Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Boy and the Barista

Hey everyone! Ever since I started this blog about the awkward life that follows me around, I've always wondered how awkward it is for the guy's on the other side of the awkward. I mean, when opera boy asked me out (sorry- that one can't go up online, opera boy follows this) I'm sure it was even more awkward for him than for me. Well, I've been fortunate to have my new friend Ben (Winston) tell us a time about his awkward moments with a girl! Ben has a blog that he posts poetry stuffs that he writes here: .

As a male in today’s version of American culture, I find myself burdened with the responsibility
of making my wants and needs known to the women I take an interest in. Though it is possible for the
reverse to happen (that is, for the female to initiate this dreadful exchange), the world is cold and cruel
and I have reached the point where I must take matters into my own hands.

My first foray into exercising this responsibility goes as such: I’m lying on a lumpy motel bed
thousands of miles from home at the Yellowstone Valley Inn in the miniscule town of Wapiti, Wyoming
and realize that no matter how much I think about this one particular lady (let’s call her Beatrix, for the
sake of anonymity), nothing will ever happen between her and I unless I take initiative. Though the
realization came easily, I understood the gall would not, and the days following were spent
contemplating my moves (or lack thereof) at a safe distance from reality, preparing myself to touch
down in Philadelphia and swoop into Bea’s life.

The confidence I had stockpiled in the West quickly evaporated when I walked into her
workplace (a particular Seattle-based coffee shop you may or may not have heard of) and saw her there,
grinding beans and frothing milk and whatnot. She smiled at me, and I had forgotten how lovely a smile
she had, and my mouth went all blah blah and my brain came mushy and there was no way I was going
to be macho or cool or whatever it is I’m supposed to be that’s attractive to the fairer sex. I kept as level
a head as possible and busted out of the shop before I could say something stupid.

See, during the impossibly long minutes (hours?) between ordering my costly poison and
receiving it we did chit-chat, and not just non-conversation like “Gee whiz, it’s a hot one!” (though I’ve
totally used that line before). She asked me about my trip, and I asked her about her week, and we
generally had a nice conversation. I put on the whole flirty/charming bit as best as I know how. Things,
you could say, were going well.

But I needed to refuel my confidence and charisma, so I asked for advice from a variety of
characters. All the input was appreciated, though a lot of it seemed to require too much confidence.
How was I supposed to find extra when I could barely muster up a reasonable amount? The bit of advice
I liked the most, and the one I ultimately decided to go with, was this: don’t ask Bea for her number,
give her yours.

*Pause for effect*

Yes, I know, I also thought it was brilliant, quite nearly too brilliant. It had the required bit of me
making the first move, but still left the choice of whether or not I was charming/cool/foxy enough to
warrant a call in her hands, no pressure. Perfect.

So the day finally arrived in which I put this plan into action. (Tangent: I decided I was going to
do this on a Tuesday afternoon, and though I went to the coffee shop more times than any human
should that week, I didn’t see her again until Thursday morning). I wrote my phone number on the back
of one of my non-business-y business cards, which have just my name, my personal email address, and
my Twitter handle (Did I honestly pay money for these? Curse you, VistaPrint!). Then I went inside,
anxious and excited to finally make my move, and there were about one hundred and fifty people in line

and everyone on Trixie’s side of the counter looked like they were about to freak out and start throwing

When I took my spot as number 151, a little voice crept up behind me and whispered in my ear:

“Hey Ben, it’s real busy. Like, reeeeal busy. How about you don’t ruin her day today, as the
hundred and fifty people ahead of you probably have it covered.”

Despite his casual and slightly sarcastic tone, my conscious can be quite convincing. However,
on this fateful day I was prepared.

“Listen, Ben, don’t you wimp out now. You decided you were going to do this, now do it,

So I inched my way up the long line, thumbing the corner of the card and telling my stomach
how awesome it would be if it didn’t decide to throw up right now, thanks very much. The front of the
line grew closer, and when I was nearly there she caught my eye and smiled hello. I tell you, nothing in
the world (save a swift kick in the nuts) can take the breath out of you as fast as a smile from a pretty
lady. It was like her stress had completely melted away in that one moment our eyes met. Other
vomitrocious and flowery thoughts ran through my head, the romantic sap I am, but I’ll spare the
reader. Just know it was kind of a big deal.

But, big deal or not, it wasn’t exactly a move (smiling doesn’t count; I’ve checked and
rechecked). I crested the line to whichever green-aproned chump happened to be running register at
the moment, my brain off in la-la land and my mouth absently placing my drink order. From here I was
free, and all of a sudden a plan was laid before my eyes as if by miracle: during our usual parting
exchange, in which she hands me my drink and I accept it graciously and I leave her with a witty and/or
charming comment (anything to put a smile on her face, really), I’ll hand her the digits and say
something smooth like, “Hey, I’d really like to see you sometime outside of here. If that sounds like
something you’d be at all interested in, gimme a call.” Then I’d saunter away from the counter and out
the smudged glass doors into the bright morning, slowly slipping on those cool sunglasses that I totally
don’t own but have in this fantasy for some reason while some intense music played behind me.

It was perfect, and in no way was it ever going to go that well.

Here’s how it did go: she met my eyes as she was about to hand me my drink, as per usual. I
straightened my shirt or cleared my throat or something like that (my mind wasn’t exactly doing its
normal “observe everything” routine), and she handed out the drink. I thanked her, and as I was about
to spit out my Oscar-worthy line…nothing. She quickly turned back to her magic grind-y box machine
(why don’t I know how coffee works?) and began the putzing and futzing of preparing whomever-was-
behind-me’s drink. My heart sank, my puffed-out chest deflated, and I turned towards the door to leave
the establishment with a missed chance.

“Dude, no,” my firmer conscience told me (the one who wasn’t mocking me: “Way to go,
dumbass!”). “You’re not going anywhere. You got this far, you decided you were going to do this, and if
you don’t do this now you will never do it.”

I usually do everything I can to ignore this go-getter jerk who bounces around inside my head;
whenever I take his advice, it gets me into trouble. The nay-sayer I can get behind. He keeps everything
as safe and predictable as possible, leaving me relatively unscarred. He’s also left me with a library filled
with missed opportunities, though, and I decided I wasn’t ready to add this situation or this girl to that

So I turned around to try again. In my oblivious state (I blame you, Trixter!), I failed to notice the
line I had waded through had been refilled with another one hundred fifty miserably caffeine-withdrew
individuals, and the poor overworked employees were looking as murderous as ever. Bea was madly
clink-clanking levers and slap-fwapping metal milk cups, and twisty whir KA-CHUNK and some brownish
blech burped out and the the whole process itself was mesmerizing and alien. I watched a couple add
themselves to the end of the line as the rest of the patrons stood stagnant, and I knew I’d better forget
the plan and try again later.

“Bro. Brooooo.” I so hate my conscience. “Hear me out, bro. She’s gonna get a break. Like,
between drinks, she has that little peaceful moment where she takes a deep breath and calms down
and ponders why the hell she decided to work this morning. You know that moment? You could totally
shatter that moment.”

He did have a point, I thought (stupidly). I couldn’t exactly try and talk to her while she’s making
some stranger’s drink; barring the terrible fool I would feel, I might mess up her flow and cause her to
ruin said stranger’s drink (which I’ve totally done before; the barista gets all embarrassed, I feel all bad,
and the stranger is hopefully (and usually) too self-absorbed to realize other people exist). But I did
notice the moment, though brief, between handing off a completed drink and grabbing the next cup’s
order. I thought it was possible to break into that moment, I just had to pick the right one.

So I sat down and waited.

Now, right away there are several problems with this. One, I’m not exactly a stranger to Bea
(or to any other employee at the coffee shop, for that matter), so she knows that when I come in on
a weekday morning I’m on my way to work, and nine times out of ten I’m already late. So when I sat
down, she immediately knew strange happenings were afoot. Now, you’re probably thinking “Ben, you
couldn’t possibly know if she was thinking that,” which brings me nicely to point two, which is where
I sat in the establishment. Was it off at a table in the corner? Nope. How about on one of those nice
leather chairs by the windows? Nuh uh. Or at the bar thing, but like, all the way at the other end, away
from where Bea was concocting potions? Please. In lieu of all those great choices, I picked a bar stool
real close to the drink pick-up counter where she was maybe ten feet away and waited there, trying to
sip my mocha nonchalantly. I know for sure she knew something was up because we were in plain view
of each other, and in searching for the right moment I studied her whiz-bang moves at the coffee box
very, very obviously.

We made eye contact several dozen times, and though she smiled at me each time, her eyes
and body language gave off a clear “something wicked this way comes” vibe, and did for the entire
fifteen minutes I sat and stared and waited for my moment.

Fifteen minutes. It goes by quickly when it’s most of an episode of How I Met Your Mother, but
sitting there it was an eternity as painful as the slow tug of a Band-Aid. I sat on the edge of the stool
sweating through my work clothes, completely frozen in anxiety and suffocating in the situation I’d
created. She knew something was amiss, and how could she not? I reeked of social inaptitude.

Finally, the moment arrived when I was going to slip in and give her the card. Fifteen minutes
was plenty of time to gather my thoughts and make everything awkward (about fourteen minutes and
forty-five seconds too long, in fact). I stood up from the stool as someone took the drink she called out
from behind the counter, and she saw me, smiled and said “Have a nice day!”

Was she telling me to leave, pleading me not to do whatever it was she thought I was going to
do (or try to, as the case were)? I wasn’t sure at the time, and I’m still not, but like hell I was leaving so I
walked up to the counter and called her over.

She looked at me quizzically, her big eyes tired from a terrible shift. I put my card on the
counter, and words came out of my mouth. It wasn’t quite a sentence, and it probably wasn’t even
English. It went something like this: “Hey, I’d like to see you not here, so yeah, here’s this…” and I trailed
off from mumbling into nonsense. Her eyes grew even larger, a look that toed the line between surprise
and horrified creep-outedness. She clearly didn’t know what to say, and I so badly wanted to just run
screaming out of the coffee shop as if it were on fire. My limbs shook and my stomach did backflips and
my eyes swum around in their sockets and I thought I might die before she finally said: “Uh, okay…have
a nice day!”

With that I walked out of the shop trying to look cool, which I found quite difficult since I had
completely lost control of my body. My knees shook and threatened to give out, my arms felt as light
as air and I thought I might drop my coffee onto the floor where it would explode all over a significant
number of the soulless patrons in the impossibly long line, a reality I wouldn’t mind because any scene I
could cause would be better than the personal, intimate revelation of stupid feelings to a near-stranger
that spun through my mind endlessly like an angry hamster.

But the coffee didn’t drop, and those in line stayed dry, and I sped out the glass doors leaving
Bea to contemplate my awkward scene, my blabbering words, and me most of all. I made it across the
parking lot and into my car, and managed to get the door shut and the radio up loud enough to hurt
before I started screaming.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Awkward Life Is a Musical

Tonight I had Engineers without Borders which meets in the engineering building on Drexel's campus. This building is tricky to find because you have to go through this other fancy cathedral/bank-esque building first to get to the engineering one and then once in the engineering building you have to wind through this maze to find the room. Last time, Taylor led me through it with Mike so we found it successfully with no harm done but he wasn't there this week. I had to find it all by myself. (Note- Mike and I had gotten fairly lost on our way OUT of the building last time when Taylor had already left.)

I was going to do the exact same thing that I did last time. Walk down Chestnut 'til I got to the fancy building, go in, find the weird hall and follow it. 

I go up to the door and open it to the fancy main building. I open the door and then next thing I know I am staring face-to-faces of a 200+person choir singing opera in the middle of the room/wrapping up the fancy double staircase. In my way.

So what do I do in reaction to having 200 people stare at me and block my way? I cower and hide.

I ducked behind a pillar while they continued to sing because I was so very incredibly confused. I mean, seriously, where do you just "find" a choir practicing in the middle of your path? I hid trying to see if I was walking in on a graduation or a wedding proposal or something but it really just seemed like it was a rehearsal. After a few minutes, I realized that I had no idea how I was able to get around them without them noticing that I had tried to hide for a few minutes. So now I had to hide even longer trying to figure out how to be calm and collected.Then I realized that some people (clearly enginerds) were walking by so I took a deep breath and came out from behind the pillar. That's when I realized a security guard had been watching me the whole time and was laughing at me.

I picked my head up and tried to pretend I was a strong, confident lady who knew where I was going in this building. But I still couldn't go the way we went last time- so I went through the only open hall in that foyer that I could go. Thank the Lord for college tours because they had lots of signs posted and luckily my intuition that I have developed from being living in engineering buildings helped guide me through the maze. I came out to the room I needed (via the opposite direction) and entered a room where no one else had seen the massive choir in the main building's foyer.

And such is my life. A walking musical awkward encounter that no one else ever experiences.