Stupid and Stupider 

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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