By Dave Pearce
Jerks. They’re all around us. Some you’ll work with, some you’ll be forced to interact with in public spaces. It can happen anywhere but especially in dense urban environments when you are constantly surrounded by people. Based on the author’s entirely anecdotal and unscientific theory of 10:1 general population to jerk ratio, there are nearly a million of them in the GTA. So better face it: When you’re living in a city, sooner or later, you’re going to find yourself in contact with people you really, really, REALLY dislike.
Here, then, are four typical types of jerk people, what they do that’s so jerkalicious, and some ideas for how you can react safely when in contact with them.
It’s a great city, with lots to do and tons of public space. Emphasis PUBLIC. Playgrounds, bus stops, museums, dog parks. No matter where you are, or how many people surround you, the over-sharer is eager to let you in on waaaay too much detail about last night’s bad choices, dating horrors, and grotesque parenting styles. They’ll even do it at top volume, which, given the combination of the story and locale, can make it all the more awkward.
The solution: Use a prop. Your child, dog, partner, or new shoes. Talk about them as much as possible, and the over-sharer will wander off in search of a better listener. Memorize this phrase: “Wow, I have no idea what that’s like but it reminds me…”
And if that doesn’t work, fake a diaper change. Even if it’s for your dog or partner. Or yourself.
You’re out after work, a little bonding at the bar with the cubicle mates, but there’s that one person who just has a better story than you. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. You rode a bike to work? They’re training for a triathlon. You found a great Thai place? They had their dinner catered by Susur Lee. No matter what you experienced, they’ve got you beat.
The solution: Plan ahead. When you have something to share, hold back the best part. When they inevitably top your story about running into Feist with their brief Drake sighting, follow with the impossible to top (and even impossible-er to verify) detail about the run-in being at a secret concert by Metric.
If they manage to top even this new detail, then swallow your pride and start hanging out with them waaaaaay more often, because, seriously? Their life is amazing. Get in on that.
“Well, actually…” It doesn’t matter what the subject is – sports, politics, 12th century Milanese pottery – the opinionator’s going to let you know why you’re wrong. This type of interaction can make for a more toxic environment than Lake Ontario in the seventies.
The solution: Turn their own explainergy against them. Try a variation of this phrase: “Wow, I never thought of it THAT way!” The Opinionator lives to be right. Implying (without admitting) that they are, will leave them with nothing more to say. “Wow, I never thought of the influence of Genovese milliners before!” They get what they want (the belief they’re right), and you get what you want: the cool, calm de-escalation of an impending ’splainmergency.
The Living Troll
They’re the human equivalent of the online comment section. Like an in-person reading of the most outrageous Twitter thread, for you, in your face, in your space. These people are so out of touch. What can you do?
The solution: I’m not going to lie, things will probably get awkward no matter what you say. It’s a safe bet the troll isn’t the only one who feels that way, and you’re not the only one who feels like you have just witnessed a bile-spewing monument to the wrong side of history. In a group situation where tension feels high, the best thing to do may be to try turning it down a notch. You can always try to top the troll with your own opinion, or over-share your own version with too many details… but you might find yourself in a battle you wished you’d never entered, and one you actually don’t really have time for. Change the topic to something safer (movies, sports, babies in hats) and make a mental note to avoid that person in the future.