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Wednesday, March 16, 2005
People who know me wish I'd shut up. My family always tells me so. My friends just walk away from me in crowded shopping malls and I never see them again.
But with people I meet for the first time, I don't talk much. If only I was Clint Eastwood and people would think I am the strong-silent-type, not aloof.
Tonight it started well. I did what all shy people should do at these networking things: get there early, have a glass of some (non-alcoholic) beverage in your hand so at least one hand is not awkward, say a little something to everyone.
Then the rest of them came. There were a whole lot of people. Smile, I prodded myself, smile, damn you!
Don't forget eye contact. Try to notice what colour the eyes of the person you're talking to are, said one networking whizkid. I forgot that rule. But the lady I talked to said, "You have the most blue eyes I have ever seen." What the?! Was I staring? I thought I was just looking.
"Your eyes are a blue I never expected," she continued. "From far away, you don't look like you'd have blue eyes, but when you get close, they're really noticeable." The more I looked at her, the more I felt like I was staring.
Hands, quick, look at your hands, I told myself.
She asked me what my background was. The conversation ended after that. I still had no idea what colour her eyes were.
Seat-shuffling. Then a new girl sat next to me. For the next hour her back was to me. I think I got a sentence into her conversation; she allowed me to finish my sentence, not looking at me once, then changed the subject.
Someone asked me if this was my first time at this meeting. "Yes," I said. Then I added, "I don't usually go out to places where I don't know anyone."
"Good," he said. "You're leaving your comfort zone."
Then I relaized I lied. I do go to these things often. Every time, though, I end up with a glass in my hand and plotting my escape.
It's always so hard to leave. I didn't want to beat too hasty a retreat. Make sure you say bye to everyone, I told myself. Don't just rush out as if you hate them.
It all went smoothly.
Except that when I did go out, someone walked out with me. Someone who was obviously at that meeting but not someone with whom I talked. I walked half a block alongside this person trying to come up with something to say. I looked straight ahead or away because until I came up with something to say, I thought that maybe I can't just look over and smile. You know, they might think I was a lecherous street pervert.
Finally I crossed the street to escape the gap in acknowledging this person's presence. At some point, it is just too late to say anything.
I felt so dumb after the whole evening, I couldn't wait to get into my car and hide in my space. Of course, I walked so far that I wandered into the Downtown Eastside. At night.
A wafer-thin junkie woman asked me for money.
"Sorry - I can't find my car," I said to her.
"It was probably towed," she said.
Then she walked up to some man and screamed at him, "You fucking piece of shit!"
I walked back the way I came and found my car in the safe part of town.
Next time, that drink will be a vodka.
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