Transactional interactions are the easiest.
Walk into the grocery store. Grab a twenty pound bag of cat food. Plop it on the conveyor. When it’s my turn I say hello, authorize Apple Pay on my phone, tap the payment machine, grab my cat food, say thank you, then head home.
Check in at the medical lab. Read a book while I wait for my turn. Say hello when my name is called. Follow the technician into a back room, pull up my sleeve, let them poke me, wish them a good day, head home.
Slide up on a seat at the bar. Order a Jack Daniels neat. Hand over my card, ‘cause I’m keeping the tab open for a bit. Nurse my drink while scrolling through Facebook. Fifteen, twenty minutes later, wave down the bartender for a second and ask for the tab to be closed. Chug it down. Say thanks, goodbye, have a good night. Head home.
Many years ago I had a lover. Our relationship was transactional. We both knew what we wanted from day one and were honest about it. We’d meet up when it was convenient for the both of us. We’d say hello, talk a bit, then take off our clothes and enjoy each other fully. Afterwards we’d talk, maybe go for a walk, and then go our separate ways. Thanks, goodbye, until next time.
It’s those messy, not well defined, and often unplanned human interactions I don’t do well with. Bumping into a neighbor at the grocery store, you know the one, he’s nice enough, but he never stops talking, gossiping, and doesn’t seem to respect your time. Team meetings where conversations aren’t focused on work but instead any number of aspects of people’s lives (which I can’t relate to because my life, especially as of late, has been eat, sleep, work, and do my best to manage unpredictable health related symptoms). Unexpected phone calls from my mom (I usually wait for her to leave a message before calling her back when I’m “in a good place”—unfortunately, she has a habit of leaving messages that make it seem like the world is ending, someone died, etc., but it’s typically something like, “Turn on Oregon Public Broadcasting, there’s a show about goats on!”).
I’ve gotten better at the latter type of interaction over the years, largely to having spent two years dating a physically and emotionally abusive woman who was very outgoing; as a matter of self preservation I tried to mirror her level of social prowess as much as possible and picked up a few tricks along the way (e.g. “How to pretend to be one thing when you’re not”—for me meaning, “How to pretend to be outgoing when you’d rather hide under a blanket.”). Generally, however, it’s tough for me, and there’s a direct corruption to my health: the worse my symptoms, the harder it is for me to engage with people. For example, right now my stomach is bugging me, my tongue is swelling a little, and it feels like whatever the hell is going on is hitting my brain in a number of ways. It actually pisses me off sometimes because I didn’t have this skill set when I was younger, when I was healthy, when I could have done something with it to go out there, build relationships, make friends, aim for that position I wanted. Nope, I picked a lot of it as a result of what I’ve gone through—am going through. What’s the saying? If I only knew then what I know now. Youth is wasted on the young. C’est la vie.