One of the more unsavory aspects of my job is annual attendance at the state fair to schmooze and (hopefully) recruit students. It’s kind of a long haul, to be honest, sitting in a tent for however many days and trying not to laugh at the mullets, which are on display in shocking number and variety. (I find the she-mullet, or demi-poodle, to be the most disturbing. Your mileage may vary.) You also have to keep yourself from leaping up in outrage when some parent says something along the lines of “You ain’t never goin’ to no college anyways.”
So I always reward myself with a trip to one of the better restaurants in the area and eat lots and drink wine and generally relax with a book, because they know how to deal with single patrons and not make them feel like they’ve got some kind of communicable virus that might infect the other happy diners with despair. The book is key, because it indicates seriousness of purpose, that you don’t feel like being rushed, and that you’re capable of entertaining yourself without a companion.
This year I forgot the book. Never again.
There was another single diner seated near me, and he couldn’t have been nicer, but he obviously had heard the despair virus rumor, so he kept trying to engage me in conversation. And, to be honest, the whole trip down here has been about cheerfully engaging strangers in conversation, which is not my best event under any circumstances, so I wasn’t in a rush to contaminate my reward dinner with more of the same.
But what am I supposed to do? Be some icy bastard with this guy who’s really friendly and has the best of intentions? It’s not like I’m on-line, for pity’s sake.
So chat I did, but he had this weird timing, in that he’d ask a question right when I was biting into something, and he’d be really loud and jovial, and it would startle me, so I bit my tongue about four times. I bit my tongue really, really hard, and it definitely affected the flavor or my dinner choices.
Never forget the book.