Measured Extravagance

14 January 2004 - 11:57 p.m.

Some interesting discussions over at Il Scalzi's on obnoxious anti-breeders and his support of Clark for President. In the first discussion, Sue (non-parent, non-obnoxious, non-anti-breeder) observed:

To some extent, it's part of that whole "I love this so much so I can't understand how anybody else could not love it!" thing. Like how I'm always blown away when somebody says that they don't like chocolate. Or that they don't like to travel. Or that they don't like Iron Chef or the Simpsons. Somehow, though, kids seem to be one of those things that people lose the ability to be rational about, if that makes sense.

This struck me in part because I've found myself saying something similar over the past year when trying to calm down folks irate over encounters with evangelical shopclerks. (And yes, this has happened more than once. And no, not everyone frothing furious was militantly anti-religious.) There you are, just trying on shoes or picking up toothpaste on the way home, and the shopclerk decides it's time to tell you about how much Jesus can do for you.

The question that invariably comes up is "How can they not know how inappropriate this is!?" And the answer, methinks, is that some people truly lack the imagination (1) to recognize that there is a time to share, and a time to refrain, (2) to register that not everyone is interested in their opinion, and (3) to grok that they aren't doing Jesus any favors by alienating the very people they're trying to win over to him. (Not to mention their employers, since the customers' reactions - and mine, for that matter - tend to be, "Dammit, now I can't shop there . .")

I can understand, though, being irrepressibly excited about something wonderful, and not wanting other people to miss out on the wonderfulness (it's the underlying raison d'etre of this journal, after all) - and so while many forms of evangelism make my skin crawl (whether it be about religion or children or diets), I do find it helpful when I can remember "They're not trying to be obnoxious. They're just carried away by enthusiasm."

That said, I also firmly believe that part of being an adult is Knowing When to Shut Up - and, on the other side of the counter, knowing when to change the subject or simply hang up/leave/shut the door. Although I must also confess that my favorite tale about coping with evangelists may be the one of my friend Bakehead, who elected to greet a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses stark dripping naked with a large dog by his side.

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