincere, it still has this funny complicated effect on me. The very fact that I feel the need to weigh its sincerity shows, I think, how seriously on some level I take it -- there is apparently some part of me that wants to believe his compliments and I, apparently, feel the need to discourage that impulse in myself.

This strikes me as strange.


Noko Marie said...

The philosopher Christine Korsgaard says something like this: you can't hear the words of a fellow person, or even the sounds of a fellow animal, as "mere noises." They make a claim on you, immediately, in the sense that even if you ignore someone you have to work to ignore them.

I realize what you're describing is more complicated but it seemed to me related.

Anyway you're a better man than I (ha ha) -- I'm pretty sure I would feel uncomfortable and put-upon, or at least annoyed, at having to encounter a chorus (!) of compliments of questionable sincerity on a regular basis from the same guy/group of guys night after night.

Captain Colossal said...

I actually really like that point; it explains why hearing other people's conversations can be so agitating even if they're not talking to you, which is something I always wonder about.

I think I felt put-upon at first by the compliments, because I expected that there would be some escalation and increasing discomfort and direct requests for money, but once it seemed like we were staying at this level it started seeming sort of funny.

Charlie said...

Maybe if it didn't take a hundred years for the #2 bus to come, you wouldn't have to deal with this.

Blame Metro.