I sat in the rear of a loud bar waiting for a friend. I wrote in my journal.
Ten or fifteen minutes elapsed.
A masked and rotund bar back wearing a black hoodie and shorts came up to me and said, “Who do you work for? People said you’re taking notes.”
“I’m a writer.” I turned the notebook for him to see my handwriting, which of course he couldn’t read because I have perhaps the worst handwriting in the world. I can’t even read it after a week or so!
The man turned abruptly and walked away briskly without saying a word. I went back to writing in my journal (notes for a story about the last remaining mom and pop drug store in America) and watching others watch me write. Who had ratted me out? Why? If I had been on my phone or tablet ruining the bar’s reputation with a review or reporting their shaky social distancing set-up, not one have given me a second glance. Or first.
But that act of writing with pen on paper!!!!!!!!!! Spy! Rebel! Freak! Luddite!
This episode confirms a theory I postulated a while back: writing in longhand in public places has become an unnerving and possibly dangerous act in the eyes of some people. It is so extremely rare an occurrence, that some people react with instant fear and paranoia. It is a reaction I have seen ratcheting up in the last year. The last time something like this happened to me was when another bartender accused me of being an OLCC narc. I was writing a letter to my father at the time. She didn’t know how to respond to that and just melted away without saying a word.
Not that anyone really wants to spend too much time in indoor places where people are gathered, but as an interesting cultural experiment, try taking a notebook and pen, sitting down in a place or even a park bench outdoors where people are milling about, and start writing. Watch what happens. Perhaps nothing. But perhaps something worth writing about.
I am writing this from a picnic table 30 feet from a mountain lake and in the last five minutes a family with two kids and a female couple moseyed by and gave me THE LOOK as I scribbled.