So I pulled up a seat, threw on my glasses, and opened my book: Birthing God: Women's Experiences of the Divine by Lana Dalberg. As I got settled, the bartender brought me menus, and I glanced at the man sitting next to me. And then, of course, I had to tweet:
There is a handsome man in the bar next to me. ALSO READING A BOOK. Dear God, where's @LudovicSpeaks when you need a wingman?This isn't my first time in a bar with a book, and Ludovic has gently chided me more than once for my barbooking ways. Barbooking is not known for results in terms of successfully attracting other
— Bombalurina (@grammercie) March 24, 2014
bar patrons. This actually is the first time I have ever noticed a man in a bar with a book. Although it may be that I am usually too far gone in my own book to notice.
One time I pulled my chair up to a neighborhood bar. There was some sort of vile television on, but the guys there are mostly harmless, so I grab a beer there every now and then. One of the gentlemen moseyed on over and said, "Hey whatcha reading?" I glanced at him, then at the book (whose title was clearly visible) and read the cover out loud. It was a novel, I think, although I don't remember which one.
He wrinkled up his nose and said, "What do you do in your free time?"
I startled a bit, since I thought it seemed obvious what I do in my free time. "I read books," I said.
"You read BOOKS?" He snorted. Literally, he snorted. Then said, "You need to get out more."
And that's about how it goes when I am barbooking. I keep holding out hope that there I will be in a bar, reading a book, and some imaginarily great person will come along and ask what I am reading, and think that a person reading a book in a bar is a brilliantly wonderful image. But mostly people tell me to get out more. Ludovic has told me women reading books in bars give off an air of "don't bother me" or some such. And that's probably true. I mean, don't bother me if you don't think a woman reading a book in a bar is the sexiest thing since sliced bread.
So there I am with my Disney princess romantic fantasy about books in bars (and really, you can substitute coffee shops and parks for bars--reading books appears to be a deeply problematic and suspicious activity). And what should I see, but a fellow human being ALSO READING A BOOK IN A BAR.
The obvious answer would be to ask him what he was reading. Judging from my barbooking experience, this is what is expected. But I actually think going in with "whatcha reading?" is problematic on a few levels:
1. It's not hard to read a book title. How hard is it to read a book title? No need to ask if the title is printed boldly for all to see.
2. You don't know my name, but you wanna know what I read? We don't know each other like that.
3. It's actually annoying to be asked what you're reading. Like 99% of the time the other person is making small talk. And I'm busy avoiding small talk by reading a book. If I wanted to have small talk, I wouldn't be reading a book in a bar. You don't really want to know what I'm reading.
But the surreptitious glances were flying back and forth. A half smile, a half glance, a look away at the TV. I mean, how often does one meet a fellow barbooker? It's heady, even.
I had just ordered food, but he was finished. A chinese place, so he was working on his fortune cookie. I went for the less cliché, but equally dull question, "So, hey, what's your fortune cookie say?" He laughed at me outright and said, "You can have it! In my family we have a tradition: if you get a good fortune, you have to give it away to somebody else.
Well now, I thought, maybe so, interesting man!
So we chatted a while, and we worked up to "Hey whatcha reading?" He was reading a book on badminton techniques. Ok, not really. But something like that. We chatted about badminton. I actually used to play pretty well.
"Well, what are YOU reading?" he asked, invoking accidentally my barbooking rule #1 above.
"A book on women's experiences of the divine."
"Are they different than men's experiences of the divine?"
"Well that's what I'm trying to find out. The author seems to think so."
"Yes, the title gives it away, doesn't it?"
"I'm not convinced, but I'm only on page 3."
"You at least have to give her through the introduction!"
Well, the introduction stated that the attacks on the twin towers would not have happened if women's voices were heard more in the world. But I have seen women fight viciously. But perhaps there is more nuance to the author's argument than "Just put the women in charge," and I will have to get off page 3 in order to see.
So somewhere in there we got on to what we do for a living. Pastor is usually a bit of a buzzkill when barbooking--not only do I have a book in bar, but I also pray to Jesus. It's a tough combo. One time a guy sat down near me:
"Hey baby, what's your number? Whatchu do for a living?"
"I'm a pastor."
"No kidding?" <long pause> "You know, I...I pray everyday. I find it helps. I pray every morning." And that was the end of "Hey baby, what's your number."
But this guy didn't run screaming, so I thought, "Hey maybe there's something TO that fortune. My luck might change!" And then this beautiful man dropped the girlfriend all smooth into the conversation. Something like, "My girlfriend works downtown on this building blah blah blahty blah..."
So clearly my luck was not in any way changing. Although he was pleasant enough to chat with AND a fellow barbooker. He was a nice talker, and pretty good at it, so we kept the conversation going a while.
And that's when it happened: the waitress brought out my fried rice. She had a horrified look on her face: "Ma'am? MA'AM. They made your rice with brown rice instead of regular. I'm so sorry. Is this going to be ok? Are you sure? I'm going to take the rice off your bill, so sorry about that."
"AHA!" I thought, my luck IS changing. FREE FOOD! And all because they substituted the good brown rice for the cardbooard in a box white rice. It's like getting paid to eat--which I gotta say is a pretty good sounding job.
We chatted some more while I packed it away. And I guess it isn't ladylike to pack away food, but I was hungry, and I'm not really good at ladylike anything.
The waitress brought me the revised check and a fortune cookie. It seemed only fair, so I gave him my fortune. It read, "A crab wonton a day keeps the doctor at bay." I was kind of sad, because I'm partial to crab wontons, and that would have been a good justification. But "your luck will completely change today" has it's own seduction, so I gave him my fortune. He wasn't sure what a crab wonton was, so clearly this wasn't fated to be, girlfriend or no.
But anyway, I TALKED TO ANOTHER HUMAN IN A BAR. Ludovic will be so proud of me!