When I lived in Florida, I worked at a museum for a while. It was an awesome job and I loved the vast majority of my time spent there,* but it did suffer from the standard problem faced by museums, zoos, and other large public cultural institutions: the building design was about as well-thought-out as a steam-powered sofa, and as it grew anything and everything was co-opted for office space, including broom closets, dark rooms and bathrooms.** A side effect of this poor planning meant that I, instead of being able to flee out a side door like any sensible public servant, had to walk through a bunch of heavily trafficked areas, by the front desk, and past the gift shop to leave the building.
One fateful day, as I was leaving my office and walking to the parking lot, I looked up and saw A Celebrity hanging out in the crowd by the gift shop, minding his own business. You know who this person is, since he’s had several major movies in his career and is a member of a
money-grubbing cult so-called religion that’s particularly popular among actors. For the sake of anonymity, let’s just call him Ton Jravolta. As I’m not particularly into celebrities or cult members, after I had my moment of cognitive dissonance*** and dismissed my half-formed fear that a gun-toting Wruce Billis would show up looking for a watch, a toaster would go off and shit would go down in my place of business,**** I walked on by.
As I was walking by, I noticed a gentleman – and by “gentleman” I mean “asshole” – on his cell phone, not three feet from Mr. Jravolta himself, screaming into his phone about OH MY GOD HE IS RIGHT BEHIND ME. TON JRAVOLTA. BEHIND. ME. I KNOW. I KNOW. I CANNOT BELIEVE I AM STANDING THIS CLOSE TO TON JRAVOLTA. DO YOU THINK HE WILL DO THAT THING FROM THE MOVIE I LOVE. TON JRAVOLTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Dude was successfully drawing more stares than the guy he was screaming about.***** And here’s where things get weird for me, personally: I was totally, disproportionally appalled by cell phone guy’s behavior. Like, completely ragey that the douche was acting so douchey in a place I worked and pissed that he might potentially add to the already abysmal reputation of Central Floridians everywhere. I was actually surprised by my own ridiculous anger at the situation and immediately booked it out to my car.
The weird part about this is that I like to think I don’t really give a shit about celebrities’ feelings and sense of privacy in public, really. If you earn millions of dollars a year for almost anything and you are not as brilliant and talented as Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein rolled into one terrifying mass of ability and genius, you can deal with the fact that going out in public is going to be A Situation – and that goes double if you’ve earned that money in part by being recognizable to a hell of a lot of people. And yet, I was pissed off by cell phone asshole’s ridiculous conversation. It’s been a few years since this indecent, and I’ve had time to reflect on why, exactly, I was so repulsed by this behavior. I’ve determined that, given my reaction, one of the following things must be true about me:
1) I care way, way more about the possibility of one of the most recognizable actors in the U.S. feeling awkward and uncomfortable than I had previously realized, or
2) I, like any good Southerner, know that the only polite way to talk about someone is quietly, and behind their back.******
While neither of these options say much about me, I hope like hell it’s number two.
* And it was one of the only workplaces where I could use phrases like “just past the mummified bodies, to the left of the mastodon skeleton” when giving people directions to the bathroom and not prompt a visit from the police inquiring about my after-hours hobbies, but that particular job perk is neither here nor there.
** I worked in a former dark room. It was a dream, let me tell you.
*** NOOO. YOU LIVE IN THE TEE VEES.
**** Quick test of age: did you first think of 1) heroin and Los Angeles or 2) white suits and the Bee Gees?
***** Remember we’re in rural Central Florida for this story, which means celebrities are apparitions from god as far as most people are concerned. Outshining a celebrity there takes insane amounts of noise, obnoxiousness, or a flat-out shocking physical deformity.
****** Throw in a quick “bless her heart” if you really want to bitch someone out with an iron-clad lack of guilt.