Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My hour with the world's most boring man

When it was finally over, when the onslaught was complete, the three of us looked at each other the way I guess survivors of a storm at sea do.

It was like we’d spent the hour clinging to life rafts against a tide so ceaseless it threatened to swamp all in its path.

Compared to Joe, we were just dinghies against the current.

We can now wonder where he went and if he’ll be back, but none of us who were exposed to him has any doubt what he is doing right now.

He is talking.

In a lifetime of listening I’ve never heard a more prolific talker. The man could talk the ears off an acre of corn.

I walked in at 6 p.m. Bill was tending bar. It was just me, Gary, and a graying gent who immediately introduced himself as Joe.

Now, The Pond is already rich with Joes. As I’ve said before, it’s a bar full of Regular Joes, eight of them conveniently named Joe.

There’s Plumber Joe, Tequila Joe, Big Joe, Little Joe, Baseball Joe, No Show Joe, Mailman Joe and Game Show Joe.

Now we have the man we’ll surely call Talking Joe, a name that’s descriptive while failing to do justice to the true majesty of his gift.

To me, he’s The Grand Can-Yawn.

One of the things I relish about The Pond is that the nerve-rattling loud mouths are few and generally well-behaved. Many of the regulars are large stoics, large and stoic enough to make the big enigmatic stones on Easter Island seem chatty.

In fact, the stoics rule is often so complete the only sound you hear is the simultaneous hardening of all the arteries.

It’s a very peaceful place to sit and get soused.

I’ve known Gary and Bill for a total of about 20 years. This is bound to sound like an exaggeration, but after just one hour I now know more about Talking Joe than I know about either of my friends.

Joe’s wife is a waitress who likes egg drop soup when her stomach’s upset. Her boss is a real jerk who takes an unfair cut from her table tips, never throws a staff Christmas party and might be soured on life because of prior family tragedy.

His son has a good job at the airport, but thinks it would be better if they unionized. The kid just got a Harley sportster for $7,500. He thinks he got a great deal, but the high handlebars on those sportsters make his back ache.

Joe likes action movies, thinks the world would welcome a Jean Claude Van Damme comeback, and always gets the big popcorn even though he knows the price means he’s getting screwed.

I was seated immediately to his left. Gary was three stools to his right so most of his focus was on me.

Bill? He was as far away from the Joe end of the bar as he could possibly be. He was three feet and one brick wall away from being outside the building. Bill’s the exact opposite of Joe. He’s a man of few words, 80 percent of which are profane.

And Joe went on and on.

He talked taxes. He talked lawn care. He talked candy bars. He talked pretzels. He talked Pedro Alvarez. He talked balloons.

At one point I remember thinking, wow, this is the most self-centered, boring jerk I’ve ever met.

And when he got up to leave he redeemed himself with something so endearing we were all glad we’d been there to meet him. 

“Hey, Bill, buy these guys a drink,” he said, pushing Bill a pile of money that included a nice tip. “Fellas, I know I talk a lot. I just can’t help myself. Thanks for putting up with me. You guys are the best.”

And with that he was gone.

He’d said -- who knows? -- maybe 20,000 worthless words, but with those last few managed to reveal so much tender humanity I felt like giving the big talker a big hug.

I guess some people just have to talk even as they realize they have absolutely nothing to say.

That means some of us sometimes just have to listen.

I hope Joe comes back. I hope his endless talking eases some of his stresses and that he has a great time the next time he wanders into The Pond to blow off some steam.

I just hope when he does I’m two miles away at The Tin Lizzy.

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