Monday, February 20, 2006

The Illusion of Niceness

I’ve discovered over the last year or so that folks ‘round these parts are generally nice. It’s not that I didn’t know that before, it’s just that I’ve achieved a certain clarity about it. There’s an abundance of sincere niceness, a comforting sense that there’s support for you if you’re in a jam.
There’s also an undercurrent of insincerity which is a little unsettling. I was on TV almost every day for more than twenty years. For five years before that, I was on with some regularity (weekends and such). However, I have not been on with any consistency since the summer of 2003. I haven’t had a job in television since the summer of 2005. You wouldn’t know it, though, based on how I’m approached in public.
I was in the checkout line at the grocery store. Keep in mind; I have been working in my present position, outside of the media, for slightly more than six months. I ran into a lovely women who I’ve know for many years. She said, “Darrell, you are doing such a good job.” I was feeling great about this, because one can wallow in insecurity in a new position and any affirmation is welcome. I said, “Well, thank you for saying so,” and asked, “How can you tell? What have you heard?” She said, “Well, I watch you all the time.” A nearby mutual acquaintance, who had actually been paying attention to my job status, just laughed and walked away, muttering “I’m not getting in the middle of that.:” I just said, “Well, that’s very kind. Tell your husband I said hello,” and walked away. She stood there in the check-out line, dazed and confused.
The family and I were having lunch at a popular Mexican restaurant. The waitress was conspicuously staring at me. Finally, no doubt working for a big tip, she said “I just want you to know that I can’t go to sleep at night without hearing your voice.” Doggone, she hasn’t slept in two and a half years! Unless she recorded something a plays it back at night. Freaky.
I grew up in the same neighborhood with a guy named Andy, who is now the pastor of an Assembly of God congregation nearby. My wife and I ran into him at a popular Italian place. “Hey, Andy. How’s the flock?” “Great, Darrell. How’s work for you?” I said something like things were going well and I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. He said, “I can tell, Darrell. I want you to know I watch you every night.” I said, “Thank you for saying so,” and walked out of the restaurant. I looked at Claire and said, “Maybe I should go back in there and tell him that preachers shouldn’t lie” But, no. he was just being nice.
I suspect this will go on for a while. To be fair, some people have actually noticed my absence. I filled in on a local radio talk show last week, and a caller said on the air, “Hey, I thought you were dead.” No, I’m not dead, just more alive than I’ve been in a long, long time. Another lunch companion said to me just last week, “You’re just so pleasant to be around. I’m not sure what you’re doing, but you’re obviously happy.”
His observation was right on target. More importantly, it was legitimately nice.

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Anonymous said...

Funny and true article. People become so acclimated to knowing you in only one way that they fail to see beyond it. I understand your pain! By the way what was the dollar amount and direction last night?

Sieve Wonder

Victor Pizzolato said...

I, a Southern native who lived in the South most of my life, know about faux politeness back home; some of it is well-intentioned, a lot of it isn't, but, what the heck ... that's life I suppose.

Daddy D dead? Having survived the December 1978 Bossier City tornado like he did (his house didn't), Daddy D will be around for a LONNNNNNNG time!

Victor Pizzolato
Uxbridge, Mass.