Friday, December 08, 2006

Battle of the Sketches

How are we doing? Is everyone having busy December? I am, that's fo' shizzle. You've probably noticed that posting is a lot less frequent around here, but for the hundred or so people that check this blog every day despite the fact that there is no new content, well, you complete me. There is going to be a little something extra under the tree from me this year.

The other day I was eating lunch in the food court beneath Grand Central. Here's a curious city phenomenon: even though people are crammed together somewhat constantly, everyone maintains the illusion of privacy in their heads so they'll carry on intimate conversations, confessions, personal business including descriptions of medical problems and calls to parole officers and general bad behavior in public. Sometimes people are oblivious that they are airing their dirty laundry and sometimes they are unapologetic. It's just how we do. In New York, you're constantly overhearing- there's an entire brilliant website devoted to it. Being the unscripted third character in a two person scene is sometimes droll, sometimes annoying, but mostly it just confirms your worst suspicions.

So, I'm sitting down eating some mediocre Chinese food just trying to read my book and next to me two guys are having a quick lunch. They're young, white professionals probably from a nearby financial or real estate firm, I guessed. They're talking about stupid shit, clubs, balling, women. Actually, one guy is doing most of the talking, the other is working on his salad. So the gentlemen next to me says, "That's why I have this policy. I don't buy shots for girls anymore."

"No," asked his companion. "Why not?" For some reason, I started to pay attention to the conversation.

"Well, it's like at my brother's birthday party. I had already spent thirty bucks just getting this one girl drunk. Then I went upstairs to say hello to Justin. I came back down ten minutes later and she was making out with some random guy. I was like, 'what the fuck!' So I grabbed the guy and said, 'Dude, you owe me thirty bucks for getting her drunk for you,' and he was like, 'No man, it's cool, I'll buy you a round.'"

See, there's a way to think about that story in financial terms as a reasonable expectation on a return on an investment, but you have to objectify the woman and totally disregard her feelings to do so. I thought about saying something to the douchebag, but it seemed rather hopeless and besides to acknowledge the conversation would be to violate the fourth wall of city living.

And in the interest of fair play, sitting next to me were two female coworkers on their lunch break, a white woman and a black woman, probably the same age as the guys but working in a different department, something administrative, maybe even within the same company as the douchetards on my left. The white girl had a boyfriend in law school in Miami, an ex-boyfriend coming into town for New Year's staying at her apartment with her, but she was adamant that "nothing was going to happen", perhaps partly because she was contemplating whether she should answer a booty call from a third man in the city, who had a girlfriend or maybe a wife, but wouldn't stop calling her. Nah, baby, she's just my sister.

The next morning as I was wedged so tightly into the 4 Train that I could barely move, I made the mistake of making eye contact with a young guy. I could tell from his Carharts and cheap gloves with the fingers cut off, and dirty ragged fingernails that he worked with his hands. He started talking to me about being crowded on the train, complimented my scarf, and then started talking about making connections and about how in the city people never reach out to each other to start conversations or help each other except in times of crisis. He said, "I don't blame them, people are afraid. There is a lot of bad stuff going on on the news." Then he started talking about the war, about how we could stop it and it wasn't God's job to intervene in our affairs and so on. He kept asking me questions to keep me engaged and keep me from ending the conversation. We were up against the doors. At first, I tried to be open to this rather strange guy who was now talking to me about his difficulty meeting women. Then self-preservation kicked-in, I started to think, 'Well, wouldn't this be the perfect instant for you to stab me. A crowded train, I can't move, you could slide right out the doors at the next stop. And how ironic it would be, you're looking me in the eyes so intently, talking about peace and connection... No thanks, crazy."

As soon as it was possible, I moved to an open seat abruptly. I didn't say goodbye. He didn't catch my eye again.


MCMCMCLY said...

Interesting that you should use the word "droll," as I was just having a conversation about it yesterday. It's such an aweful sounding word for something that is generally considered complemenaty.

I think of you every night during the SVU marathon on the USA Network. People like that guy have dungeons.

LaHip said...

I see that the city is making you paranoid and giving you a touch of the schiz. Who the hell wrote this post?

I went to the butterfly conservatory today and then swinging in Look Park. No trains, no sickies, just Smithies and NY ex-pats. TAKE THAT, MARTINEZ.

Lexa said...

Oh Nance, I am glad I am not the only one who has thoughts about people having the perfect opportunity to stab me/kill me. I probably have this thought about once a week when I encounter some freak on the streets here or I walk past an alley...

Joshua said...

Hmm, that conversation between those men is really interesting and disturbing, though I guess not all that shocking. I mean why else do people think these guys are buying girls drinks? I never thought of it as an investment before, like getting women drunk enough to not find you repulsive is like growing a garden. One spends time and money and eventually you get, um, to make a salad. Unless some other date rapists beats you to it. I think I'm mixing metaphors.