My daily commute includes three hours on a train. Some months ago, I had a nice chat with a seatmate who mentioned being new to my area. After chatting again a few days later, he said he and his wife would love to have my husband and me over for a drink. I hesitantly accepted. Drinks turned into dinner, during which my husband and I realized that we have little in common with this couple. But we were friendly - and now I'm stuck. He refers to me as his "train buddy," sits next to me every morning and keeps talking about getting together again. He seeks my advice on matters about which I have no expertise or interest: his job, his in-laws, his kid's weight. How can I shake him loose?
God, I can just see it.
Every morning, your eyes locking, horribly, as you board the train. Him coming over to sit next to you with a hearty, hey-there grin. You squirming, toes pinching each other inside your shoes as, with excruciating slowness, he unpacks his duffel bag of troubles: how tough it is to be new in town, how bored his wife is, how chunky his kid is getting.
Meanwhile, out the window, the landscape, like your life, rolls inexorably into the past.
Your daily torment has an almost Sisyphean quality. I think I can picture it all so clearly because it's like something that would happen to me.
Except it wouldn't, any more. Because, over the years, I have trained myself with ninja-like discipline in the art of advance detection and avoidance of bores and boring situations and am now a 7th Dan Shaolin/Jedi master.
I moonwalk out of rooms. It's like I was never there. I melt into shadows, blend into murals. I blow a fine dust in your face and you forget we ever met.
I even have the ability, when a stiff is headed my way at a party, to grab a nearby blanket and wrap it around myself, and - poof! - suddenly the blanket falls to the ground, empty.
Unfortunately, I may have to impart the nuts and bolts of these Shaolin secrets in another column, because in your case it's too late.
You already have a life-force-draining, barnacle-like bore attached to you. The question you are confronted with now is: how do you get rid of him.
And sadly, the setting - a moving train - is one where all modes of egress and avoidance are impossible, even for a Wu-Tang master such as myself.
In other words, your options are limited. Though this probably isn't what you want to hear, a relationship is like an organism: the offspring of your interactions with others. When Barnacle Boy and you started chatting, the two of you conceived an embryonic relationship with tiny, wiggling fingers and toes. When you and your husband went to his house, that relationship was born.
You can't just ignore it now. You have two choices: You can nurture it, care for it, watch it grow and mature …
Or you can put it down. That's what I'd do. It's the merciful thing.
Because short of changing your commuting schedule, which I assume you don't want to do, I predict that this won't end well - unless you have a stroke of luck and, say, he moves.
You need those three hours! Three hours is a huge chunk to give over to this new-in-town narcissist. Time you could use to study entomology or become fluent in Farsi.
Give him an incredibly soft-peddled, candy-floss-wrapped version of the truth. Something like: "Listen, I love our talks - I really do! - but I wake up so early these days. And I have so much work. I just don't have the energy to chat on the commute. No offence, but I want to sleep or read or catch up on work on the train."
Then whip out a pair of large, noise-suppression-type headphones, plug them into your laptop or cellphone or tablet or whatever, and put them on. Even if you don't need them or really use them. They will be a visual cue you are no longer available for chit-chat.
Now, it may be uncomfortable to endure his yearning, puppy-dog eyes for a while. But I have a strong feeling that your adhesive pal will soon glom onto someone else. Energy vampires, like their bloodsucking counterparts, must feed. He'll soon attach himself to another commuter's jugular and start to drain that person's life force.
And FYI for the future: You know how they say Dracula-type vampires can't enter your domicile unless you invite them in? Same goes for energy vampires.
Henceforward, check for (metaphorical) fangs and (metaphorical) lack of reflection before inviting people like your "train buddy" to cross your life's threshold.
David Eddie is the author of Chump Change, Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad and Damage Control, the book, now in paperback.
I've made a huge mistake
Have you created any damage that needs controlling? Send your dilemmas to email@example.com, and include your hometown and a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.