Thursday, November 18, 2010

No Rest for the Wicked

Here’s the deal. I’m sitting in a whirlpool at a hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee. Well, not at the moment, but about an hour ago. I’m just trying to relax. I hadn’t been in a whirlpool for three months and thought it would be nice to relax my muscles after all the military training I’ve been through. I graduated from the officer course at Fort Jackson this morning and I hit the road shortly thereafter, bound for…well, the place I call home. The hotel stop on my way, and the whirlpool in particular, was a sort of graduation present to myself. Besides, I’m tired as heck, having stayed up late last night to pack. Once I checked into my hotel room, I hastily threw on my swim trunks and made a beeline for the whirlpool, worried that by the time I got to the pool area a loud family of seven, including toddlers in diapers, would have already parked their asses in the Jacuzzi. Anyway, I digress.

I’m relaxing in the whirlpool when all of a sudden some dude, who will introduce himself as Josh, pops his head up out of the pool, which is about three yards from the whirlpool. I see that he’s trying to start up a conversation with me, but I can’t hear him because, as the front desk clerk informed me when I inquired about a whirlpool, someone had broken the valves so that the water jets were splashing the water all over the place. I figured that would be fine, so long as the jets are working. Anyway, the sound of the water lapping up against the side of the whirlpool was loud. I had been pretending that I’m the hero in a “Poseidon Adventure”-type scenario, selflessly allowing other passengers to escape a capsized ocean liner by bracing my back against the powerful inundation of seawater into the hull. Weird, I know.

Regular readers of this blog will know how I feel about someone foisting their need for conversation upon another unsuspecting person, namely me, who is enjoying his blissful moment of silent contemplation. I can’t ignore him because I’m pretty much staring in his direction. I can barely make out what he’s saying. When I gather from his facial expressions that he’s making a statement, I nod my head and smile. When I discern him posing a question, I strain my head forward to try to hear what he's saying. All I can think about at this moment is that I can no longer enjoy my tranquility. Now, here’s the deal, and please don’t misunderstand. If this dude were a white guy, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell him that he’s basically ruining my bliss and that I don’t care to have a conversation. Heck, I'd call him an asswipe for good measure.  Been there, done that. Josh, however, wasn't Caucasian. I know some of you will say that this is a form of racism, but I find it difficult as a white guy to appear dismissive or rude around people of another race.

So I was stuck listening to this guy. In fact, I ended up answering his questions about myself, which I never do with a stranger. Heck, I embellished a bit. Told him I’ve been in the Army for 25 years and I’m a colonel. What the heck? He asks if I’ve been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. I tell him I’ve been to Afghanistan. Then, he starts with, “Oh, do you know such and such?” My friends in the Army joke about this kind of question. Yeah, right, I know Joe Schmoe because, well, he’s in the Army, and I’m in the Army. Never mind that the Army encompasses about two million people!  Anyway, I put up with this inane conversation, making out every other word, until he says something like, "That whirlpool looks nice.  I'm getting cold in this here pool."  As he gets out of the pool, I realize that's my cue.   "Well, I gotta get some shut eye now," I say, as I get out and grab for my towel.  Whether this guy was gay or straight, it didn't matter.  I'm not about to share a small whirlpool with some chatty dude with a beer belly.  Okay, the beer belly is beside the point; I just threw that factoid in.  Just when I thought it was safe to go back into a whirlpool and have some peace of mind, someone has to come along and ruin it.  No rest for the wicked.