Fleeing the spotlight
The Gazette has a mascot, a smiling, 6-foot tall newspaper named Newsie.
Newsie seldom makes an appearance in the office, but one recent morning he spent some time trundling around the newsroom, visiting reporters at their desks and waving, his every move captured by a video camera.
Out of the corner of my eye, I monitored Newsie’s progress.
At first, he was at a safe remove.
But he kept getting closer and closer, and when he rounded the city desk, and appeared to be headed straight for me, I decided it was time to flee. I stood up, grabbed my coat and headed for lunch, because I had absolutely no intention of sharing screen time with a giant foam newspaper mascot. Later, a friend remarked that she came across the Newsie video on Facebook and actually watched it, hoping to catch a glimpse of me at work.
“Are you kidding?” I said. “I got out of there as fast as I could.”
Which is funny, because that very same week I agreed to have my picture taken in the balcony of Proctors for my Oscar contest, a process that involved pretending to watch a movie and eat popcorn. This photo shoot was fairly painless — I wasn’t overcome by an urge to run away, or a sense of impending doom. So why did the very concept of appearing in an online video with Newsie terrify me, while the Oscar photo shoot didn’t faze me one bit?
One of my friends has suggested that I’m actually a fake introvert, and that this diagnosis explains why I’m capable of doing things that put the fear of God into many introverts, such as having my picture in the newspaper and speaking to groups.
“You know what I do when I’m asked to speak to groups?” she said. “I say no, because I’m a real introvert.”
I’ve also been known to hang out with mascots and dress up in costumes, which isn’t very introvert-like at all. In college, my friend John once served as the mascot for the University of Vermont, as well as the mascot for the Granite State Warriors, a semiprofessional football team in New Hampshire. And when John and I worked at camp, we performed in nightly skits as a variety of characters — Captain Spunk, the Evil Dr. Spunkless, etc. So it’s not like I’m incapable of standing in front of an audience and acting ridiculous.
But I still maintain that I’m an introvert, mainly because interacting with people makes me tired. And my introversion has been kicking in a lot lately, leading to some uncharacteristic indecisiveness.
On Friday nights, I tend to feel exhausted after a long week of work, and last week, when my friend Bruce invited me to listen to music at a bar in Guilderland, I initially declined, claiming I was tired and didn’t feel I could muster up the energy to interact with other human beings. But then I had second thoughts.
In my experience, if you repeatedly turn down invitations to do fun things, the invitations will cease. Peering into the future, I saw a friendless version of myself, one who spent every Friday falling asleep on the couch at an unspeakably early hour. I called Bruce back.
“When does the music start?” I asked.
When he said 9 p.m., I told him I would go, and he swung by and picked me up.
Of course, the music didn’t actually start until about 11:30 p.m., and it was close to 2 in the morning when I finally got home. At some point, it occurred to me that I’d done the exact opposite of what I’d planned, and that I would pay for it the next day with even more exhaustion, which would further compromise my ability to interact with other human beings.
Nevertheless, I managed to drag myself to a concert on Saturday, and ski and visit friends on Sunday.
This frenetic pace caused my friend to once again assert that I’m a fake introvert.
“Stop calling me that,” I said.
“Plus, you never stop talking,” she added.
“I spend a lot of time not talking,” I said. “You’re just not around then.”
The thing I’ve learned is that introverts have different quirks, and that their introversion manifests in different ways. For instance, my friend’s introversion manifests itself in numerous phobias, including a phobia of mariachi bands.
“Mariachi bands?” I said.
“They’re always sneaking up behind you in restaurants and playing music,” she explained.
“That’s never happened to me,” I said.
But I imagine it’s every bit as horrifying as ending up in an online video with Newsie.
Maybe even worse.
Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.