Arguing with invisible people in my head
Apparently the French call it esprit de l’escalier, which I think translates to “staircase wit”. It’s for that situation when you think of the perfect comeback for something someone said to you earlier. It’s as if you’re walking up some stairs, long after some argument you lost, and you think, “goddamn it, I should have said…”
Sometimes, that perfect comeback isn’t just a pithy little turn of phrase that would have slotted into one ideal moment. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that I have thought out whole arguments with people. I can think about it for as long as it takes to shower or commute somewhere on my bike. I can go through different permutations if the argument goes one way or another. If they say this then I could say that, and if they say that I could say this.
Not only am I not alone, I’m pretty sure some people take it further than I have. Last time I was in Vancouver, I was walking around the Granville Island Market, and I saw this dude, kind of a big guy, not super muscular, but tall and heavy set. He was walking by me as I was eating a sandwich or something, and he caught my eye because he was throwing punches and kicks into the air, just enough motion for him to act out the scenario in his head, but restrained enough to not be a problem in public. His eyes were red as if he had been crying, or soon might tear up, with rage, frustration, sadness, or something.
Of course I have no idea what his deal was, maybe he’s just nuts. But he didn’t look like someone with any particular mental issues or anything like that, he just looked like a regular guy who was dealing with some shit. I imagined he had just come from some frustrating situation where someone had screwed him over, and he was fantasizing about beating that person to a satisfying pulp.
I don’t think he was doing anything that almost everyone doesn’t do from time to time, he was just wearing it on his sleeve a little more. It gave me a moment to think about how this kind of thing is pretty much universal.
It’s a hard habit to break, and I am trying to break it, because I’ve realized that it’s more than just a waste of time and mental energy.