Being “deviant” for one day, or as I prefer to phrase it “being an individual”, was hardly a stretch for me. As a matter of fact I didn’t really need to defer much from my standard daily behavior to provide the necessary research for this project. In addition to the fact that I am covered in Asian inspired tattoos from my arms to my back which despite my obvious intelligence and carriage have gotten me negatively stereotyped for years, I also routinely give non-expected answers to innocent questions from store clerks or friendly strangers. I am simply the sort of person who inadvertently befuddles people both with my behavior, my appearance, and my conversation.
For this project I consciously increased my unusual responses to questions in order to try to provide some fodder to write about. When asked by convenience store clerks “How are you today?” I replied with “Do you really want to know how I am, or are you just following a mental script that you feel fits your role as ‘friendly store clerk’?” I then proceeded to lean on the counter at Go Mart and launch into a monologue explaining Sartre’s concept of “bad faith” from his book Being and Nothingness as exemplified by his classic take on the waiter, in which people routinely define themselves by playing the part of whatever role they identify themselves as.
The clerk at Go Mart was completely dumbstruck after my longwinded answer to her thoughtless standardized question, and merely handed me my receipt and my coffee while avoiding eye contact (a classic nonverbal defensive posturing) and said “Have a nice day”, to which I cheerfully replied “Please don’t tell me what to do ma’am” and then smiled at the customers in line behind me who were openly staring at me as I left the store. I suspect that my conversation did not actually offend anyone, since I perceived no ill will from anyone. It is my best guess, since I was unable to draw any real reactions from people other than wide-eyed uncomfortable stares, that I was probably simply not understood. Not many people are even familiar with the name Jean Paul Sartre, let alone avid readers of his existential philosophical writings. I may even have been perceived as slightly unbalanced and best left alone as opposed to conversed with.
My feelings during this “day of deviance” were twofold: I was amused to basically be experimenting on the unsuspecting public, and I was filled with pity that simply carrying on unusual conversations could fill people with so much uneasiness. Humans find comfort in routines, safety in standardization, and a sense of belonging by not deviating from the herd. I, however, am the exact opposite. When I censor myself to fit in with the masses or behave in ways that are untrue to who I really am to not rock the proverbial social boat, I am left feeling like a prop or a paper doll, a shell of my true self, who I actually think is a pretty cool chick. Even if I do purposefully confuse minimum wage slaves who are simply trying to be polite and sell me a cup of coffee….