You see I had this interesting experience in the city on the weekend. I had walked from the Metra Station to the Union Station to catch my last train, I had an hour to spare so I decided to sit down with my notebook and catch up on a few thoughts. When I travel, my favorite places to write are busy cafe’s or bars. So I found a little bar in the Union Station terminal. Quite ghastly but dimly lit, which frankly I prefer in a bar. I hate brightly lit bars why do they do that?
I ordered a beer. Then almost bumped into a guy behind me as I turned away from the bar. At a glimpse this guy had an uncanny resemblance to an actor whose name I just cannot remember, you know the guy, he was in that thing, that one with that girl. What was that girl’s name? Anyway he apologised, I accepted and moved away.
He sat at a table opposite mine. He caught my eye as I looked up from my book. (oops, eye contact, bad) Just one eye though as he was on his phone. After a bit I went back to the bar to get another beer (it had been a long hot day in the city) and still with his phone hand on his ear he raised his voice and called out “Put it on my tab!” to the bargirl. I smiled at the bargirl, (widening my eyes to her, like… shout across the bar why don’t you. ) Although I had not been asked if I wanted him to buy me a drink, I thanked him with a tip of the cold frosty bottle, ( he was still on his phone) and went back to work. A few minutes later, he said goodbye to his phone, stood, stepped right up to me and said he hoped I was not upset that he bought me a drink. Some girls think it is an insult or something.
I looked up from my book, laid down my pen. Pushed my stool back to get OUT of his space, which had been my space – he was way too close. And told him quite truthfully that No, I was in a bar, having a drink was not that unusual in a bar. And him buying me a drink was very kind and thank you very much. ( It was the manner in which he bought me the beer that was slightly less that clever. I mean one does not buy a girl a drink while talking to someone else ON a phone! ) I smiled. He had been brave. I flashed my diamonds around. That usually calms them down a bit.
So we spent a pleasant few minutes having an old-fashioned chat about not very much. I mean if a guy buys a girl a drink and she accepts and I think it is nice to, then he gets a couple of minutes. As well as that, when you get to a certain age it doesn’t matter who buys the drink as long as I get one.
Then he said can I tell you something and I paused somewhat apprehensively, turning my watch around my wrist so I could see it better, (your three minutes is ticking buddy) and said you can tell me anything you like ’cause we will never see each other again. He blinked at that but took it well I thought. It turned out that he had seen me at the Metra (that is 5 blocks away) and just happened to be walking in the same direction, behind me, ( oh really I thought) and although he was catching a bus (a bus?) he came into the railway station to have a quick drink. (only bar in town open?, my right eyebrow raising) Then wow, he saw me again. (Oh goodness, what a coincidence. Both eyebrows up by now) So he bought me a beer.( Hmm. Well. OK…I had a stalker, an unusually honest stalker, who wore baggy shorts and looked like a guy in a movie ). But, why can’t a guy buy a girl a drink?
He was a little earnest but not a crashing bore. He introduced himself, we shook. All very civilised. His feet fiddled as he talked. He answered my questions about his kids (two both in college studying law and medicine)and his job, (who knows) and oh your grandparents are from Germany how interesting,( Don’t mention the war) I zoned in and out. His wife was off the scene I gathered but one always wonders. If he had been too dull or even slightly lewd I would have said thank you so much for the drink, it was lovely to talk to you and now I really need to finish this piece of work. I would have placed my half full bottle firmly back on the table, wiped my hands, picked up my pen and allowed the contact to drop. He would have had his three minutes of polite nodding and small smiles. Then the cut-off. I think it does not hurt to be polite. Yet Firm. But I was still trying to digest his having followed me here. I mean that took a little thinking about. Was it a bad thing?
But maybe he was just one of those much maligned nice guys. But there was nothing on television, he actually really seemed like a nice fellow, so he got twenty minutes and I got another beer. And once he got over his terror of talking to a live woman he even became a bit interesting or maybe that was the beer. But it was a perfectly cool interlude in a busy day. Soon I began to slowly pack away my book and pens and he got the hint and thanked me genuinely for talking with him. Oh and evidently I am quite striking and have a distinctive walk. I wasn’t going to argue though was I, that would have been rude. Even if he had followed me half way across town. And what does striking really mean anyway? I am not sure I want to be striking. But I was determined to be kind. (Why is that so hard?) I mean why can’t a guy buy a girl a drink. Have a little chat without a keyboard and then off we all go. He really was a nice guy. And yes I meant to say nice.
And NO, I really did not think we had time to eat before my train, and didn’t he have a bus to catch? ( Oh yeah that’s right.) So off he went. I wanted to tell him that he really should take that plastic ID on a string from around his neck. But maybe Mike was his second name or something.
Two people of the opposite sex can stop and just talk can’t they? Mostly this is what people want when they buy each other a drink. So why are guys afraid to buy a girl a drink nowadays? Are the girls so lacking in confidence that they feel they cannot control a small exchange of words? Have they become harsh with fright? Why are we dubious about accepting a drink even from a fairly harmless stalker guy. Who I might add walked behind me for 5 blocks. Keeping his eyes to himself I hope! Now, I know that there has to be some kind of attraction and all that stuff, but come on girls we can manage that, can’t we? A bar is comparatively safe. Men are not all bad. ‘No’, is a very useful word if an unpleasant connotation enters your conversation. But do it gently.
So don’t be insulted if a guy buys you a drink. If you want to accept, take the drink, say thank you, take charge of the visit by asking him a few questions, chat for three or maybe four minutes, (well I am a fast drinker) make sure he knows you are only available for a minute or two, ( wave to someone across the room, over his shoulder and mouth ‘back in a mo’) after his three minutes, excuse yourself, shake hands (this is important – a very useful social nicety that ends an episode), leave the glass behind, nice to meet you and be gone.
If you do not want to accept a drink, smile and say No Thank You. Give no reason. No discussion. Just No. Smile and move aside quickly. Be kind but firm.
Or and I know this is an outrageous thought. Have a chat. You might enjoy yourselves. One day you may even meet a friend who was as stranger.
The loneliness and aloneness of ordinary and often very intelligent and lovely people is escalating. It is making people sick. We are looking for friendships with our keyboards. No wonder we are all so shy and inept at real conversation. A bar is one of the last bastions of controlled somewhat civilised communication. In the afternoon anyway. Well mostly controlled. Sometimes. And well civilised.. mm.. maybe that is the wrong word too. But you know what I mean!
OK.. back to the farm. I know I promised you Queenie but the others just kept popping into range putting in their two cents worth.