In which I share an anecdote with all of you.
Being approached by a woman who barely speaks English who could have been hitting on me, speaking a few words between us that never hit their stride, resolving that we had absolutely no shred of commonality between us whatsoever, then having her flee in an opposite direction.
I was mortified. Already keyed up and socially anxious after having moments before threaded my way through the subway system of an unfamiliar city, I was caught aback when she introduced herself.
Her behavior was a combination of bizarre, socially awkward, intrusive, and rude. Being approached randomly by a woman hardly ever happens to me. I'm usually the one who initiates contact in that situation and now I hope to God I've never put some poor girl on the spot by acting in kind. The she in question was a slightly mousy looking Indian girl who spoke to me on the shuttle bus over to the building where I am typing this to you now.
She smiled and said hello. My first thought was do I know you?
I smiled in reply and she smiled back at me. Her English was adequate but I noticed she talked like one who has memorized a few pertinent phrases, knows how to use them to suit her purpose, but doesn't know much more than that. Certainly speaking off the cuff is not her forte.
What was the strangest thing is that the conversation never hit its stride. Conversation requires two people to have a mutual understanding of what was said before and then to add to it. Once the process stops, conversations ceases.
Where do you work here?
I don't. I'm here for a study. (Please don't ask anything else!)
What study? (Oh, Christ, how am I going to phrase this? She's looking and me and responding so weirdly. Perhaps the truth would be best?)
Well (looks around nervously) I have an anxiety disorder. (Oh Christ, I bet she thinks I'm insane).
Taking control of the questioning this time, I ask,
Where do you work?
I work in the ER.
I bet that can be a very challenging occupation.
She breaks eye contact and looks as though she would very much like me as far away from her as humanely possible.
I'm going to walk over in this direction now (heads towards a recently closed coffee stand).
It took me two hours to decompress from this.