I have been called a Pasty White Boy from Nebraska (my skin is so pale my friends tease me I actually look green) more often than I like and ever since I moved to the East Coast I have become, against my will, a Personal Information Servant.

I appear to live only to serve you. Not a day goes by in Jersey City or Queens or Hoboken or Manhattan or the Bronx or Union City or Newark or New Brunswick or or or… when total strangers feel comfortable enough to approach and ask me questions.

I can be walking on the street, sitting on a train or lounging in a library and I still get these questions:

What Time is It? (My watch is not always visible.)

How do I get to ___________? (I never carry a map.)

Do You Have a Quarter? (I never flash any money.)

Don’t I Know You? (I never initiate conversations with strangers.)

Do you have a cigarette/match/piece of gum/newspaper/dollar I could borrow? (The answer is always “I’m sorry, I’m out.”)

I am rarely engaged with these questions. Many times I just shake my head to tell them “no” instead of using my voice because actually speaking to them invites more conversation.

I prefer to just be left alone with my thoughts but nobody seems to care. If I ignore the questions they get really upset I am not bending to their wishes! Why am I asked these questions? Do I look authoritative?

Do I have a kind face? Is it my pasty Midwestern green skin that says friendly and non-threatening?

Do people think I’m bored and that I find pleasure in serving them? To avoid my information station I’ve tried dressing down with basic clothing. I’ve tried scowling a bit. I’ve tried not making eye contact. Nothing works! I am always approached. I am always bothered.

Nothing will make it stop!

24 Comments

  1. I get the same thing. I’m a “pasty green” girl from Kansas and I live in Mass. I don’t think it’s skin color or kindness. I think we look authoritative or like we know what’s going on and you’re right body language doesn’t make a diff. Look stupider and maybe they won’t bother you.

  2. Hey Alexis!
    Your comment makes me smile and scream with despair!
    I guess it will never end. Like “worker ants” and “worker bees” we live to serve.
    I bet if we started charging a dollar an answer we’d get rich pretty quick until, that is, someone asks to borrow our dollar. 🙂

  3. BTW – What is is the time just now? 🙂
    Sometimes people on the street ask me questions in English, which is quite strange as I live in Germany. But it begs the question……how do they know I am English

  4. OSINACHI! — You took a bit of a silly post and made it into something meaningful and fulfilling with your comment. Thank you so much for your kindness and your warmth and if I had a dollar I’d give it to you without you having to ask. 🙂 I am reporting for service!
    Mr. Haddock! — The time is 5:38 EDT! 🙂 No need to thank me! No one ever does! 🙂 I think the reason we are sought out is some kind of vibe that we will help. Others sense this in us and they know if they approach they won’t get stabbed or ripped off. It’s a compliment, I suppose, they feel safe with us.

  5. You do not look authoritative. But you have a kind face. Your skin is not green and pasty. And you are not scowling or looking threatening in the least. I would say you definitely have made eye contact with that bright yellow smiley face!
    No wonder you get so many people who want to talk to you. Are you really bald too?

  6. Hi Paula! — Your creative answer threw me there for a second. Good job! Love it! 🙂
    Richard Smith — I deliberately and actively give off the “don’t ‘f’ with me vibe” because I live and roam in dangerous neighborhoods and because of that vibe I’m surprised people still come to me for information and favors.

  7. David, I couldn’t resist. You spent all that time telling us how you look all pasty white, almost green and how you actually discourage these encounters. Then you end with a smiley. It was so…well, I can’t think of a word for it. But the smiley didn’t fit. You needed a ‘scowley.’
    :))

  8. You made my day, Paula! 🙂
    I know WordPress allows different smiley faces and I should probably try to find which other ones work — but then I tell myself a smile will always save the day — so why bother with anything else? 🙂

  9. Carla!
    I don’t mind the green skin! 🙂 One of the guards at our old apartment building was teasing me one day and she looked at me strange and said, “When you blush you actually turn red! I’ve never seen that before!” Ha! She was Puerto Rican and Bronx native and her skin was a beautiful caramel.
    The green photo is interesting. A student of mine took that picture without my knowledge and I was caught in “mid-yell” at Pedro who appears out of the frame of the picture in the direction I’m facing. My students surprised me by including that image on their Playbill. That wall is actually a deep blue behind me. The fluorescent lights make it look green if you don’t color balance your digital camera. I love the crazy green and especially that room because it no longer exists. It was demolished to make room for the Education program at Rutgers. Sob!

  10. hey, don’t get me wrong, David, I like your smiley face. keep it up. You know what Annie said in the musical: “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”
    I have a friend who told me when he saw the photo of me on my blog that I looked green. “you look good,” he said, “but you look green.” He’s a schmutz.

  11. Ahahaha! 🙂
    David you are such the INTJ, and I truly empathise with you, but maybe because you are an INTJ people can see that you are too smart and too much of a natural leader (as OSINACHI said) to be able to pull of looking either angry or dumb. I must confess that I myself walk around in public looking like I want to break something in order to be left alone, and it really amazes me that people will still approach me. Bar my advice of trying to look unapproachable, I can only commiserate with you.
    Here’s an idea though: walk around in a t-shirt that says: By talking to me you agree to pay me $50 a second for every second you talk to me!
    Maybe that will keep you undisturbed 🙂

  12. Heya Tim!
    Well, it’s good to know again you sense where I’m coming from on this. 🙂
    I’ve given in to the fact that people will want to lean on me and instead of fighting it, I guess I’ll try to give them a helping hand.
    It straightens out the energy a bit. 🙂