I need to talk about sunglasses.
People in New York City certainly wore sunglasses, but I don’t remember them ever becoming an issue for me. In this sunny city of Los Angeles, however, they can be worn for close to 87 percent of the daylight hours without being scoffed at as “just for fashion”. (Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about, hipsters)
The issue I have with sunglasses has been further exacerbated by the fact that my job consists primarily of walking up to people and starting conversations in an outdoor setting. Before I engage, I have absolutely no idea whether or not they’ve heard the spiel I’m about to unleash, let alone whether or not they have any interest in it whatsoever.
I need every clue from them I can get. Although I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to mastering this skill, no amount of communicative savvy can prepare you for this:
What in God’s name is going on behind those shades? Huh?! I wonder if people that wear inappropriately large pairs of sunglasses ever think to themselves, “why do I have so many awkward conversations?”
Now I must clarify that there are exemptions. Both Compulsive gesticulators and the emulators of the popular bobble-head dolls pass with flying colors, whether intentional or not. I suspect, or at least hope, that many of the exempted in fact opt for these techniques out of common communicative courtesy.
I am personally a big fan of the ‘stoic-wait’. After years of assaulting people with golly-gee, Upstate, ‘how are ya’ banter, I began to experiment with the stoic-wait in an effort to improve my articulation. I found it reduced the number of superfluous words, phrases, and sentences that would reflexively pop out of my mouth. “I’ve gotta keep this conversation going,” I used to think to myself as I stammered out a stream of man’s and yeah’s until finally finding a catch phrase or familiar topic to grab onto.
The stoic-wait was my cure, allowing “it” to drive the conversation (if you’re into the Zen thing). I find it allows time for people to connect for real, and consequently new topics will find themselves.
But the stoic-wait is not the be all and end all. For example, it’s not particularly useful in loud bars. You do the stoic-wait in a bar and you’d better be ready to start making out with the person. Immediately. The stoic-wait isn’t particularly helpful when you’re talking to crazy people, either. They tend to take it as an invitation, and while invitations are wonderful things to proffer, this one will pave the way for theories and declarations that are sure to make you wish you steered the conversation towards the previously unfavorable topic of the brightly colored pair of socks your new pal is currently wearing on his ears. Lastly, the stoic wait is not particularly useful when you are wearing the kind of giant pair of sunglasses they designed for celebrities and coke-heads.
I had an acting teacher that told me once: “you’re performing for three people; they’re all sitting in the back row; one is blind, one is deaf, and one doesn’t speak English”.
I’d be willing to bet that a good percentage of the people that wear sunglasses in this town would not understand what my teacher was talking about, since they have no comprehension of, let alone respect for, the art of communication. In order to understand what my teacher was driving at, you’d need to be the sort of person that realizes that someone that doesn’t understand English is also unable to understand “really loud English” (they’re actually quite similar languages).
The day may come when I will demand people take off their sunglasses when they talk to me. They eyes are on the only living part of the body, and if I can’t see them, our conversation is pretty much dead. In the mean time, I’m starting a letter writing campaign to Federal Regulatory Committees to instate a Permit requirement for the purchase of Sunglasses, which will be obtainable by passing the following Quiz:
- Are you a jerk?
- Can people see your eyes when you have sunglasses on?
- Seriously though…are you a jerk?
If you answer “no” to 2 of the 3 questions, you can get a permit.