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Friday, June 18, 2004

Picking up a Girl, Part 1: Good Beginnings

I never pick up women.

I don't know why. I am told that I have the necessary attributes to pick up a woman: mobility and the ability to talk. Furthermore, I am told that I even have some attractive attributes: such as a sense of humor, politeness, social grace, intelligence, health, wealth, and physical looks that do not scare animals and small children.

So what's the problem?

Long ago when most of my friends were learning to pick up women, the problem was insecurity and respect, a potent double combination. Insecurity stemmed from my being unusually young in my peer group and the only Asian, a total geek, and probably a host of secondary issues I'll save for a future psychiatrist. Respect probably came from the way I was raised. I always liked to be a gentleman, surprise and spoil women, and treat them respectfully. They were to be cared for, not used. Frankly I don't know where that came from, but my namesake Freud would say it was my mother. Whatever the etiology, this combination meant that I didn't want to inconvenience women, nor did I want to put my ego on the line.

Net result: I didn't pick up women during the important formative years when I would ordinarily be learning the technique.

I had a friend who used what he called the "saturation bombing" technique. He would ask and ask and ask until somebody said yes. He had no problem with rejections, he just moved on. But I couldn't do it. Yes, the same person who could ask people for money for a startup from a teenager, and take the multiple rejections and ego hits in that process, couldn't ask a girl to go out.

Later on, the problem changed. I was well liked, respected, athletic, and successful. I was told (later) that many women at work wanted to date me, but I was too intimidating to ask out! When the first woman told me this, I was completely floored, since I always felt more intimidated than intimidating, and I was very open and friendly with women (in the only company where I worked, I was the highest rated manager... by women). Men have never intimidated me, even the most famous and powerful. But women, that's a different matter. So how could I seem intimidating? But I never made the first move, something that several girlfriends in college mentioned. And perhaps as a consequence, I have tended to date aggressive women who, more often than not, had other issues or took advantage of me.

Yet I will hire an escort. Is this because the exchange of money makes it ok?

My sister gives me a hard time about this, which she terms an "affectation" or a "wimpy lack of courage" (depending on her mood). I have to just go out and try, she says. I certainly don't lack chutzpah. I am no wallflower. I will walk up to world rulers that I don't know, say at Davos, introduce myself, and make a connection. I do not lack aggression. I have gone toe to toe with some of the most aggressive players in the world, with a pretty good win percentage. But historically when it comes to civilian girlfriends, I am asked out, I don't do the asking.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when I picked up a girl!

It was early afternoon on a fantastic sunny day. I was pumping gas into my car, looking forward to some nice driving, and a dinner and R&B music show with some friends later on. I am hungry, so I spot a sandwich shop next door. I fill up, park my car at the station, and walk over to the shop, mostly because it's in a tiny strip mall with very tight parking. The shop looks good with a creative selection of subs, so I order one and take it to their eating area. The counter and kitchen ladies are young, I guess it's summer job time for high school and college kids. I take my jalapeno-laden sub sandwich to a lone two person plastic table.

A group of three girls and a guy are sitting across from me at a larger table. They are having fun, joking around. One of them in particular catches my eye. She is very pretty, casually dressed, long legs, and not made up. She has a natural fresh look, but looks like she just graduated from college. But, hey, I can look, right?

So I'm eating my sub, when her friends all take off, leaving her alone at her table.

She spends a minute or two fiddling with her cell phone, and makes a couple of calls. Then she sits idly, starting to look bored. She goes up and refills her water, pokes through the cast-off newspapers, and then returns to her seat, draping herself like a cat over two chairs. Every now and then she's checking her phone. Her legs are put up and driving me a little crazy. I think she's noticed me staring, but is pretty much ignoring me, having probably classified me as "yet another annoying male ogling my legs."

But then I find myself walking up to her and smiling, probably like a loon. I'm psyching myself up. I'm imaging that she's a VC and I have this great idea: I'm a marketable concept. She isn't looking at me, organizing her purse, or maybe looking for the pepper spray, but I catch her eye and startle her a little. I clear my throat, always a great way to start a conversation (I think Dale Carnegie ranks that just above belching), and then say, "Are you waiting for a call?"

Now in the library of pick up lines, that one is probably at the back of the stacks, in the archive section, covered with cobwebs and dusted off only to show to students of lame historical artifacts, good for a sophomoric giggle like the dildo collection of the powerful Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt.

But she unleashes a dazzling smile and a wash of pheromones, and I can feel the oxytocin course through my body. She looks at me, and says, languidly, "Nope. But have a seat, I'm waiting, I'm bored and I'd like you to talk with me."

So I sit and we talk. Her name is Cameron, and she is a great conversationalist. We talk about the weather, a good place to start, but then move to ideal living locations and the effect of cultural exposure and local indicators such as currency strength, real estate law, and interest rates to international living choices. We talk about vocation. We talk about investment. We talk about education. We talk about love handles. She's fun. I like her. She has never traveled far out of the area, but reads a lot and dreams of travel. She has never been to the east coast, has worked white collar and service jobs while at school and, remarkably, rather than traveling, saved all her money to put a down payment on a small house in an unfashionable section of town about 30 miles away. Now she's saving to trade up to place in a more fashionable section.

She also takes in stray animals, spays or neuters them, and find homes for them. I try out my best puppy dog eyes, but she seems oblivious and checks her watch again.

I say, "Who are you waiting for?" hoping it's her twin sister, or even a sick aunt... anything, anything, anything but her boyfriend.

"Work. I'm waiting to go with a friend to work. I work next door." she replies, oblivious to my rapid and sequential conversion to seven religions and subsequent prayers to their respective deities. (It would have been eight religions, but after the first seven I ran out of spiritual inventory to pawn in return for my wish. After heart, mind, soul, devotion, worldly possessions, first born, and all other children what's left besides chastity, and offering that seemed counterproductive to the whole point of the wish.)

I'm thinking, She drives thirty miles to work at a gas station? Maybe the car wash? and the car wash idea has my mind racing ahead of my prudence, but I say nothing. I notice she is appraising me. Then she asks me what is your sign?

A personal note on astrology: I don't believe in it. But I know a surprising number of educated women who do, or at least have fun pretending to. I could go on and on about how our brains are great pattern matching machines, even overriding common sense and logic in its desire to find patterns and meaning and agenda (conspiracy) in chaos, but who am I trying to convince? Four out of my seven favorite providers ever are also Scorpios. Go figure. Maybe I'm the idiot for refusing to believe.

So I told her I was a Scorpio, and it turns out our birth dates are one day apart. Cameron reminds me that we are the most sexual sign, and laughs. The conversation takes a decidedly interesting turn to the left. At one point she admits to being very sensuous and liking touch, but only had a professional massage once. She complains that her boyfriends would claim that massages would hurt their hands after a couple of minutes, and would buy her flowers instead of a massage even if she asked for one.

Hey, even somebody as dense as me can drive into an opening that large: "I can't believe it. If I were your boyfriend, I wouldn't be able to keep my hands off you," I say, as gallantly as it is possible to say something like that. Then in a desperation fishing maneuver: "Your boyfriend must be crazy not to at least buy a gift certificate for a massage."

"Oh, I don't have a boyfriend. I've been single." A pause. "I guess for about a year now. I live alone and like it. My last boyfriend was bad for me."

She checks her watch again. "When do you have to go?" I ask.

"Fifteen minutes ago," she laughs. I protest that she should be moving along, but she says, "I can show up pretty much whenever. My friend can take care of herself... for once."

Flexible time at a gas station. I guess if I were running the gas station, I'd let a gal like her show up whenever she wanted to. But then again, if I owned a gas station it probably would be a non-profit. Or I'd be too tempted to blow it up and see if it would explode as impressively as in the movies. But I've never picked up a girl, right, so her flextime at work isn't my chief concern.

But thinking my time is running short, I decide to go for broke. I can't invite her to dinner because my previous dinner engagement was planned for a month. I fly out of the country the next evening. My brain races: "Say, Cameron, I'm flying out tomorrow evening, but could you meet me for lunch?"

This is the defining moment. I have asked a girl out. She hasn't even hinted that she wants to go out, I have just flat out asked her. I'm holding my breath...

She pauses again and looks at me, searches my eyes. While I'm turning blue, I'm thinking, god, she's pretty, and then she smiles and says, "Ok! sounds great. I can skip a few hours at work and we can have lunch and walk around if it's a nice day."

Sheesh, that was easy! I think, but I say merely, "Hey, that's great. Very cool. I'll look forward to it. Really. Wow. You're neat." and trail off before the bullshit turns into a case of the runs. And she writes down her cell phone number, and ensures I record it correctly on my phone. This is basically another first, receiving a phone number from a woman who I don't know that I've just picked up. (Last Thanksgiving I got a number from a woman, but I knew her.)

I tell her, "I parked over where you work. I'll walk you there."

She gives me an odd look. "You parked where I work?" she says.

Is there an echo? I think, but I say, "Yes, the lot is more convenient, and so I walked here."

"Do you go there often?" she asks, "I've never seen you there."

Well, this gal take a real personal interest in her work at the gas station, I guess. Then it strikes me, her family must own the gas station. That explains it all.

"No, just dropping by. It's a pretty nice place." I say.

"Really? Have you been to many?" she asks.

"Well, my tank needs filling up pretty often. I don't get very good mileage." Certainly not the way I drive.

She has stopped talking and is looking at me strangely again. "What are you talking about?" she says.

I pause, mentally reviewing the conversation to see what I said that was so strange. My review is interrupted by a peal of laughter. Which becomes even more raucous. She nearly doubled over. "You don't get good mileage!" she gasps, and laughs even harder. When she has composed herself and dabbed her streaming eyes, she turns to me. I'm wearing my Class A Puzzled Look.

"You think I work at the gas station." she states. I nod. "I don't. I work at the strip club next to it."

"Strip club?" I echo, dumbstruck.

I picked up a stranger for the first time, in a sub shop, and it turns out to be stripper.

[To be continued in Picking up a Girl, Part 2: Bad History]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is unfair. How can you make your loyal readers wait like this? Please, get on with the story.

6/21/2004 10:25 PM  

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