Hell is other people at breakfast

This morning my mom was talking on the phone to her sister Kathy. I was sitting nearby at the computer and minding my own business when I heard Kathy ask how long I was going to be home.

"I don't know," My mom said. "I'm afraid to ask."

Then she laughed quickly to indicate that she was either a) Making a joke or b) Telling the truth a tiny bit too much.

I stared sullenly at the computer screen for awhile and then said two words without taking my eyes from the screen:


When my mom finished talking to Kathy, she went back to what she was doing and all was quiet until a few minutes later when she called out from the dining room, "Jess? Would it be fair to say that you're not a morning person?"

"Yes," I said.

In a flash, I remembered an article by Jonathan Rauch that was published in The Atlantic Monthly in March 2003 called "Caring for Your Introvert: The habits and needs of a little-understood group" which, when I read it, made me practically wave my fists around and cry out Yes! Yes! Yes! before throwing a couple of air punches.

That article was such a turn-on that I wanted to hunt down Mr. Rauch and plant a wet one on him and then, with a wink, gently push him in the other direction so that we could each go spend some quality alone time without either of us taking it personally.

With the introvert article suddenly in mind, I amended my curt reply to my mother.

"Actually, I really like mornings. I like getting up early. I just don't like to be bothered."

"O-kay," she said.

And I recalled spitting out the same argument to a dear fellow bus-mate, Tim, just last week. I was the first to wake on the bus, still en route to the venue. When Tim entered the front lounge, we shared a glance, a good morning, and I returned to the absorptive state regularly induced by my early morning companions coffee and iBook.

This didn't deter chattypants from talking to me and expecting me to engage. When Tim noticed that my responses were minimal, he commented on my lack of enthusiasm.

I responded to him with a question.

"Have you ever heard the quote, 'Hell is other people at breakfast'?"

"No," said Tim.

Here I either smiled - or looked stonily - at Tim. I honestly can't remember.

I HOPE I smiled, because as Jonathan Rauch points out, extroverts simply do not understand introverts and it's nice to not be rude about simple misunderstandings. Though, when they persist, GOD HELP ME, GOD GRANT ME THE PATIENCE, etc.

Anyway, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) is the person who said that about people, breakfast, and hell and I have my suspicions about whether Sartre - existentialist, literary critic, revolutionary, and author of works entitled Nausea and L'idiot - was a real barrel of laughs.

But it really doesn't matter because, like my buddy Jonathan Rauch explains, being an introvert doesn't mean one doesn't like people or isn't fun or is shy. It just means that we find other people tiring. We just need some time alone to muster up all that god-blessed festivity and hilarity the rest of you all are expecting.


marybethonline said...

my mom made it into your blog ;)

wanna hang out?

ronckytonk said...

yes ma'am, I do.