Friday, January 21, 2011

Friend or Stranger Danger

Yesterday afternoon I thought I would hang out at Panera with the other laptop geeks, have some Orange Spice tea, grab a table in a dim lit corner with an outlet, and write.

Good plan.


The table next to me became occupied.

Like, Dude, there are 20 other open tables!

I knew she was trouble the moment she sat down and looked my way, pulling out her laptop.  I didn't catch watch she said.  I just smiled.  Sort of the way you do on a plane when the person takes the seat next to you and tries to start up a conversation.  You do a lot of nodding, smiling, returning to the book you have already placed in your lap, while remembering the most important rule.  No eye contact.

Dude, do you see that I do not want to chat.  I have very important work to do here.

The no eye contact rule did not work. 




She was one very determined lady.

And thus she began ....

Lives on the Jersey shore.  Can’t stand NYC any longer after 25 years.  Works in the medical field.  A consultant, a systems-something-or-other who would like to find full-time employment in something-or-other.  Grew up in the area.  Mother lives nearby.  Sister also.  Where do I live?  Is it nearby ?  Do I work?  What do I write?  Been published?  Why do I come here and work?  Panera is better than Starbucks.  Starbucks is too noisy. Do I like my iPad. Do I think it can replace my laptop?


You get the idea.

By then my brain was screaming

Escape. Escape.

But there would be none.

There would be no escape.

Anxiety crept up into my chest, tightened around my throat, threatening to turn me into Cruella de Vil.

And thus the struggle.  What I really wanted to do was ignore her and be rude.  Because what if she was some sort of psycho-stalking-kind-of-crazy?

Or maybe.

She was just a nice person that if I gave her a chance, could be quite interesting.

I remember my sophomore year in college, a fellow female classmate began striking up conversations with me after English Lit.  For a long time, I tried to avoid her, racing out of class ahead of her, making excuses that I had to get to my lab.  There was nothing wrong with her.  I was just leery as to why she sought me out.  We had nothing in common.  No similar friends or activities. 

After several months of her continued pursuit, I started having coffee with her.  We started to hang out together and our relationship slowly developed into a close friendship that lasted for 20 years.

So while the Jersey lady continued to engage my reluctant self in her volley of chatter, I thought of my college friend.

But suddenly, she started to put her laptop away and stood up.  She was late picking someone up. 

I felt relieved. 

But I also wondered, did I miss a chance of making a new friend?  Or did I just avoid a Jersey Shore Snooki.

I wonder.

missing the mom gene (and sometimes the friend gene)