It was Robin’s birthday party last night. An old friend of his threw a great celebration at the J.R., with tables of great asian food and an open bar (!). There were two bands and much revelry. i left a little early myself. i guess i just wasn’t “feelin it”. On the walk home i de-briefed myself, and had a little insight into my social condition.
There was the usual cast of characters. i had some great conversations and laughs with a few local characters. Jim (a retired Shakespeare prefessor) and i exchanged quotes. Ed, the larger-than-life South African engineer filled me in on “the rest of the story”, from where i last saw him one drunken evening. i finally asked Miss Nancy why everyone always refers to her by that moniker. She paused and asked, “Are you pulling my leg?” i really had no idea; and when she realized that the confusion on my face was genuine, she laughed and asked me if i had ever heard of an old TV show called “Romper Room”. Well, the name sounded familiar, but i couldn’t say that i’ve ever seen an episode. Turns out that our Miss Nancy actually is the real Miss Nancy.
With some folks with whom i share some conversational connection, talk is easy. With others, where i don’t have the right comment at hand, it can be like pulling teeth. i catch myself just patiently standing there, not knowing how to make small-talk, seeming more like some sort of lurker than just another party-goer. The feeling was getting too strong, so i left.
Up this morning, i was mulling over these thoughts. i’ve long seen that i’m unusually comfortable “across the counter”. Several folks have noted that i have some sort of special rapport with wait-staff, clerks, and cashiers. i think it’s because i have a reason to be there; i’m a costomer or a patron.
There’s already a sort of relationship-framework in place, with rules and boundaries, which makes it easier for me to loosen up. In a great place like, say, DV8, the environment and characters extend the invitation further. When i meet the same people away from the counter or outside of the coffeeshop, i tend to handle things poorly, unless the other person is an exeptional character themself.
In the end, i suppose my awkwardness makes for less friends, but better ones. Still, i often wonder: who else has the “shifty lurker” or the “manic entertainer” scared off? How often will i be forgotten when the memory of me is too uncomfortable? How often will i be the one causing my own discomfort?