Okay, maybe a tiny bit. But that’s the reality of being a writer. We can’t be isolated and hope to create characters who grab reader’s by the hand and drag them along for the roller-coaster ride that is their lives. Good characters, grounded in real emotions and actions, make readers forget they’re fictional.
Despite an author’s skill, there’s no way to fake real emotions without witnessing them.
I’ve probably written about people watching before. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. Lately I’ve had the chance to indulge more. Convention work and the promo stuff I do for the haunted house put me more or less smack dab in the middle of humanities petri dish. As much as I prefer solitude and quiet, occasionally it’s necessary to jump head-first into public life and absorb the good and bad people have to offer. Something impossible to obtain through television and movies. Even social media is a inauthentic slice of humanity. People censor themselves. Create a persona to show the world through their words and stupid picture memes. Very few are a raw, unvarnished version of themselves online.
So into the weird-ass world we must go.
Rarely, we’re given the chance to stay at home and feed on the pure WTFery outside our doors. I’m lucky to have a resource close to home who works at a department store. The stories she brings home every day are astounding. I’ll give you an example.
Friday, June 13th. A full moon, to boot. Somehow my source (We’ll call her S) had forgotten the magical mix of idiocy, superstition, and lunar influence. Her bad. Seriously.
Sometime before her lunch break, S answered the phone in the men’s department. The gentleman on the other end started rambling before she finished saying hello. Apparently, his shyness won out and he couldn’t make himself go up to the department to talk to her in person. (Warning flag numero uno.) He wanted her advice on what to wear for a first date, but there’s a catch. (Flag number two.) It’s a hot tub date, with wine. (*blink, blink*) S cut in and suggested he pick out boardshorts to wear on the date, thinking his shyness was about the swimsuit, not necessarily asking her advice.
“You misunderstand, I want to show off the goods. What do you guys have?”
Not one to be caught off-guard often, S rebounded and suggested a Speedo. She’s no stranger to fitting guys with swimsuits, years ago she worked as a water polo coach.
Again, the guy hedged. “Don’t you guys have something more revealing? Like those women’s suits that show off their ass?”
S, with regret in her voice, informed him the store didn’t carry anything of the sort. (This is a higher-end department store in an ultra-conservative section of the city.) “I think you’d be best off with a Speedo.”
The man wasn’t done with her. First, he went on to say he was a manager at another location of the chain she worked for and wanted to bring her over to his store to be his personal assistant. (By this time, S’s coworkers realized something was up and came over to eavesdrop.) When S didn’t sound convinced, he brought out the big guns–claiming he also worked part time as a porn star, and needed an assistant for that work as well. S, too stunned to react, said, “Oh. Okay.”
“You sound so calm,” he observed. “Tell you what, if you come meet me, I’ll give you $300. A sign of good faith. I really want you to come work for me.”
S’s coworkers waved their arms, shook their heads. “Don’t do it. Just hang up,” one mouthed.
“I’m sorry we can’t help you,” S said at last. “Have a good day.”
After S called to tell me the story, we’re pretty sure someone used the Friday the 13th and full moon combo to have fun at her expense. Either that or the store’s secret shoppers are upping their game. Nevertheless, this type of thing happens often at her store. Not to that degree, but still odd. The things people think they can get away with at a store are nuts. Unbelievable, actually. If I didn’t know and trust S, I’d never think people could be so . . . odd.
Sometimes a writer’s best resources come from the friends they keep and their unique experiences.