What one should not do

Last night I was sitting in Starbucks at Pioneer Courthouse Square, as I often do on a Friday night. There’s free wireless internet connectivity there, and it’s open until midnight on the weekends. Makes a nice break from sitting in a smoky bar. (I used to go to the café called Heaven, but they have apparently moved and closed up shop.)

Sitting next to me was a professionally-dressed woman. I judged her to be older than me, but not much older; late forties to early fifties. Red blazer, pantsuit, short-cropped hair. She looked like a real-estate agent or something. She seemed nervous and kept glancing towards the door whenever someone walked in. Waiting for someone. She even gave me a look as I sat down and pulled out my laptop, but I just smiled vaguely and got to surfin’. She wasn’t my type.

Shortly after, she was approached by a man of about the same age as her. Tall, thin, almost gangly, dressed in a ski jacket and ratty jeans, uncombed hair, glasses that had seen better days. I judged him to be a geek. There’s the computer-literate, and then there’s… what would be a category higher than that? I guess I’ll settle for “geek”, because that’s surely what he was.

They introduced themselves to each other, and he sat down, leaning forward, hands clasped in his lap, body language eager; she was more cautious, leaning back, arms folded across her lap, legs crossed and tilted away from him. She started the small talk with “So, what made you respond to my ad?”

Aha. A meeting arranged through the personals. Interesting. He gave some vague answer about her seeming “interesting” and they launched into small talk. I tuned them out.

Until, about ten or fifteen minutes later, I realized that the man had latched onto a subject, a topic that seemed to be an area of special study for him, although not one that I would normally associate with a first date.

He had spent at least ten full minutes talking to her about the Holocaust. Facts and figures of how many were killed. The concentration camps; he knew them all by name. Names of Hitler’s lieutenants. He could go on and on. And he did.

Her body language had not changed except to slide even further towards caution and distance. She had gamely tried to stay with the conversational topic at first, but soon gave up and settled for nodding politely and murmuring “Oh, I see” and “Is that so?”

He took these obvious signs of discomfort and disinterest as encouragement and pushed onward into new depths of his discourse. I smiled to myself as I overheard this one-sided conversation. Were they, perhaps, Jewish? Or, for that matter, German? Is this a continuation from whatever correspondence they had had before meeting face-to-face? Or was this a side of each other they had not yet encountered in their brief acquaintance?

I tuned out again for a bit when the guy on the other side of me asked me to watch his newspaper and table. When I turned my attention back to the couple, the topic had slid a bit, but not too far; he was discussing his all-time favorite movie: what else could it be, but “Schindler’s List”? Again, the poor passionate geek was overflowing with trivia about the movie. He compared it to other Oscar-winning movies; all others, he contended, were flawed in some crucial way and he took delight in listing many of the less-obvious criticisms. Leaving unspoken, of course, his main objection: that none of the other films were about the Holocaust.

The woman by this point had offered the phrase “Well, I really should be going” at least three times. Her patience in the face of her single-track-minded companion was admirable and evoked sympathy in me. I traded glances with the guy to my left, the guy whose table I had watched over, and he and I silently agreed that the scene to my right was at the very least funny, and more likely quite painful to hear. I wondered what I could do to distract the geek and provide an opportunity for the woman to escape. However, I did not want to insinuate myself into her attention. She, as stated before, was not my type. Still, there had to be something I could do. Had I had any coffee left, I would have tipped it “accidentally” into his lap. The thought crossed my mind that I could pretend to have a meeting with her, also. Sadly, my courage wasn’t the match of my convictions, and while I wondered she managed to finally wind the geek down and steer the conversation to a close.

As they stood, he stated over and over again that he would love to see her again, drawing a quiet “mmhmm” from her and the most amazingly subtle nod/shake of her head, indicating nothing at all with any specificity. He offered to walk her to her car; she jumped to dissuade him from offering again. He didn’t press the issue at all; in fact, he immediately responded by shrugging his shoulders and saying with finality (like this had happened to him before) “Well, I’ve got a bus to catch” and making a bee-line towards the door, not even pausing or allowing his date to go with him. She shook her head and walked out behind him, date, and her Friday plans, obviously ended.