WOW, where to begin!?! First off let me thank everyone that has posted since my last visit, Rye Lee, BlackBull, Presidente'.
I took your advice guys, and went out yesterday with the sole purpose of talking to strangers
. Let me share my experiences, and trust me, this is with a minimum of embellishment on my part:
It was raining like something awful when I got into my car at about 5:00PM. I turn the key and meet my first obstacle
: the car wouldn't start. Not kidding. Owned the car for five years, and first time it's happened. I think fate is having a laugh at my expense here.
No problem. Called my folks, got my mother's car keys, took her car, which I've driven a grand total of five separate times.
I set out and wouldn't you know it, the wipers are old and don't clean windshield that well. So I'm driving in bad/atrocious visibility weather, I can't see a damn thing on the highway besides the dim red tail lights of cars ahead of me, my anxiety is rising, and I'm thinking about what would happen if I just walked up to complete strangers. Up until now, I've always known what I am about to put into words: I only socialized when there was a need to. Second obstacle
hits me right about then: all of a sudden I want to take the next exit, turn around in the opposite direction, and go back home.
I fight this pusillanimous impulse, and take an exit that takes me to the nearest bookstore. I'm thinking so much about what I need to do next in the bookstore that I don't pay attention to the traffic lights, and run a red at an intersection. This wasn't a yellow-1-2-3-red, this was a red-red-red. Thank goodness the lead car with the green didn't floor it. I'm not making this up, I've never run a red before in my life, not even when I used to drive during the dead (3-4AM) hours in my college years. The other car misses t-boning me by half a second.
Somehow, I manage to make my way into the bookstore's parking lot nearby without wetting myself too much, get out, and promptly get soaked by the pouring rain. That's actually the first break I've caught all night, because after the near collision I tried to drink some bottled water and ended up spilling half of it all over myself
I walk in, look around. The people inside near the entrance take quick notice of me in the usual subtle way, without eye contact, and go back to what they were doing. I look around for someone that looks kind of approachable. Obstacle three
looks approachable. I'm not kidding, if you try really really hard to find people that looks like they are completely harmless and open to conversation, you won't find them.
A few more minutes of this and I get really fed up with it, and I'm almost ready to leave. Then, I guess all that wondering and looking lost finally got the attention of one of the store employees. She comes up and opens to me, "can I help you sir?". I crack a grin when I realized the irony, and the humor behind my answer: "yes".
So I get her to show me some books, even making a few jokes and making her laugh a few times. I am not attracted to her (she was, well, pudgy), but I put some of the PUAF exercises to use nonetheless. I try to maintain direct eye contact when speaking until she breaks it, I talk with a slight hint of a smile, and when she finishes showing me the books I tell her thanks and touch her arm. The last one really made her light up, I saw almost a complete change in her body language, almost like she was breaking out of a boring Saturday routine into something new and interesting.
This gave me a lot of confidence for my next opening: this big, tall, black dude wearing a ripped and worn Cowboys Tony Dorsett jersey. I talk to him in an even voice but maintaining eye contact, and ask him where he got the jersey because I can't seem to find it anywhere. To my surprise, he speaks back in a similar voice and smiles; apparently his friend in NY bought it for him a few years back, and he even calls on his cellphone to find out the store! Obstacle four
: He doesn't reach the friend, and while he is waiting on the cell, the conversation reaches a lull. We're just standing there, and it's getting a little awkward, especially since we've somehow ended up in the children's books section. I am not quite sure how to handle the situation, so I break the silence and thank him for trying. I do spot the label "Throwbacks" on the jersey, and tell him I can do a search for it online.
(Hmmm, I need to look into the flow of conversations, and how to handle stops. I think this has been a big weakness for me, in meetings or meeting girls: when there is silence, I tend to get awkward, and that quickly turns into anxious fidgeting.)
I leave the children's books section and spot two teenagers in the spirituality section. Upon closer inspection, I suspect they are goths. So I walk in an isle in front of theirs, and overhear "by accident" them talking about astrology and tarots. I ask them, in a loud, clear voice: "Do you guys really believe that stuff?" Now I think this may be construed as mockery, even though I said it with a smile, so I quickly add "Cause my friend is crazy into horoscope readings, and I'm kinda interested too." They tell me they're just looking around, and show me the book they are reading. I tell them I'm a Taurus, I walk around the book shelf and ask what does the book say about me?
: Opps, I think I'm coming off a bit gay here, they seem to get razzled by this. I change the subject and ask if this section has anything on magic tricks. (I noticed one of the shelves was labeled "Magika" beforehand.) They tell me no, the books were on real magic, "like devil worshippers" one of them tells me. Ummmm err ok, so I try to joke about that, and it doesn't go too well---they're leaning away and one of them starts siddling towards another isle. I bid them farewell before they get completely creeped out. I am surprised though, that I felt no disappointment about the less than positive response I got in this conversation.
It's getting late, so I decide to make a quick stop at a Walmart. A couple of months back, this really cool elderly man there sold me a weight bench, and I've been meaning to talk to him about how much it's helped me. Up until now, I've avoided talking to him again, no sure why. I find him in the sporting goods section, and to my surprise he kind of remembers me. I let him know how good the bench has worked out for me, I've put on a lot of pounds, but now I've reached a plateau, my joints kinda hurt, what I can do to progress more. He goes all out, congratulating me on my progress, explaining to me that I need to train with intensity with high weights to exhaustion, demonstrating some of the exercises, and take me to the pharmacy section across the Walmart to get some bone and joint medicine. We shake hands and part ways. (Wow!)
I buy some beer in a liquor store on the way back, and promptly cut myself dragging the 24 pack out of the store fridge. Obstacle Six
: Blood starts pooling on my thumb, not quite spraying out but I'm getting it on my pants reaching for my wallet. I try to use that as a conversation starter with the store clerk, but god-damn it hurts and I'm a little pissed off. Whereas I would have faked disinterest in the past and act like it was nothing, I tell the clerk they stack the shelves too tight and I need a paper towel. I think I kind of came off as a jerk, but I didn't care at that point...all I felt was pain and blood. (Yeah I guess I'm a wuss, I haven't felt any real physical pain for years and the sensation brings back unpleasant memories. I played contacts sports in highschool, but that was a long time ago and my pain tolerance has plummeted since then.) On the way back, I concentrate on the pain and try to associate it with any negative thoughts that pop into my head about socializing that day.
I get home, it's only drizzling now, eat a seafood dinner with my family, and realized that this was one of the better Saturdays in my life