Loser's Guide to Life
James enters the room to find Jamilah already seated at a table.
Jamilah: I'll bet your ears were burning, I've been saying such good things about you! All the work. Really just a super job.
James: (Sitting down at the table) Oh!
Jamilah: Peter was very impressed. Everyone is.
James: Peter was?
Jamilah: Yes, and everybody.
James: Talking about me?
Jamilah: Just glowing reviews I've been giving you.
James: Oh—good. When I got your note, that you wanted to see me, I thought it was going to be, you know, stuff.
Jamilah: Oh, nothing like that. Not this time.
James: Okay, good, I was worried. A bit like at school, where you'd get this “PLEASE SEE ME” written on your essay when you got it back. If you had written something disagreeable, I guess.
Jamilah: Oh. Did you make a habit of writing disagreeable things at school?
James: No. I meant: if you did.
Jamilah: Why would you write something disagreeable in an essay? To provoke some sort of reaction?
James: The thing is, you probably didn't think it was disagreeable when you wrote it. It was just common sense. And it's hard to imagine anyone getting all nettled and irate, anyone normal. Nothing to be irate about.
Jamilah: Is it fun to see people getting honked off by something you wrote?
James: I don't think anyone was honked off, just a little irate. And no. Why would I, in a million years, want that? It's no fun at all.
Jamilah: So you don't enjoy the reaction that this squib or whatever provoked.
James: There was no “squib”.
Jamilah: Well, broadside, or salvo or whatever.
James: No, I wasn't trying to have a naval engagement. I don't even—you now how it is, you say something or write something that seems normal, just making some kind of point, or not, and there's some thing in there that bothers some one person. That one thing annoys them, and only them, I think.
Jamilah: You're sure it only bothers that one person.
James: Well, no one else is going mental.
Jamilah: —of the few people that read it.
James: But it's hard to imagine, somebody reading it and then going, “Okay, this is really pissing me off. I must get to the bottom of this. I must seek him out and get satisfaction”. I mean, of all the people that might read it.
Jamilah: Well, why is it bothering him, then?
James: Because he's mental? I don't know. I would steer clear of it if I could.
Jamilah: Avoid the issue altogether.
James: I mean, nobody writes or says something and thinks: “I know what I'll do, I'll conceal these hidden terrible insults only really crazy people will detect, and it'll set them off, ha-ha, should be fun”. Why would you do that?
Jamilah: Most people are polite.
Jamilah: And would probably not say anything. They're forgiving. They may hear something they don't like and let it go. They profoundly disagree, but, you know—“oh well”. They let it go.
James: Oh, you're saying everyone's pissed off, but they're just being nice about it?
Jamilah: Well, they may not even be aware of it. This one person is saying what they're all thinking but too nice to say, or even think, at first.
James: So this very angry, deranged individual would be their spokesman, in other words.
Jamilah: Well, in that spirit.
James: Too nice to think, in other words, they might not have had these thoughts, might have found nothing objectionable, if it weren't for this nut.
Jamilah: But it's still there.
James: No. Because, first of all, there's nothing objectionable. I didn't intend to inflame anyone. Second, the one person, this nut, finds something to whinge about. Next, he inspires others to join him. They were okay with it at first, of course. But he—
Jamilah: I don't think—
James: —he, like an angler at a stream, nets the one truly innocuous thing capable of distortion, skillfully misreads it, and promulgates his own crazy interpretation among the others. And in their naïveté, like seal pups waddling up to the hunter—
Jamilah: I think you're going a bit far.
James: Maybe. But it's the only halfway reasonable explanation.
Jamilah: Anyway. So I was telling Peter about all this. How great it's been going.
Jamilah: Kind of, building it up, you know.
James: Well, thanks, but you don't really need to do that.
Jamilah: I have to make everything look well, put everything in the right light. For him, I mean. Sort of focus on your success.
James: It's going pretty well. As you said.
Jamilah: Right, I need to focus on that. Kind of bring out the outstanding things, and maybe, put a spotlight on that. Not the other things so much.
Jamilah: Right. I want to emphasize the good things. Stick to that. So. Can you think of anything?