Saturday, November 10, 2012

inspired dummkopfery

I'm learning to appreciate revelations of my own dummkopfery.

There's truth to be had there, for sure.

Last night, for instance, I attended a screening of the movie FLIGHT at the ArcLight theater in Sherman Oaks because the writer of the film, John Gatins, was doing a Q&A after the show. It seemed the sort of thing an aspiring screenwriter visiting Los Angeles ought to do. It was a lovely film, and I will neither confirm nor deny allegations that it pulled a tear from my face.

After the credits had rolled, they set up some actor with a microphone to moderate, as Gatins started answering questions.

Well, at least until a portly gentleman just down the row from me began to pontificate on the wonders of the movie. 

There's one in every crowd -- like the guy in your Intro to Philosophy course who's perpetually hijacking discussion-time to show off his encyclopedic knowledge of Derrida.

I imagined the portly gentleman's beady little eyes peering for endless hours at the message boards on IMDB, blustering his way through arguments about an art form he'd never really understand. He went on talking and talking -- never actually asking a question -- until I finally leaned over to Jared (the guy I'd come with) and muttered in my snarkiest tone, "Nice question, dude."

Finally, someone in the audience'd had enough and shouted out, "Other people have questions!"

The portly dude clammed up, and Gatins graciously thanked him for his thoughts and moved on.

And me? I felt the smug satisfaction of being part of a larger group of people who'd banded together against that guy.

The Q&A ended.

We left the theater, visited the privy, and began wending our way back toward the parking garage.

On the escalator I glanced back and saw that the Portly Questioner was standing directly behind me, next to Jared.

Awkward. 

But then the Portly Questioner turned to Jared and blurted out, "I just made a real ass of myself in there."

In that moment, I saw his awkwardness and his embarrassment and then -- in a flash -- myself, in any of the many, many times I'd demonstrated my own social ineptitude over the years. His eyes weren't beady, at all. They were, perhaps, a little frightened -- and vulnerable.

In them, I saw the universal experience of dummkopfery, plain and simple.

So I looked him straight in the eye and stuck out my hand to shake.

"No," I said, "You just got excited about a work of art. No shame in that." And I meant it.

He took my hand.  Shook it warmly, oozing gratitude.

"You, sir," he replied, "are an inspiration."

Hardly.

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