Blue Light Special
I don’t know why people even bother going to bars or using the internet or whatever it is people do to try to meet other people, because if you’re looking to meet and mingle, you need only go to the Astor Place Kmart on a Friday night. I’ve stopped by on my way home from work to pick up a few things three times now, and each time someone has tried to pick me up instead.
The first time it was a woman in the mouthwash aisle. I was looking at the bottle of ACT versus the bottle of ACT x2, trying to determine if there was any difference save the snowflakes on the label, when she sized me up and turned on the charm.
“What’s the difference here?” she said, holding aloft the same two bottles I had in my hands. Seeing a fellow consumer in pursuit of the same goal, I felt comfortable answering, “I have no idea.”
“I can’t even tell! They both say the same things! I usually just buy the plain ACT, but this one says it’s new, although I can’t tell why based on the ingredients!”
I know, I said.
She could see that this was getting her nowhere, so she tried another angle. “Have you heard those ads where they say you can just use mouthwash in place of flossing? Can you imagine? What if someone had steak?”
Yes, I answered. I had to meet some friends after my Kmart trip, so while I shared her confusion, I wasn’t looking to strike up a conversation. I smiled and selected a mouthwash and started to walk away. Apparently the smile wasn’t the best idea.
“Are you sure you want the blue?” she asked. “I like the green.”
No, I’m pretty sure like the blue, I said.
This was beyond comprehension to this woman, that someone would prefer the blue mouthwash over the green. “Really? Have you ever tried it before?” She was completely incredulous, and looking at me like I was an idiot. Flirting tip: bringing up food residue between the teeth and questioning the other person’s intelligence aren’t going to get you anyone’s number.
Yes, several times.
Now I was just annoyed. Who is she to come in and question my mouthwash flavor preference? She doesn’t even KNOW ME.
Then she struck upon an idea that I’m sure seemed foolproof to her. “Wait,” she said, a smug look crawling across her face, this smile that said, oh, I’m about to corner you, and you are going to fucking love me for it. I know this smile well because I make it myself while flirting, and now I know never to do it again.
“Wait,” she said. “When you buy gum, do you like spearmint or peppermint?”
Can you imagine being in a relationship with this woman? Ordering in a restaurant? Trying to control the remote?
“Peppermint,” I said. “Blue. I like blue.” I’ve been alive for over 27 years; I’ve got my flavor preferences pretty much down pat. Did she really think she was going to trip me up on this one? That I’d been buying gum blindly all these years, unaware that pink meant fruit and blue meant mint? That only she is privy to the holy gum wrapper color code secrets?
“Oh,” she said, clearly defeated. I almost felt bad for her. I mean, you can’t argue that point any further. She took a gamble and lost big. I smiled good-naturedly and walked past her to the next aisle.
“Okay, well, maybe I’ll run into you again later!” she called wildly after.
The next time I got cruised was in front of the wall of body wash, opening each one and sniffing. This sort of decision is always hard for me, because, like the gum, I know that when it comes to body wash scents, I generally don’t want the blue or green and do want the purple or pink, but I still have to smell each one individually. But after three Waterfall Orchid Berry Whatevers smelled like three different powdery grandmas, I just feel confused and lost and unaware of my own bearings. Which is why this guy caught me at my most vulnerable.
“I wonder what a glacier spring is supposed to smell like,” the man next to me said. I had noticed him shadowing me on the past three aisles, but in my body wash scent haze, I just figured he needed fingernail polish remover and tampons, too.
“Really cold water,” I offered.
“Ha! Ha ha! Hahahahahahaha!” he said, laughing way too hard and loud and hurting my Juniper Spring Mist-addled brain. He had a hint of a Southern accent and was wearing real shoes, like he had to wear a tie to work. About my age. He was clearly looking for a wife. He couldn’t think of anything else to say, but still hesitated three feet behind me for the rest of my shopping trip, until I studied a package of Pampers to throw him off.
The last time it happened, I wasn’t even shopping. I was using the ATM when a voice behind me said, “Hey.”
I turned around and looked down to see a 5 foot tall man wearing one of those brightly-colored woven Guatemalan belts I had in high school.
“Do you like world music?” he said.
I hate it when people open with a question that throws you. I used to live next door to this couple that was perpetually stoned, and probably didn’t have the cells to spare in the first place. The first time the guy talked to me, he pointed to my homemade Rushmore Beekeepers shirt and said, “Heeeeey! Have you seen that movie?” Uh. Well, yes. That’s why I made this shirt. Which is clearly a homemade shirt. About something that happens in the movie. But the first time I had a conversation with his girlfriend, we were both in laundry room and she suddenly said, “Do you know Dan Rather?”
How do you answer that? Well, yes, I know who he is. Everyone knows who Dan Rather is. But the way she asked it made it sound like she wondered if I knew him personally, if we hung out, if perhaps Dan Rather was the one helping me make all that noise late at night. I said, “Uhh…” and then she went on, “Because he was crying on TV just now.” Then she got her whites and walked out, leaving me standing there holding a wet towel with my mouth sort of open.
This was my response to World Music Guy. Do I like world music? Uh… no? But do I really even know what world music is? Like all that chanting and drum stuff? Just its very name sounds awfully all-encompassing, and implies that ruling it all out in one fell swoop would be sort of hasty. So I stood there, my hand on my ATM card, saying, “Ummm…” until he said, “Because I know this great band playing tonight, if you want to go.”
Now I had this to deal with: I had no idea there were even world music bands. So I kept standing there, making general clueless noises like “Anhhhh?” until World Music Guy shook his head in disgust and walked away, basically rejecting me. In Kmart. On Friday night.
My problem with any sort of come on or pick up is that I get bogged down in the details. I don’t immediately comprehend that someone is flirting with me; I think they’re just honestly interested in what that picture in my locket is, and then want to hear all about my childhood crush on the boy from The Neverending Story, not that they're trying to lean in and smell my hair. One time my friend Erin asked me to come over and watch a Jenna Jameson movie with her, and during a scene where Jenna was having sex with a pirate on a ladder, I said, “Wait, is she having sex with him as a distraction so the other passengers can escape, or because she really wants to?” The question hung in the air for a minute before we both burst out laughing. This is who I am. I question plot points in porn. Can you have my phone number? Sure! Do you collect them or something?