Today at the university gym I was walking to the locker room and I suddenly started to hear the conversation of two guys walking behind me. The first guy was talking in a normal, serious tone, and I just heard the last part of his sentence:
"…yeah, so I found this one girl that I think wants the room, but like she’s Irish and - "
Suddenly, his friend (who’s clearly a bro) emphatically interjects:
“Dude! you do NOT rent to Irish people! That’s like, the first rule of sub-letting!”
To which the potential sub-letter replied, his voice going up an octave as if out of indignation that his bro friend would assume him so unaware of such basic subletting rules:
“I KNOW! but…”
After the “but” I was in the locker room and could hear no more. But my mind was full of questions: Why was the bro so against the idea of sub-letting to Irish? Why did the first guy agree with that sentiment like it was the most obvious thing in the world?
My first thought was that the second friend had a bad experience in the past sub-letting to an Irish person and became prejudiced. I quickly dismissed that idea. It would take more than one or two bad apples to create that kind of reaction, and I doubted he was old enough to have been able to have that experience.
My second thought was more charitable. I thought that maybe these guys were history majors, and that they were mindful of how absentee landlords in Ireland once restricted huge numbers of peasants to tiny sublet plots of land, evicting them in times of hardship and just generally keeping Ireland in a state of subjugation. Maybe they thought offering a sublet to an Irish person would be like reopening the old scars of a national trauma. This explained why the first friend felt he had to justify his thinking, and I imagined him completing his last sentence by saying: “I KNOW! but she told me she wanted to prove that the Irish could participate beneficially in all forms of tenancy!”
Unfortunately, I was soon reminded by a friend that there was actually a boring reason for the bro’s warning: the Santa Barbara “Irish Invasion,” which has become something of a tradition. Every summer a bunch of Irish students come here and sublet rooms. They have a very rowdy reputation that I had forgotten.
So, mystery solved, no cultural empathy, and officially mundane and pointless. However, I still can’t get over how weird that exchange sounded out of context, and how intensely emotional these guys got for a moment over the “rule” against sub-letting to Irish. The absurdity of it made me laugh a lot
Who else has recently overheard part of a weird, awkward, or unsettling conversation?