Friday, January 27, 2006

One night out

Last night, I went to a "nosh mob" sponsored by the City Paper. It's not a singles thing, but rather an event hosted for those of us who volunteer to write restaurant reviews for the paper (I think I've written exactly one). I've never been able to make it to these events before, since they are only announced a day in advance, but my plans for salsa dancing fell through so this was my big chance.

I trundled myself up to an area directly north of the city and I arrived about 20 minutes after the 6:30pm start time. The bar area--which was reserved for our group--was full but not packed. There were no free spaces at the bar, though. There were some small tables with comfy looking bench/couches facing the bar, but each one was occupied by exactly one couple. And each couple was sitting very close and looking deeply into each other's eyes. Oh dear. Not to mention that the entire bar was filled with couples or pairs of friends. (There was one group of two women and a guy--the third wheel was a tiny blonde in a pink faire isle sweater who kept drawing my attention with her overly loud laugh. A faire isle sweater? The last time I wore one of those was in the 8th grade.)

I got my free drink, which was wretchedly sweet and spicy. (It contained passion fruit juice and Serrano peppers. Too much for me.) Eventually, a spot opened up at the end of the bar and I sat myself down. There was a couple sitting next to me (of course!) and the woman had her back turned on me to face her fella. Being at the end of the bar, there was no one on my other side. I was truly isolated. Obviously, I should have brought a friend.

The bartender stopped by to check on me and I said I was fine. He came back and put an open menu in front me, "Here you go, sweetheart, something to read, so you won't be bored." And he smiled. I smiled back. I thought, "Is he flirting with me?" Then I called Velvet. (There is another someone I could have called, but she was out of town.) Who better than Velvet to advise me in all things related to flirting with bartenders? She was highly amused to get my call and at first thought I was talking about her bartender. I assured her I was not.

"I can't tell if he's flirting or just doing his job. I'm terrible at this. I feel like I'm imposing."

She said, "Why don't you ask him to recommend something from the menu. If he really talks to you about it, that might mean something. If he only says one thing then walks away, then he's not flirting."

"Ok." I said. "I have a plan."

We hung up and the bartender came back. "Have you decided on anything?"

"I don't know."

"Well, I'm going to just keep coming back to check on you, if that's ok."

"Sure…umm…well…is there anything you would recommend?"

He proceeded to give me a tour of the entire menu, pointing out one or two options in the salad, appetizer and entrée categories. He finished with, "But that's just what I like to eat."

"Ok, well, you've given me a lot to think about."

"I'll leave you to it." And he walked away.

I watched him interact with the other patrons. I also just watched him. Handsome, slim. Probably younger than me, but at least 30. Balding. I saw tattoos on one arm. Nice voice. Very pleasant.

The bartender gave me a glass of water and another smile. "I told you I'd keep coming back to check on you." I smiled, but didn't manage to order or say anything else before he rushed off.

I thought a lot about ordering. But it was so darn lonely in there, that I eventually gave up the notion. It was very cold outside and it was going to take almost and hour to get home, so I decided to call it a night.

I got my stuff together to go. I caught the bartender's eye and he came over. "I'm heading out…"

"You're leaving?"

"Well, it's late and I have to walk to the metro. It's not far, but it's really cold."

"Yes--it's rough out there tonight."

"Next time I will order something. And maybe I'll even talk to people."

"You should mingle more!"

"I would, but have you seen this group? Everyone brought a friend."

"That's true. But you just sit at the bar and say hello to who ever you're next to. It's easy."

"Not with these people…" I motioned to the woman sitting next to me, who still had her back turned.

He smiled slightly, cocked his head, and said quietly, "Well, no. Not with them."

"Anyway, I did sit at the bar. I know that much." I smiled. "Besides, all those tables…they were full of couples…"

"I'm feelin' you there." Hmm, perhaps he's single?

"Well, you're much better at this than I am--you're a professional after all. It's part of your job."

"I suppose that's true. Are you new in town?" He asked.

"Not at all! I just don't get out much." I laughed and so did he. "No, that's not true. I get out plenty. I'm going to freeze on my way to the metro--I wore a skirt today--I don't know what I was thinking."

"You wore a skirt?"

I was standing a little way from the bar and kicked up my leg so he could see my tights. "Yep. Crazy."

"You are going to freeze."

"Do you live near by?" I asked.

"Not really I live in [funky, inconvenient-to-everything, neighborhood]."

"Oh, I know where that is! It's a cool area. But it's far."

"It's about a 30 minute walk to the metro."

"Thirty minutes! That's long. Sometimes I walk to work; that's about 40 minutes."

"That's long too."

"But I don't add a metro ride on top of it. And I don't do it in this weather. Too cold."

"Honestly, it is too cold, but I do it anyway."

"Well, I'm going to bundle up and I'll be fine." Then I stuck out my hand and said, "Good to meet you. I'm Jamy."

He shook my hand and said, "I'm Ned. Come back and see us."

I said, "I will." And I marched out that door, straight home to my mediocre frozen dinner and pesky cat. I was in bed by 11:00pm, though, which was really for the best.

Grateful for: friendly strangers.
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