Once upon a time, I cared about first impressions. If I was going on a blind date, I’d be sure to wear something flattering and order only finger food at dinner. That time has come and gone, in favor of meeting strangers at coffee shops with my schoolbooks sprawled across the table and my laptop propped somewhere atop the mess.
Last week, I met a guy in this fashion, thinking more of my upcoming test and less about my lack of companionship. He approached my table and laughed, as if this wasn’t our first time meeting. I half-expected him to roll his eyes and make a teasing joke. We launched into trusty chat about Canadian weather, as I scrambled to pack up my bags, laptop, scarf, and coat, when suddenly, he began to laugh. It was a good-natured laugh–I interpreted it as nervousness– and continued to pack my entire life into two bags. I slowly (read: probably spastically) shoved my books away, and reached for my laptop, when this guy, still laughing, put the laptop away for me. He also placed my scarf in my bigger bag, and just as I went to thank him, I dumped all my pens onto the floor. His laughter started all over again as he picked up the pens one-by-one.
Eventually, I got my shit together, and he stopped laughing long enough to suggest we go for burgers. Soon enough, we were sitting across from each other, stuffing our faces with those A&W burgers that are named after members of family. He told me about his job, about how he can build computers, and I listened,picking at my Mama burger, when bam. Some asshole dropped a tray in the kitchen and I spazzed-out hard. My date laughed and laughed again, and I tried to explain:
“Sorry, I hate noise,” definitely the most inaccurate and unhelpful explanation of my startle reflex I’ve ever given.
His laughter slowly trailed off, and we began having the world’s longest conversation about dogs (and dogs vs. cats, and how people that love cats are weird–apologies to half the population). I decided to call it quits when the topic switched to how cat poop is so much easier to clean up than dog poop. Again, I started gathering my belongings, and again his giggle started.
I left the date/interview a little confused. I didn’t feel the person I’d just met was malicious in any sense, and thought his laugh to be prompted mostly by discomfort, but was a tad annoyed at myself for feeling the need to justify my spasms. As I am usually the queen of nervous laughter, I couldn’t very well fault him for his reaction,but it is the first time I’ve experienced someone laughing at me out of discomfort.
And, for any fellow wheelies reading this, it is quite a relief to do the whole “not a single fuck was given,” thing and just disability all over the place for once. Sure, Mr. Nervous GigglePants might have been a bit weird with it, but, better he find out sooner than later, right? It’s all downhill from here.