Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Talking with Strangers

I have mentioned my friend Rick, a former IBM colleague. I left the IBM job a dozen years ago, but five of us from the department have lunch roughly once a month, and Rick and I go to a movie and have dinner, also roughly once a month.

I'm not sure whether it's just shyness or what, but he really doesn't like to interact with strangers and doesn't like it at all when I do.

Several years ago we were having dinner in a restaurant and talking about movies in general, and neither of us could remember the title of a Brad Pitt movie. It was a well known movie, and at some point I turned to a middle aged couple at the next table (Rick, mumbling: "Oh, Christ") and asked whether they knew the name of the Brad Pitt movie involving vampires. It turned out they were British, pleased at being acknowledged, and were in the same boat - they'd seen the movie but couldn't remember the title.

Rick and I resumed our futile attempts to come up with the title. I began to become annoyed with it all and scanned our neighbors for likely prospects. Perhaps ten feet away there was a booth occupied by six young women. Now at that time virtually any young woman in the English speaking world could tell you whatever you needed to know about Brad Pitt, and I said to Rick "I *have* to know the name of that movie."

I stood up, turned toward the young women, and managed to avoid cracking up when I heard Rick say, "Oh, Jesus." I walked over to the booth and was greeted by six upturned faces, no paranoia, just curiosity and friendliness.

"I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I'm sure you can tell me something I need to know: What was the title of the Brad Pitt movie about vampires?"

Six women, in concert: "Interview with the Vampire."

"I thank you, and I'm just going to stand here for a few seconds and ramble on about nothing because for some reason my doing this embarrasses my friend."

Giggles from the six of them, and I returned to Rick, who was very well hidden by the menu he was holding in front of his face, and was greeted by "I can't *believe* you do that."

"That's nothing, watch this." I turned to our British neighbors and told them the title, and they responded with delight and thanks.

We got through the meal (Rick suffering no indigestion due to my activities), eventually paid the waitress, and as we put on our overcoats (it was winter) I said, "I have to thank them."

Rick rolled his eyes and I walked back to the women once more. "I thank you once again, and thank you for helping me embarrass my friend." We all turned to look at Rick, who was . . . gone.


Just Another Wannabe said...

Oh my! I do that all the time! Back in the day (yeah, I’m old enough to say that now), my friend, Bill, was like your friend, Rick. If I had a dollar for every time he said, “Did you know that person?” I’d be very wealthy today. Talking to strangers is always amusing, especially when I’m with someone who’s mortified by my extroverted behavior.

BILL: “You could be talking to your future stalker, you know? Or an axe murderer.”

ME: “Well, everyone’s gotta be something.”

BILL: “You’re incorrigible.”


BrokenDownProgrammer said...

Hi, JAW.

Rick has never been specific about his distress regarding my speaking to strangers, but it encompasses a *very* large area.

A couple of months ago we went to a movie in a complex of 30 theaters. "Our" theater was virtually empty, but there had been long lines at the ticket counter when we arrived and there were still long lines when we left.

I started walking over to the ticket taker and Rick asked me where I was going. "I gotta find out what movie is bringing everyone in."

Even *that* - speaking to a theater employee - caused him some minor distress.

(I'd tell you what the draw was, but I've forgotten. Ah ha ha ha ha ha.)