Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Girl Who Squeezed My Leg


No, this is not the fourth book by Stieg Larsson.

I have to write about something besides subway diagrams before this blog devolves into the equivalent of performing all the verses of "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall" to see how long you can take it. For the diehards: probably next time.

Also: The foot's getting better. Sorry for the whining last time. I walked six miles Sunday morning, and I even ran about a hundred feet Saturday while trying on new running shoes.


Her: So this girl I know likes this guy I know but he's been oblivious to all of her signals, so what does she have to do to tell him she likes him?
Me: I don't know, just tell him she likes him?
Her: Like, "I like you?" Just like that?
Me: Yeah, like that.
Her: I like you.
Me: Yeah, tell her to tell him that, and she'll be all set.
... pause ...
Her: I like you.
Me: Yup, you've got it... was there anything else?

That's nothing. You can see hundreds more examples of similar or worse cluelessness at Reddit. (And here's a tip of the hat to Nancy McGough's Deflexion web page for pointing to it.)

One of the contributors there summed it up:

I wonder if to women, who seem to live in a world of subtlety and nuance, we men just look like great big oblivious walking bricks. We are astoundingly literal creatures.

"Let's go back to my place and check out the new wallpaper in my bedroom."
"New wallpaper? Why the f— would I be interested in that?"

As I was reading this hilariously uncomfortable set of stories I began to feel like I spent time with the wrong people when I was young. I don't remember anything like this.

Wait! Then I got to this one:

I'm sitting on the bus, my friend is sitting in the seat behind me. A hot chick walks up and asks "Can I sit here?" And I say sure.

She spends the entire bus ride talking to me and seeming really interested in everything I say and asking me all sorts of questions. I'm completely confused and have no idea why she's asking me questions, so I answer all her questions, but don't really make any effort to assist the conversation. I was about as interesting to talk to as a brick wall, but god damn she just kept trying.

Oh no! This happened to me in high school. It was on the Inter City route 40 bus to New Jersey, leaving from the old 168th St terminal. Therefore I can date it my first year of high school.

I don't know why, but as I was assembling dreams into a continuous narrative for Plaid Dress, this incident came into my head and I threw it in, the only thing there that is not from a dream.

I was a kid then. Maybe that's the explanation. I don't think I can blame the all boys high school for this one. We had girls with us in grade school. There were some that I, you know, liked, by eighth grade. I even spoke to them once in a while. And they spoke back. Is that cool, or what!

So why could I barely talk to the girl on the bus? Imagine if I had. Then I might have had somebody to talk to each day when I went home. Would that have been bad? Beats me. I don't even know whether I saw her again. She didn't sit and talk to me again anyway, I know that.

Now was that really the only one? Probably not. Probably it's symptomatic that there would be other instances that I never even noticed.

Take the library job I had in college. Did any girls ask me for help? As in, maybe they asked for help as an excuse to talk with me? I cannot quite picture this happening:

Her: Where is 942?
Me: Room 414.
Her: I see that on the list. But where is room 414?
Me: Right after room 413.
Her: Can you show me?
Me: Yes. Here's a floor plan. See, 414 comes after 413. The rooms are arranged in numerical order.

It wouldn't happen because Barnard girls are damned smart and we all knew it. That scenario would too unbelievable. For her I mean. She would expect me to be suspicious if she pulled that. No deniability.

As to my response though, I'm sure I would have responded that way at the time and only realized my mistake later.

This might have happened though:

Her: Can you help me get a book off the top shelf?
Me: Sure, which one?
Her: The blue one, Deconstruction and its Malcontents volume 2.
Me: Here.
Her: Thank you. You're very nice.
Me: Hrm. [ turn away ]

That would happen because 80% of Barnard girls are too short to reach top shelves without assistance. Helen has told me this, so I know it must be true. (Why don't I notice these things?)

And the rest would happen too, because I would just hand her the book and get away. That's all she wanted, right? Even if she asked me a little later for another top shelf book on a completely different subject, same again. She probably wouldn't ask for more than two. Too obvious.

And I'd think what a coincidence it was that the only two books she wanted were on a top shelf. But it's only two out of two. I'd want to see a larger sample before I jumped to any conclusions.

Maybe it actually happened. Why would I remember? I may have missed a late night session at the West End discussing deconstruction, strict construction, the Reconstruction, and that malcontent down the end of the bar. Some guy working in the Butler stacks got to go instead.

But sometimes the girl who wants help reaching a book really just wants help reaching a book. If we guys start living our lives thinking everything girls say is a hint, that's not going to work out too well either. It made me think of something.

Some of us at work went to lunch one day with people we don't see very often. One of them was a woman I've enjoyed talking with in the past. If you think I've got a few good stories, you should have a chance to listen to her. But besides that, she's hyper full of energy. I like it. I want to absorb some of it. It will make me a better person. So I was looking forward to this.

We met at the place. There was an empty seat next to her, so I asked if I could sit there. This was going to be good.

One of the stories she told me this time was about vendors hitting on her. They offer to get her unit some extra stuff if she'll go out with them. She said she always asks them, "What's that ring on your finger?" It seems their wives never understand them. We both rolled our eyes. "One of them told me he was thirty-two!" Now I couldn't help myself, because I know she's about as old as I am. I said, "You're doing pretty good!" She laughed at that. "It means I'm still hot." I like her attitude. Still it's got to be annoying.

She was trying to get people to mix and not sit with people they work with. She had already suggested a few times that people change places around the table when she leaned into me to point out another cluster forming and asked me whether she should say something. I'm awful. I told her sure. Of course. I want to see her in action. I said the same thing when the waiter had not brought her something she'd asked for, and she wondered to me whether to wave him over or give him another few minutes. I thought it was nice that she wanted my opinion.

The whole time we were talking, she grabbed my arm a few times to make a point, and whenever she leaned over to say something near my ear— we were in a noisy place— I could feel her long hair brushing against my arm and shoulder. See, this is what I am not. This whole touchy feely thing. This level of enthusiasm. This dynamic energy. I don't know anybody else like that. It improved my mood. That's why I wanted to sit with her.

At one point she wanted to move herself, me, and the guy next to me over one seat to fit in somebody on her other side. I said sure, but I must not have jumped fast enough, because she reached over and squeezed my leg and whispered sharply "move down!". Whoa! Since I am pathetic, that was the highlight of my day.

Now my point is, I could have taken it the wrong way. I could have misread her and ended up like one of the vendors, and she'd be asking me about the ring on my finger. Instead, I didn't do that, and she's free to be herself. It's all good.

Over the next few days I was thinking of writing something about absorbing energy from other people. It was not a well formed thought. Have you ever done this? Spent time with someone who's very different but has some quality you like, as if you could catch it? I was trying to go somewhere with that idea.

On some afternoons at work when I need a break, I go talk to an old friend of mine down the hall for a few minutes. So I thought I'd bring this up. Sometimes talking helps work out my thoughts.

I started off by asking if she'd noticed how our friend in the restaurant was grabbing my arm and leaning her hair onto me and talking into my ear. "Yes Joe, I think we all noticed that."

Good. So I started talking about energy levels and how outgoing some people are and how I liked the contrast, but she cut me off. She had noticed a flaw in my logic.

"She doesn't do that to other women, does she?" Well, no, I guess not, I admitted. That is an element. It's funny I had not thought of it. That's why it's good to talk to somebody. Insight. But it didn't totally alter my main idea.

I was about to continue, but then with my friend's next words, a curtain was drawn open and the light of truth shone in.

"You're the only one she does that to."

Uhhhhh.... right.

Now that I think about it.

And yet, I still think it's just the way she is and it's no big deal. Don't tell me different.

Next time: Making a Subway Map IX.

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