Last week, I was in attendance for two pick-ups. I mean, at the time I wasn’t clear they were pick-ups, but reflection tells me they probably were. I am famous for not knowing when I’m being hit on. Incidentally, it’s a trait I inherited from my mom, who recently told me the tale of how, when driving in Foster City a number of years ago, she was pulled over by a cop who seemed to have no real reason to sounding his sirens. After ensuring the quality of her blinkers and brake lights, he sent my mom on her merry way. Only when she got home and told my father about this curious incident did my dad illuminate the actual lack of curiousness about it: “He was checking you out. Duh.”*
The first one should have been obvious. My running buddy and I met at our usual corner, and though it was not garbage day, the garbage men were out. This was pre-time change, so we were stretch under a smattering of stars (the Big Dipper stays in the sky til 6am – did you know that?!). With muscles rippling from under his distressed white T-shirt, one man called out, “Looking good, ladies!” My running buddy and I giggled, feeling energized for the 5 hilly miles we were about to tackle. Nothing like someone thinking you’re attractive pre-workout to motivate.
Okay. I got that was a pick-up of sorts. Wait, is a compliment a pick-up? I should ask Neil Strauss…regardless, a confident guy with zero hesitation telling you that your rocking tight pants and a baggy t-shirt seems positive. As I type this, I realize he was probably flirting. Is flirting picking-up? I need to do some dictionary recon.
The second was an actual pick-up. Even my dad would agree.
Public transit is one of those places where the unexpected is always a possibility, but rarely a reality. Occasionally you run into someone you know and love and exchange “What are you doing here’s?” Less occasionally (though it feels like more often) you run into someone you know and aren’t fond of and get really busy in looking out the window at the pitch black tunnel, only to realize they can totally see you noticing them in the reflection. Sometimes you and a stranger bond over an awkward event. And just this once, at least for me, I got almost hit-on.
I was standing in the middle of a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train, my nose nerdily poked into a book. The book is worth mentioning. It’s one of my favorite young adult novels, which I’ve loved since I was 15: A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle. The protagonist, Vicky, is almost 16, a thoughtful overthinker dealing with a perfect storm of life: an ailing grandfather, two brothers and a sister, consoling a friend over the death of his father, consoling another friend over his attempted suicide, and working with a new friend on his marine biology project involving dolphin communication (of course, all three guys are trying to date Vicky, or in one case, wanting to date her but also struggling to let her in). On top of all of that, Vicky weaves in and out of an existential crisis while trying to emotionally support her mom, who is struggling to watch her own father deteriorate. Yes, it sounds a little dramatic, but L’Engle is a master at taking these sorts of plots and making them tangible and normal.
End Reading Rainbow session – the moral of the above paragraph, in case you checked out, is that the book is definitely something an angsty teenage girl might read.
So. Standing, absorbed fully by Vicky while on a crowded train. The car slowly thinned out, and after two stops I hadn’t much noticed a guy who resembled the host of TakePart Live, Jacob Soboroff (but with bigger glasses) had maneuvered closer to me. I’m not sure what got my attention, but I looked up to see him checking out something in my hands.
“Hey, so does that book hold up?” he asked as the train took off from a station stop. I stared at him, then, holding my page, looked at the cover of the book, and then back at him. Tall. Curly hair. Dressed like he worked at a young company.
“You’ve read this book?” I asked.
“Yeah, in high school. I remember it being good, but I wondered if it still was.”
“Well, I think so,” I told him. “But I mean…I resonate with angst. And females.” He laughed as I continued, “But the conversation and concepts are still really engaging. To be fair, I’m not sure you would like it now.”
“Maybe I’ll try it out,” he said.
“You know, I’ve been reading this for a few days on BART and I was sort of hoping no one would see the cover of this book. It’s got a teenage girl swimming and a dolphin jumping over her. I know it can’t look that cool,” I noted (which indeed has been something I’ve worried about – being judged for reading YA fiction as clearly not a YA person).
Before I could tell him he might want to consider not reading it on transit or making a book cover, the train was at my stop. I said goodbye at the same time he said, “It was really nice talking to you,” and the doors slid closed.
And that, my friends, is apparently a pick-up. Maybe not a successful one, depending on how you define success.
*Duh added for special effect. My father would not say “Duh,” unless in a facetious manner.