From the Vault: The True Story of a Bench, Data, and Cheese Popcorn

So this just popped back into my head. Sometime around 1990 or so I was waiting to meet a friend in Calhoun Square in Uptown Minneapolis, sitting in the middle of a bench. Two employees from different shops come out of their respective places of employment, one from my left, the other from my right. One is a young guy, the other an older woman with a bag of popcorn and a voice like Selma on Night Court (bonus points for those old enough for that reference).

They approach the bench and sit down on opposite sides of me and start talking. They neither say nor do anything that acknowledges my existence. They just start talking across me as though I’m not there. To amuse myself I start pretending I’m Data. I tilt my head, rapidly turn it back and forth, and otherwise behave like an android confused by human social behavior. But I say nothing, and they keep yapping across me, as though they don’t notice my odd way of moving my head. Finally after several minutes of this, the young guy gets up and heads back to his store.

There’s a beat while it’s just me and the older woman, then she turns toward me, gestures with her bag of popcorn, and says, in her gravelly voice, “That’s the best damn cheddar cheese popcorn you can find.” Then she gets up and goes back to her store.

Man, you humans are odd.

[Original version posted on my defunct Live Journal, April 25, 2008]

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