In 1994 I saw Clerks at a local art house cinema. Being of the right demographic – Gen X, white, male – meant that I identified with a lot of the movie. Dante’s lament “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” would end up being a constant refrain throughout my career in tech support where I was often the guy who knew the most, but bad stuff always happened when I wasn’t working.
But as we languish in this pandemic, I find that the lines I’ve come to most identify with is the exchange between Dante and Randal over the mourning service of a mutual acquaintance that has passed.
Dante: But you hate people!
Randal: Yes, but I love gatherings. Isn’t it ironic?
Last week I posted on Facebook “I miss people.” Most people probably read that and felt similarly, that they missed hanging out with their friends and coworkers. For me, though, it was really more general. I’m primarily an introvert. I don’t actively seek out individual engagement with others, unless I already know them – which presents it’s own problem. However, I love crowds. I love concerts and big events. I love going to the mall at Christmas time to experience the rush and people watch. So when I say that “I miss people.” I’m more referring to missing the general commotion of a world full of people. I miss crowds. I miss events. I miss watching people.
In my professional life, I don’t enjoy working “with” people. The modern style of “pair programming” and such are really ineffective for me. I don’t like being at the keyboard and having someone over my shoulder telling me what to type, and I don’t like sitting back and just telling someone what to type while they sit at the keyboard. I prefer that we do our own work, then come together to compare, or better yet to discuss what we learned after comparing on our own. But I hate working from home. I want to be in an office with other people. I want to hear the hustle and bustle of people going about their day. I want to casually pass people in the hall or in the break room. I want to say hello and good bye to people, even if I don’t have deep involved conversations with them.
I crave the casual signs that other people exist in the world. I miss people.