Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I've Just Got One of Those Faces...

Apparently I've got that look about me that says, "Hey, you! Yeah, you stranger who I didn't even make eye contact with, come talk to me!" After work today, I got on the Red Line to head to Trader Joe's on my way home. I was tired and sticky from the humidity, and all I wanted to do was read my book and tune out. Guess my face didn't express that clearly enough.

"Hey is that one good?" I looked up and saw a girl pointing to the new David Sedaris book I was holding. After awkwardly popping theTootsie Roll Pop out of my mouth with the one hand that was not gripping the subway pole for dear life, I answered, "Oh, um, yeah, so far... so good..." I don't know what to say to that! I wasn't planning on discussing my literary choices just then! I was far too busy worrying about what would happen if I suddenly pitched forward with said candy in my mouth...would the results be tragic? Would I jab someone with the stick? Would I swallow it whole? Either way, I was caught off guard. Then, once I had pulled the sucker out of my mouth to answer, I was worrying about getting it stuck on someone else on the packed train. And not because I didn't want to offend someone. Nope, because I was concerned that if I did that, they would contaminate it and I wouldn't be able to eat it. Apparently that makes me selfish.

So far this story is kind of a snooze right? Well I'm about to make it... longer. (You thought I was going to say "more exciting," didn't you? Sorry, kid, life's a disappointment sometimes.) Anyway, after I proved to several strangers around me how socially awkward I was by attempting to rearrange my book, my sucker, and my bag as well as carrying on a half-assed conversation with random train chick, another guy stepped forward to join this stimulating discussion. Some kid in a Columbia College t-shirt chimes in with, "Oh, ummm, yeah how is it?" like he's heard of it. Again, I tell them both it's great and he says, "It's a novel, right?"

WHAT?!?! NO, fool! Sorry, but I'm a huge fan of David Sedaris. It's totally fine if you aren't knowledgable about an author, but don't act like you are because you want to join a conversation. Ask an intelligent question like, "Oh, that looks interesting ... what type of writer is he?" I will be far more impressed. After that, we all started talking (with noticeable awkward pauses every minute or so) and the conversation went from David Sedaris (go get When You Are Engulfed in Flames.... so good! Or really any of his stuff, just go, quick, read some of his work!) to his family to all families being dysfunctional to his actress sister Amy Sedaris to Sex and the City to Kim Cattrall being one hot cougar. Um...what? None of those transitions were mine. I don't think I even really contributed but both people kept talking to me like I was the one carrying the conversation.

Then I got to my stop and had to elbow my way off the train. After which, I breathed a sigh of relief. It's not that I don't like people or talking to strangers. I love both really. But I just wasn't in the mood today and felt like I was forced into chatting because I just so happened to share five square feet of public transportation space with two other people. So you can maybe see how I was happy to get off that train and go back to being anti-social. Of course, though, I didn't get off that easily. Going up the escalator, a man turned around to me and commented, "Man! That was tough getting off of the train, huh?" Maybe I seemed bored or maybe he was in a hurry, but lucky for me, he didn't really pursue it. Still, everyone thought I was Miss Friendly today.

Just when I thought that the last person I would have to talk to for the day would be the checkout guy at Trader Joe's... I passed a Columbia College shirt. Who promptly whipped around and said, "Heyyyyyy....wait a minute! I know you from the train. So tell me more about this book." Nooooooo. No, random college boy, I do not want to tell you about a fabulous book that you have no intention of actually reading. That's what I wanted to say, but I was too tired to come up with an excuse not to stand in the natural dog food/Larabar aisle talking to him. And, I've been told, I'm not really mean enough to snap at people like that. (At least not in person. But oh man, hand me a pen and I will give it to you good. Alas, I didn't have a pen and he might have thought me crazier than average by writing out my responses instead of, you know, verbalizing them.)

So he asked me if this book will give him a different perspective. What? Yeah, sure. My answers were apparently not good enough so he went on, "Like, I'm a film major, so I want to see things differently." Well I'm a writer, would you like to hear about how I'm seeing you? Or about how this encounter is pretty torturous and how I would really like to go back to checking out the nutrition labels of all of the weird health bars rather than chat it up with you? Or how I'm getting slightly annoyed that you are taking up the entire aisle and disrupting the flow of traffic and aggravating your fellow shoppers? And aggravating ME since I am now that annoying girl in grocery store by association because people think we actually know one another?! [Deep breath]

I let him go on while I mentally ran down my grocery list: Yogurt? check. Apples? check. Wine? No, silly, you still have some in the fridge. But would another bottle really hurt? If you are planning on drinking it all tonight, then yes it would. "...and like Stephen King... his stuff, it's like..." Strawberries? No, those didn't look very good. Oatmeal? check. Oh! He's done talking! Run while you can!

After a few (long, painful, agonizing) minutes, mister self-involved film major decided he should go. I'm not sure why he didn't notice my glazed-over eyes before, but I was thanking my lucky stars he finally got the hint that I would like to skedaddle. Also, why was he talking to me for so long anyway? Is he lacking in the friends department and was just SO excited that someone would finally listen to him? Or was he trying to hit on me? If he was then a) homeboy needs to work on his game and b) ew, I was all sweaty and humidified. Oh, right. And c) I'm a little too old for him. I don't go for the younger boys. At least not anymore. (What? It was just a silly little three-year phase in college!)

Finally, my day of unexpected socializing was over. I did have a close call though. I went to grab some hummus and saw that same t-shirt boy in the cold foods section. So, in the spirit of awkwardness that governs many of my choices, I decided I could go without and rough it for a few days. And with that, I headed for the checkout, trying to look as unfriendly as possible.


ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Thank you so much for your kind comments on my blog. You truly are a sweetheart. Oh, and I forget if I asked you already, but may I add you to my blogroll?

carla said...

just stumbled over here and LOVED this post.

I totally have that face as well (and always get, from women, the 'oh my gosh I never chat with strangers this long!!') but youve written about it far more eloquently than I :)

(and the book? I loved it.)


newcitygirl said...

Thank you so much! I always get so pumped when I see that new people (or any people really...) have read my writing! I've definitely been checking out your site too since i am obsessed with all things health (well... currently... obsessed with reading about it at least, haha). Anyway, thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Though I'm the most unoriginal person in America for saying this, David truly is my favorite (since this is true, I can use first-name basis, right?).
I couldn't agree with you more about unneccesary yet unavoidable small talk. I think the worst part of it all, though, is when you run into the person again and again (like you in Trader Joe's) and have to make that obligatory head nod? I hate that!

newcitygirl said...

thingsido: You can totally call him David. I bet he'd encourage it even. Also, right up there with the obligatory head nod is the tight uncomfortable smile combined with the quick but noticeable eye aversion. I love awkwardness.