Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Mindless, the Witless, and Jean-Paul Sartre

When I was a senior in college majoring in theatre, my directing class project was a play called "No Exit" by Jean-Paul Sartre. This was a precious choice, a choice fraught with meaning, because I needed so much to do something outrageous and avant garde and non-Midwestern. This was the choice of a pretentious young guy who wore 1940s suit coats from the Goodwill and smoked Gitanes and Russian cigs with gold tips and came within a hair's breadth of donning a beret on several occasions. So for making a statement, "No Exit" filled the bill.

The play is about three people who find themselves in this - place - and gradually discover they are dead. (Kind of seems like a plot you've seen before, right? Like on "Twilight Zone" or something? But I think Sartre may have been first out of the gate with this setup.) There's a man and two women, and the man is tormented by the fact that one woman rejects him heterosexually and one rejects him homosexually, and the women reject each other, too, and it's all so very French because it's all so sexuality based and they all realize they are in Hell and Hell is a place where you are sexually frustrated for eternity, sort of like real life. Fun stuff! Barrel of laughs! Sarte is the not the kind of guy you'd want to have a beer with. Too much thinking, too much angst. Smile, J.P, is it all really that bad? Actually, for him I think it was. His thesis in "No Exit" was essentially that "Hell is other people."

Let's face it - the man was onto something here. Other people can create Hell in the living world in so many ways! By teasing, tormenting, withholding, withdrawing - by embracing, absorbing, assimilating, smothering - by ignoring, neglecting, negating - by judging, condemning, disapproving. And these are just the emotional Hells, not the financial Hell, physical Hell, or the other many and various Hells that we can become caught up in.

But, jeez, such a heavy opening! Am I channeling Sartre? I intend instead to speak of other, more mundane Hell makers in our world - namely, Mindless Pausers and Witless Phoners.

Mindless Pausers are a special subcategory of Slow Walkers (previously chastised here.) MPs are most often found offending me at the top or bottom of an escalator, staircase, or elevator ride. The MP gives no thought to the other people behind them on these conveyances - he/she just stops flat at the top of escalator, or one step from the elevator door, and stands and rubberbnecks around, and hasn't a care for the dozen(s) of others behind trying to get somewhere. Advice to the Mindless Pauser? Get your lame, thoughtless ass out of my way! I KNOW where I'm going, and if I don't, I KNOW I am going to act like I do and keep striding on somewhere. If you are truly confused, move off to the side and figure it the hell out. The Mindless Pause in the midst of a flowing crowd is comparable to stopping your car in the fast lane on the freeway to read your map. Pull off on the shoulder, you inconsiderate goofball! Seasoned travellers prefer to keep moving - ala "I'm lost but I'm making good time."

The Witless Phoner is a newly developed species of human who loses 98% of their bodily functions when their cell phone rings. Sometimes a Witless Phoner becomes a Mindless Pauser as a result of the "my phone is ringing!" paralysis - legs stop moving, body becomes rigid, WP digs in the pocket or the purse, traffic stacking up in every direction, phone finally comes out, call gets answered, WP stares off into the distance as if they're alone on the moon. This sequence of events seems to occur often in doorways. "Here's a good place for me to stand - right here in this doorway," muses the WP. Studies show it actually is possible to move while talking - it IS possible to explore one's pockets and maintain leg function - it IS feasible to be at least semi-aware of one's surroundings during periods of consciousness!

Alas, perhaps I ask too much of my fellow man.

1 comment:

Peat Moss said...

>>>>>it's all so sexuality based and they all realize they are in Hell and Hell is a place where you are sexually frustrated for eternity,

I thought that theme first popped up in "the Devil in Miss Jones!"