The Man Who Could Hate Anything ©
‘In the midst of Plenty’ Bar was just the kind of therapy for me. I could meet all kinds of people and build up my shattered ego. I have been below par lately. Now that I am cured I don’t mind telling it. It was not paranoia but something just as bad: I had a feeling every one in my circle of friends was out to make me look silly. For instance when I wanted to speak of my vacation someone was sure to come up with a more exciting and exotic locale and it made me shut up. If I did suggest a diet that worked another would have one to make mine a fad. No wonder my ego trip was going nowhere with the kind of friends I had. I lost them one by one. Only one that stuck by me was my low esteem till I sought counsel. Dr. Appelbaum who treated me was sure ‘friends were not what I needed but some strong man-to-man talk with whomever I came across.’ ‘Be assertive, man,’ was the keyword. So I wanted a strong opening line whenever I buttonholed some one at random.
‘See that your approach makes the other at a disadvantage.’ I mentally quoted as I headed to do my thing. The bar was always full and it brought together customers from all walks of life. Sorry for this digression. For this story is about the man in a red blazing tie, almost loud enough to shatter my color sense.
I met the man slouched over his drink. His eyes struck me as infinitely sad. Having looked into mine he could not easily shake loose.
“Ah, I got you” I murmured with a touch of triumph. “My power play is having results,” I said to myself as I moved towards him.
Always the opening line was as embarrassment for me as the one that was the recipient. Having made the move, I could not back out now! “A bold tactical move speaks for you” I quoted the ‘Power play for the Wimps’ written by my shrink and was in the bestseller list for a while. With all his collective wisdom distilled in it I felt strong and at an advantage. I pulled up the chair not waiting for his response and sat opposite to him. I wanted to touch upon the weather. Before the snot of conversational kerchief could come fluttering into view, I sidetracked. His tie was so loud and it was swatting me all across my line of thoughts. I must have been so unsettled I said: “Nice tie”. Almost at that moment I bit my tongue in embarrassment. I was supposed to unnerve and not please him.
The stranger ran his fingers through his tie with distaste and almost spat out: “This rag! I hate its color. Besides, it is too wide.” He said it and his bilious eyes glided below his hooded lids. The pause was as painful to me as well as for him.
Gently I said: “Hate is a very powerful emotion. Try to say, it is only a tie, I can always loosen it’.
‘Oh yeah?’ he was combative in the way his lips curled. I could see he was in no mood to yield the ground to me. I said, ’you try to see it objectively. A tie is a tie is a tie. But I am in charge over my sartorial elegance.’
‘That is what you think.’ the man hissed, ‘I am on the road and if I loosen my tie, I will be breaking the office protocol for salesmen’s dress code’.
‘Such code is man made and you can break, if you want to.’ I stood the ground.
‘And be thrown out of my job?’
I was on the wrong track here. I knew it and he knew it.
I had already taken a plunge and I had to paddle around the painful silence that ensued. The more I talked I could get the better of shyness. Dr. Applebaum had encouraged me to use big words, another ploy to keep the other on the edge, and keep guessing. ‘So your tie is de rigueur, eh?’I do not know if my French made any sense to him but his eyes just bulged from some inward stir, ’I represent Acme Haberdashers, Inc.,’ I wasn’t sure if I were expected to respond to it but he added, ’this tie is the latest in the line of ties which I am expected to sell like hot cakes. But it is more like a garrote to me.’
He said as if to no one, ’I hate it.’
‘Hate is still a potent emotion…’
He just stamped his foot and asked, ‘Are you a salesman, yourself?’
I went pale somewhat and I mumbled, ‘Yes, I sell Kohinoor Dictionary to Colleges.’ A touch of levity was in order, the plan B, as suggested by my doctor. I said, ‘I sell words wholesale. Satisfaction guaranteed.’
‘So that was why you were dropping big words on me?’
“It was unintentional,’ I said with a flutter.
I hastily added that I felt no inclination to sell one after I had learned ten thousand words. ‘ I am still counting.’
He thrust his face forward to say, ‘I hate confidences from strangers who fatten on their line of trade.’
This was going out of control so I meekly asked, ‘is there anything you don’t hate?”
“No!” he spat out. He downed his gin in one gulp and studied his nails as if he were seeing them for the first time. “I hate every thing. This drink that makes me bitter. I hate the weather that drove me into this awful joint.”
For a full ten minutes he went on the monotonous litany of his hate which I could see was so pervasive that even the toothpicks neatly stocked before him in a chipped porcelain cup were not spared.
While his monologue seemed gaining second wind, I excused and said: “I hate to break up this meeting.”
It somehow made the contact. The stranger stretched his hand as if to say ‘hold it’. “ You also hate then! That makes you my soul mate!” He was sure he had not thought hate could make people want to connect.
He turned to the bartender and beckoned him. “Hey Joey, here is my pal. We both have things to hate. What would you recommend?”
As the bartender took a trifle too long, the stranger leant to me and said in a whisper: “We both hate bartenders who are slow, don’t we?”
I nearly choked and ran for life.
Months later I was walking along with Dr. Appelbaum stopping to watch the stalls during the Annual fruit and Vegetable show. My shrink had an interesting theory on man and his job and how it in turn shaded his attitude to it.
I asked what prompted him to touch on the topic that was neither here or there. Dr. Appelbaum mentioned of a patient who had for long suffered from same symptoms as I had and chosen a line of work where he had to meet people he would have in normal circumstances avoided. ‘I have a patient who sells ties and wears it to be noticed. Such a red tie,hmm…’ I was curious. My companion pointed discreetly at one whom at the moment was gravitating toward the stall next to where we were. Dr. Appelbaum said,‘ See the one with the red tie?’
I turned my head and there he was the man who could hate anything. I sighed. Fortunately it was not on me but a sad looking cauliflower on which he had fixed his attention. The same old sad eyes but biliously fixed on the vegetable. His tie was same red and as wide as last time. The man who could hate everything was still at it. His hooded eyelids did not hide his malignity and he stood with his feet slightly apart to give him balance. He had his hat still on and he bunched his hand with his first two fingers into an imaginary gun. He was about to send the wilting cauliflower to kingdom come.
Dr. Appelbaum quickly averted his eyes and said, ‘Let us leave. He is rather serious case.’ He said he had taken him without hoping for success. Before our man could spot us my companion dragged me away.