Finally started reading Ask the Dust by John Fante. It's the semi-autobiographical story of a young struggling Italian-American writer from Colorado who moves to Los Angeles in the 1930s to make a life for himself. So far it's not as good as I had imagined it to be. So far I'm thinking I preferred The Brotherhood of the Grape. That one I'd recommend. But it's still fairly early to say. I only wanted to talk about it to share one passage from the book that I wanted to comment on.
This is in reference to a waitress in a bar who when approached to answer a question was described as "widening her eyes in an expression of bored aloofness."
An expression of bored aloofness.
I've seen it many times in the eyes of sales clerks, looking like they would rather be anywhere but here and are just going through the motions. It shows in their eyes, as glazed and distant. Usually the eye contact is minimal or nonexistent, but if the eyes do meet it's as if they aren't really seeing you. Everything is forced. The smile, if there is one, is not genuine. The words are like a script, repeated like a robot without emotion, who couldn't care less. It's all routine. Just going through the motions. There's no respect. No real communication. No desire to form a connection, to understand or relate to the other as a real person, no genuine desire to help, they help because they are obligated to not because they genuinely want to, but instead, you, the other person, the customers they are helping, are seen as a thing, an object in their way; an unpleasant chore, something they are eager to end before it's even begun.
That's what happens when a person is in the wrong job, and they hate their job, have emotionally distanced themselves from it, and are not really there, their mind is elsewhere, their just counting the hours and the minutes until quitting time. Bored aloofness. Yeah. I've seen it many times. Perhaps I too in certain situations have been this way. You're not open. You're closed. When you are open, but the other person is closed, that can be very annoying. It's like talking to someone who is not really listening, who doesn't really care. You're just a number. A thing. A burden. An inconvenience. If you're dealing with a sales clerk, it reflects negatively on the business. The customer service feels cold and unwelcoming. If you're dealing with a regular person who is not "on the clock" it just means there is no possibility for friendship. You are not on the same wavelength. You are here, but they are somewhere else.
If you ever see the look of bored aloofness in someone's eyes, it means that although they may look at you they are not really seeing you. They may register that you are there, but more so as being like an obstacle in their way. They may answer your questions, but having emotionally closed themselves off to you, there is no meeting of the minds. They may as well be a robot. They are on automatic pilot and are eager to get away.
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