I used to feel like I had a neon sign over my head that said, “Wackos and emotional cripples – come talk to this one!!!” Many years ago, I even managed to attract the same utter nut-job twice over the course of two years, in two radically different zip codes. But it has been a long time since I was catnip to the people whose coat sleeves come with extra inches and buckles. Maybe it’s one of the side effects of being older, or being married. Whatever it is, I haven’t missed it.
And then came yesterday’s commute home.
I was sitting by the window, earbuds in my ears, knitting away on my latest sock, sublimely minding my own business, when someone sits down next to me. I have an impression of weediness, but otherwise I don’t really pay attention (I try not to be completely in my own world: it is wise, after all, to pay some attention to what is going on around when on public transportation – but as long as you don’t smell, don’t fall asleep on me, and don’t intrude unduly on my personal space, I don’t care who you are). After just a few moments, I get the impression I am being observed. This isn’t completely uncommon: I have had some delightful conversations with other knitters, interested teenagers, and those just generally curious as a result of knitting on the Metro. But there is that other feeling of being watched – if you’re female, you know what I mean. That kind of creepy, weird, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it feeling. Weedy Guy was giving this impression.
I also get the impression that I may have been spoken to. I remove an earbud and say, “excuse me?” Weedy Guy says, “Oh – I said hello.” Great. I don’t know about you, but when I’m on public transport I generally maintain the fiction that my fellow passengers are invisible, unless there is some sort of natural opening. Sitting down next to someone who is wearing earbuds and is obviously engrossed in some sort of project – there’s no natural opening there. So Weedy Guy also has inappropriate boundary issues. I put my earbud back in and continue to knit and listen. I also make sure my left hand is turned to prominently display my engagement and wedding rings. Back off, Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues.
Oh, but Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues isn’t done. A few minutes later, I get another impression that I am being spoken to again. Again, the removal of earbud and, “Excuse me?”
“Is that going to be a sweater?” Not an uncommon question – the cuff of a sock could easily be the cuff of a sweater sleeve.
“No, a sock,” I respond. I am about to put the earbud back in when Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues says, “But where is the toe?”
I have about 2 inches of this sock worked at this point, but to me it clearly looks like the top of a sock if you orient your mind away from thoughts of sleeves and towards thoughts of socks. I don’t know anyone outside of a newborn who might need a 2-inch sock, and the cuff on this sucker isn’t going to fit a newborn. It is also clear that even on a knitting machine, an entire sock doesn’t just… materialize. You have to start somewhere. I gesture a few inches below the cuff and say, “Well, it’s going to be somewhere down here when I get to it.”
“But where is it?” Oh, great. He isn’t just Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues, he’s Stupid Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues. He’s also slightly agitated, which is freaky. It’s just a sock, dude. A sock you will never see again, God willing.
“I haven’t knit it yet. I’m knitting the sock from the top.”
“But how do you knit from the top?”
It is so self-evident to me how you knit from the top that I don’t even know how to answer this. I mean, it exists – it’s there. The top of the sock is in my hand. I say, firmly (possibly rudely – by now, I know I’m deep into neon-sign territory), “YOU JUST DO.”
Earbud firmly jammed back in my ear, I am no longer at home to Stupid Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues. After all, there are only so many adjectives you can append to a total stranger before things get out of hand.