People who work at counters and make you wait while they answer the telephone, privileging the customer on the phone over the one right in front of their face, the one who made the trip, got out of bed, appeared in person. People who interrupt the phone call with the person who called first to use call-waiting to take the call from the person who called second. People who get to the counter and make the person waiting at the counter wait while they talk on their cell phone. People who glance at their e-mail when you’re in the room. People who use hand-held devices to glance at their e-mails while in your house. People who borrow your computer or hand-held device in order to glance at their e-mails. People who answer e-mails from people they do not know with great alacrity and full capitalization and punctuation while replying slowly and with few if any capitals or punctuation marks to the e-mails of their devoted friends. People who unfriend their friends while friending their unfriends. People who do not acknowledge the person. Persons who are not personal.

People who visit parties and ignore their friends, do not dance with the one that brung you. People who have more time, more munificence, more courtesy, for strangers than for their friends. Children who love their uncles and aunts more than their father and mother, their cousins more than their siblings. People who have a picture of Jesus Christ or John F. Kennedy or Abraham Lincoln on their wall, as if Jesus Christ or John F. Kennedy or Abraham Lincoln was their relative. People who use the first names of celebrities. People who shorten the names of or create nicknames for those they don’t know or barely know, in order to seem more familiar, especially in cases where people who are actually familiar with those named would never shorten their name or use a nickname. Rotisserie-baseball fans who never go to a baseball game or follow a ‘real’ team. Married people who develop crushes on waitresses or bank tellers.

Those who speak to the invisible, the remote, those not present, while disfavouring the visible, the proximate, the present. Those concerning themselves with ghosts. Clergy of all types. People who wear pictures in lockets of grandparents they never knew, even as they disdain or neglect living uncles or aunts. People who construct family trees or visit genealogical web sites but are brusque and rude to strangers on the subway. Those who adopt animals but not children. Eaters of fish but not pork.

People who concern themselves with the fate of slaves in distant capitals they have never visited and would never visit. People who read the International section before they read the Metro section, or never read the Metro section. People who read eagerly of discoveries of planets orbiting distant stars in unreachable galaxies. Anyone interested in SETI (the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence). People who watch the Oscar telecast but don’t go to movies. People who watch a telecast of celebrations in Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Lip-synchers. Karaokeists.

People who read stories about imaginary people while real people stand before them unsung and unappreciated. People who read stories and experience real emotions while finding it difficult to feel real emotions when presented with the difficulties of their living friends. Science-Fiction people. Historical re-enactors. Pen-pals. Those who fall in love remotely, projecting cherished values onto those distant from them, values that they never identify among those nearest to them. Constructors of time capsules. People who write in journals or diaries never intended to be read during their lifetimes. Anonymous authors. Anonymous donors. People who comment anonymously on the blogs of their friends. People who at parties glance over your shoulder while they speak with you, searching for a better option. Necrophiliacs.

Those studying foreign languages, especially dead languages. Students of Esperanto or Klingon. Those mourning the deaths of royalty. Those who love or hate anyone they’ve never met. Catholics drinking wine and eating wafer. Readers of secondary sources before primary sources. Archaeologists and anthropologists. Those cherishing extinct species. ‘Pay It Forward’ people. Sexaholics. Doctors Without Borders. Mimes who follow people on the street.

People who use time machines to prevent the crucifixion of Jesus Christ or the Kennedy or Lincoln assassinations but would not use time machines to apologize to those they personally disregarded in fourth or fifth grade.

Lawyers for the unborn. Pro-lifers. Autograph hounds. Strangers who interfere in private arguments on the street. Fans. Ventriloquists. Ventriloquists on the radio. People who listen to podcasts while in the presence of others. Ham-radio operators. Stamp collectors, with their glue-tabs and albums, adorers of the tenuous papery whisper of what comes from afar, soaking envelopes to reclaim cancelled stamps, discarding the envelopes, ignoring the addresses, never noticing the names of the original recipients, the persons for whom the letter was intended, cherishing instead the postage.

Above all, writers.


Photograph by Johnny Silvercloud

A Summer’s Evening in Beijing
Love in the Time of Swine Flu