You know “that guy?” He’s the one in the movie theater who can’t stop himself from yelling at the characters on screen as if they’re friends of his who are making a mistake. The one on the bus staring at his iPhone, whispering to it like it’s an old friend who’s done him wrong. “No!” he says as the screen goes blank for no good reason. He’s the guy who interrupts every conversation that goes longer than one exchange because he “just has to” interject something that is of a life-and-death importance. Yeah, I used to be that guy.
It all started with books, innocently enough. I was probably five or six and reading was what I lived for. Of course we didn’t have that many age-appropriate books at home, so I would read through the ones we had multiple times, like they were going out of style. The characters in those books became really good friends of mine, so I would begin imparting knowledge to them over the course of the book. “Don’t open that door!” I would say, knowing that behind the door was nothing good.
Then it moved on to movies. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Back to the Future and I kept telling Marty, “Your plan’s not going to work!” but he just wouldn’t listen. Luckily for him, even though his plan didn’t work, everything still came together in the end. If he had only listened to me it would have been a lot easier, though. And when the one scientist said, “They’re all engineered to be female,” in Jurassic Park, I yelled at the screen, “Hell no. They’re smarter than your science!” Look who was right.
But not everyone saw it the same way I did. In particular my sister would tell me to “pipe down” when I would get out of control responding to things that really were just one-way communicators. She would pound on my door while I was narrating my baseball games, and when I was proposing to Samantha Micelli (I guess I was loud) and tell me to knock it off. Apparently “nobody” wanted to listen to me profess my love for a fictional character. Of course, though, that didn’t stop me.
In fact, as I got older it got worse, and it coincided with my increasing fascination with sports, particularly with football. I never just sat there and watched. I was always “that guy” who was up out of his chair, screaming at the players to tough it out just one more yard (or 20), calling out the coaches for diagramming horrible plays, and getting really agitated when my team lost. I would then get self-righteous. “I told you so,” I’d say, because they hadn’t heeded my brilliant advice, given to them through a screen and across many miles.
Music, as usual, helped me to curb those tendencies somewhat. I found that listening to Metallica, or Nine Inch Nails, or Filter helped me not to talk so much to anyone and everyone, especially those that only existed for me through the magic of books or the television. Sure, I’ll still narrate some of my real life experiences, but I figure that’s normal so I don’t curb myself so much with that.
In fact, it’s funny that when I became a father it came back around in the form of speaking for my daughter. My wife got into a habit of talking to our little girl from day one as if she were an adult. No baby talk here. And I got into the habit of answering for little Lexi even though she couldn’t talk herself. I would narrate whole conversations between the two of them, and my responses were oftentimes funny, even to the little girl who started giggling every time I did it.
Then she started talking, though, and payback followed soon thereafter. Because she hasn’t stopped talking since. I find her talking to her iPad screen, pleading with it, arguing with it, and sometimes yelling at it (I take it away during those times). She will talk to the characters in the books she reads, often wondering aloud where their brains are (I’m thinking in the paper somewhere), and will sometimes stop reading because this character or that character did something dumb (i.e. something she wouldn’t have done). We took her to the movies to see Toy Story 3 and she didn’t stop talking the entire time. I swear she narrated the movie so much for me that I can’t watch it now without hearing her voice in the background.
My mom just chuckles when I tell her some of these stories. It figures I would get the kid who is just like me, and it makes me realize just how much my mom and sister put up with all those years, and all those years ago. Now that I have a little narrator of my own, someone who will interrupt just about anything (yes, she will burst into the bathroom and start a conversation about anything, or nothing) just to be heard. She even does it when we play the Wii together, taunting Mario because he can’t jump as high as Luigi, or whooping in triumph when Princess Peach wins at Mario Kart.
She’s “that girl,” and as much as it drives me insane from time to time, if she suddenly started being quiet, I would mourn for these days, for these conversations she has with herself, with these characters, and with the me from yesteryear who still wouldn’t have been able to get a word in edgewise.