I go to this Pakistani restaurant every week. Mainly because of the food, which is just awesome, and I’m a jaded foodie living in a food-loving town (mostly on things like scrambled eggs and rice pudding, to give my sensitive tummy a break between rich restaurant meals). When I say every week, I mean the same time every Thursday. People ridicule me over this, but I don’t care, I even boast about it in my author bios. I am hopelessly addicted to their tandoori chicken, and noon on Thursday is when it happens.
Last week I was there and I happened to be checking out a notice on the wall; a poster for a film about immigrants. Like many places we have lots of immigrants these days. I work in a neighborhood that tends to absorb immigrants, as is reflected in the restaurants; for the last decade or so it has had lots of Pakistani ME places and just before that it was Vietnamese restaurants that serve delectable pho, the best of which are continuing to do that.
I love immigrants. You wanna know why? They have a calming effect on the down-and-out native-born folks who commit most of the assaults and murders in the area. A lot of them are truly interesting people if you ever settle down for a conversation, and they've had experiences most of us haven't. They transform boarded up squats full of vermin into restaurants that serve delicious ethnic food, and they design them to look and smell and feel like a hangout from their native land, so that office workers like me can spend half an hour pretending we ran away to Saigon or London or Bangladesh. I want to hug all the immigrants and apologize to them for all the haters in my country, but that’s sloppy, so instead I just try to leave decent tips and good Yelp reviews.
So while I’m looking at this poster, this tall gawky-looking white lady comes in, waits about thirty seconds, then says something to the effect of “these immigrants are sure a bunch of lazy slobs because they didn’t instantly teleport over here to pay attention to me, true?”
I shot her a sour look and said something to the effect of, “My, you certainly have a negative outlook.”
To which she responded with the beginning of a rant – “Me?!? Negative?!? Well I never!”
So I laughed at her. It was a bitter, jaded, old, laugh. A laugh that totally dismissed her as ridiculous. A laugh that told her to get in line and wait, like every other narcissist lined up in California. A laugh that communicated, “Don’t even bother to say anything, I already know it’s going to be stupid.” She hemmed and hawed and stuttered and made a few jabs towards forming an outraged rant, but she couldn't get past the sardonic laughter.
I guess I could have escalated into aggression, but I got that out of my system years ago by playing too many video games. In fact, I had this great guildleader while I was doing that, and I’ll always remember how he dealt with an infuriated noob once, hissing and spitting with narcissistic rage. Guildleader waited for him to catch his breath and then directed him, in a stern fatherly tone, "you must go and find a wise talking animal.” At which point everyone in guildchat was rolling on the floor laughing, except, of course, the narcissist. Because yeah, frankly, I have an ableist prejudice against narcissists.
Then we both got seated, at opposite ends of the restaurant, and I had my usual five-star meal, and mostly forgot about the encounter.
Aside from the way I always take notes when people inspire me to hate them immediately. I can use that stuff in my writing, for villains, and also for the kind of throwaway characters who do things like open closet doors while saying, “I’m going to prove to you there’s no monster inside this closet!”