So the other day – the day after I was all in love with humanity and blathered on about the vast majority of us being good and well intentioned – I get on the subway and am immediately distracted by a “loud talker.” It’s a man standing across the aisle, up near an inside door, having a conversation with a woman, and it’s immediately apparent that this dude is chatting her up and showing off; seeking to win her adoration by playing the slick, confident and savvy businessman. I mean, he rattles off fact after cliché after study after percentage after quote after postulation at ninety miles an hour. The energy and volume with which he talks at her gives everyone in the car the scoop on the vastness of his business knowledge.
The savvy business role is played from head to toe. Handsome and tall; the blue in his deep ebony skin is offset attractively by a trim navy suit. He carries a computer case over his shoulder and refers to his blackberry often. He leans into her with confidence and cool. His hair has been straightened and is slicked down around his ears, not unlike Michael Jackson’s Jheri Curl do back in the 80s. Hairdo aside, he drips Bay Street with an earnestness that would make you root for him if he wasn’t spewing fake from every pore.
I’m not the only one onto his acting job – two young guys sitting near me are enjoying the entertainment, smirking openly at the man’s expense and mumbling to each other in derisive tones. I am a little annoyed by their meanness, but more annoyed by the fakery in the savvy businessman’s performance.
Over the course of five minutes he tells the woman why General Motors will fail, why China will succeed, why Sony is unethical, what the markets will do next, why Canada didn’t really come out on the good side of the recession and how he wishes he could live in the US because it’s a better place for a businessman like him, and the exact number of minutes between York Mills Station and Eglinton Station. He asks her an occasional question, but not out of any apparent desire to know more about her, but to steer the conversation back to him and his savvy business slickery.
Like when he asks her what kind of car she drives and she says, with as much defiance as she can muster in the rare pause of the pontificating, “I drive a General Motors.” And then the General Motors lecture starts again in greater detail, and if I wasn’t watching with my own eyes I would swear he is reading straight out of the Wall Street Journal, so thick are the layers of business lingo. The two guys beside me are having a ball, and I think one is trying to get a picture with his cell phone on which he is pretending to text. The woman interjects now and then with a weak “I guess I’m just not that interested in that stuff.”
We come to St. Clair station and it’s her stop and she practically bolts out the door, and the two young guys get off too, and a new girl sits down in the seat they vacated.
Just as the car pulls away I notice a ten dollar bill on the seat beside her. She notices it at the same time. So does the savvy businessman who moves quickly across the car and sits down next to her making it known that he saw her pick up the money in the way he looks at her. In my head I yell, “put it in your pocket now!” but she asks the savvy businessman if he had seen who dropped it. “Stupid girl!” I yell in my head.
“It’s my friend’s” he says to her, tone sheepish, as if he recognizes the lameness of his lie. Even the new girl would have seen that he wasn’t sitting anywhere near that seat when she got on.
“Do you want to keep it?” he asks her, making it much too awkward for her to accept his offer of his “friend’s” money.
“Well no, not if it’s your friend’s money” she says as she hands over the ten. Neither of them speaks again; the awkwardness between them rattles all over the car. She gets off at the next stop. He just sits there with the bill in his hand, as if he is afraid to put it in his pocket in front of the people who had seen what he’s just done.
He exits at King St. where he is free to pocket his prize as he saunters off, head high, looking every bit the slick and savvy businessman, ready to take on the world.