Last October, strangely personal fliers started appearing around New York City. They looked like this:
When I first saw them, they really caught my attention. For some reason, I wasn’t immediately repulsed, as was a female friend of mine (her response, when I pointed them out, was something like “ew…creepy.”). At first, the fliers struck me as a disarmingly sincere – an honest, touching gesture with no strings attached. In our guarded, jaded, best-foot-forward world, here was a guy who was willing to admit vulnerability and talk to total strangers about it. Further, the move didn’t seem completely self-serving: Jeff was interested in your loneliness, too. This was an interesting alternative to the psychiatric medicalization of the angst that we all feel at times – an anonymous mutual support line. I’m not all that lonely, honestly, but for a minute there I kind of wanted to talk to Jeff, too.
Then I had a second, less charitable thought. Perhaps, it occurred to me, this is some kind of publicity stunt. And even if it isn’t, even if this is the totally sincere gesture of a lonely and well-meaning soul in an indifferent world, how long will it be before some New York Times reporter calls this guy up, and he ends up with a book deal?
Today, this publicity notice landed in my inbox:
By Jeff Ragsdale, David Shields, Michael Logan
Publication Date: March 20, 2012
Jeff, a lonely, down-and-out actor posted flyers around Manhattan asking people to call him if they wanted to talk. He thought he’d get maybe a dozen calls and he now has received about 65,000 calls from all over the world. The texts and voicemails recorded in this book reveal a sometimes hilarious, but also dark and intimate portrait of the way we live now and the suffering of loneliness.
Which raises a whole new set of questions for me:
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