Some eager young kid walked up to me on Lake Street the other day, and pressed a flier into my hand. I thought he might be trying to sell me on a religious service, but it was actually for an upcoming meeting of the local chapter of a “Nutrition Club.” I imagined, if I were to attend, I would hear a sales pitch for a nutritional supplement. This obviously wasn’t something I was interested in sitting through. I looked at him and frowned. The kid had his eyes on the prize, though. He ignored my frown and smiled, and began to engage me in conversation.
Oh no, I thought. I don’t want to hear this.
“You ever heard of…?” he began.
As soon as I heard those four magical words, I immediately knew exactly how this conversation would go. It flashed before my eyes. I immediately saw the roadmap for ending it with a minimum of unpleasantness for the kid, but also a minimum of engagement on my part.
You can try to tell me I didn’t learn a single thing from my many, many years as an active rock scene participant in the early part of the last decade, but you’d be wrong. You’d be wrong because I learned how to carry this sort of conversation to a quick, painless conclusion with total, unerring efficiency.
The thing is, this conversation I was about to worm my way out of was an almost word-for-word repeat of dozens of conversations I had in the back of rock-oriented public places in Louisville in 2002. The exact same pitch, delivered in the exact same way.
The kid couldn’t have known this. He thought he was talking about nutrition clubs. But he was wrong. He was secretly talking about his noise-rock band.
It went like this:
“You ever heard of [nutritional supplement / my noise-rock band]?”
“Oh yeah, definitely.”
“Great. Did you [try / listen to] [it / them]?”
“Uh, yeah, I think I did, once.”
“What did you think?”
“Pretty cool, pretty cool.”
“Well, we’re having a [Nutrition Club / noise-rock show] next Wednesday, and it’d be great to see you.”
“Oh, cool. Yeah, I’ll definitely see if I can make it.”
And I wave and walk on.
He probably knows it’s a lie, and so do I. But a lie of this kind makes it easier to take for everyone. I mean, I said that I had “definitely” heard of his nutritional supplement (a claim that bolsters the credibility of his product and, most importantly, is nearly impossible to disprove, even if he does doubts its veracity). Moreover, I also thought the supplement was “pretty cool.” There’s some cachet there. “Some guy I’ve never met thought the thing that I am peddling was pretty cool.” It’s not much, but it’s better than a slap in the face.
Obviously it’s all a load of horseshit, and he probably knew it. But it’s a refined, civil horseshit that doesn’t go down too bitterly, and it’s better than “please fuck off,” isn’t it?
The next time I am in Louisville in the noise-rock district, I am going to walk up to a noise-rock musician on the street, and grasp them by the hand, and say, “Thank you for teaching me to be a more civil person.”
And they’ll say, “No problem. Hey, you ever heard of…?”
And I will say, “Oh, yeah, definitely.” Then I’ll take their flyer, use it as a bookmark, and go to my parents’ house and watch Turner Classic Movies until one o’clock in the morning with my mom.