Rubbing the wrong shoulders.
The problem is that they cannot make it personal enough. In a little while, it becomes everybody's business as they force the attention of the crowd.
A man who was wearing a blue striped suit took his opportunity well, perhaps too well. He knew exactly what to do in a room that was filled with laughter, small talk and gossip. He entered alone and he had no intention of being left out. I saw him standing near the door, scanning the room as he carefully chose his target. There was a little group of business leaders, people who make a difference to the country, talking in low voices the way affluent people would.
He swaggered purposefully to them, ignoring everybody else. Why should he mingle with the rest of us, I thought, we were just a bunch of riff-raffs polluting the very air he breathed. He shook their hands as if they were old friends and from where I was, I could see the surprise on their faces. I was not within earshot range and I could not hear what he was saying to them. It could not have been anything memorable.
He was clearly a nuisance and soon, he became an intolerable pest to them. One by one, they began to disperse and soon he found himself standing alone with only a glass of orange juice to keep him company.
But people like that never give up easily. He looked at our circle and it was only I who paid any attention to him. He quickly shifted his gaze away and walked to a group of senior bankers. He went through the same ritual of pumping hands and the senior financiers just gave him what he deserved - a cold reception. The word 'liability' is not always welcomed by bankers and that, I think, was the general agreement among the money men on the way they dealt with him.
Suddenly, he found himself isolated though he was standing in the same little circle. I could see he was uncomfortable in the way he shifted his body weight from one foot to another. Mind you, the effort must have been considerable, especially, when confronted by the mental stress of being totally ignored. At least, he had the sense of knowing that he was not wanted in the affluent circles and backed out gracefully.
There were only two other circles to mingle with. It was either the hotel staff or us the riff-raffs he despised. The third option was to stand in a quiet corner and feel sorry for himself.
Like a lamb being led to a slaughterhouse, he walked towards our group. We, of course, should have put him in his place but after all, he was one of us, and we journalists have to follow the fraternity accord that binds us all. Not that he was grateful, I noticed, he still thought he was above our station but then beggars cannot be choosers. He did not say a word during the five minutes he was with us.
He kept looking longingly at the business leaders and they kept ignoring him. When food was served, he bolted like the devil was on his tail and made sure he was the first in the queue. I guess it was some consolation for him. Eating first was the only personal statement he could command that evening and we all acknowledged that.
Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2012
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