True Life Stories is a an occasional series of narratives from my life, usually based around something funny or embarrassing. While I’m sometimes guilty of hyperbole, the major details are all 100% true.
I was recently at a gathering for my best friend’s family, which can be a disorienting experience: his entire extended family is filled with incredibly good looking, physically fit, blonde-haired, blue-eyed relatives. Hitler would have been proud of this genetic stock.
The occasion was his Dad’s 60th birthday, and they had rented out a local school gymnasium for the party. While milling about, I heard my phone ring; seeing that it was a call I needed to take, I ducked out of the gym, through the kitchen and out the back door. As I answered the phone, I saw that one of his cousins was also outside, off by herself having a smoke.
This particular cousin isn’t a traditional blonde bombshell like all the other females in his family, but she’s smarter and funnier than the rest of them, and that’s always been something that rings my bell. She’s also quite good-looking in her own right.
I had been hoping to see her that evening, and this seemed like a great opportunity to go over and say hi. Unfortunately, just as I was getting off the phone, she was taking a new call.
Now, I don’t smoke, so I had a dilemma:
- Should I stand around like a doofus, waiting for her to get off the phone?
- Should I go back inside, even though there probably wouldn’t be another opportunity like this to talk with her?
- Or maybe I could call and bother someone else for a few minutes while I waited for her?
Favoring this last option, I scrolled through my phonebook, slowly realizing that I didn’t really want to talk to anybody else — especially since I’d be interrupting to hang up almost immediately.
For the first time in my life, I actually cursed the fact that I don’t smoke.
You might think that at this point, I needed to choose one of those other reasonably sane options. That is because you don’t think like a dipshit ape-brained man. I chose insane option four: fake a phone call to stall for time.
Inside the Actor’s Studio
Bear in mind that I was a few beers in at this point; I wasn’t drunk, but I was buzzed enough that I decided to have fun with my little parlor game. I really threw my back into the fake call: laughing, getting indignant, waxing philosophical about some imagined nonsense. It was an acting tour de force. In fact, I was having so much goofy fun playing pretend that I lost track of the cousin… and suddenly she was standing right in front of me, asking me a question.
“Uh, what?” I said stupidly. Then, remembering that I was supposed to be on a call, I added a belated “hold on a sec” into the phone. To nobody.
She repeated her question and I put my finger up to signal that I’d get off my “call” to chat with her. I just had to maintain the charade for a few more seconds.
I started to say some more fake crap into the phone, with the intention of getting off, when suddenly… my phone rang.
While I was holding it to my ear and talking into it.
This is impossible, of course, if you are really on a call, because call waiting doesn’t ring. I stared straight ahead for a second, struck stupid, praying the ring was a mistake and would go away. It rang a second time. My brain flooded with panic; I gave a confused look to the phone and attempted to recover by stuttering out, “what the fuck, did uh… did the first call drop?”
She was staring at me but, miraculously, didn’t seem to have caught on yet. It was probably taking her a minute to piece together the full and unlikely extent of my insanity.
I answered the other call — the real call — and it was my buddy, inside the gym, wondering where I was. I told him to go screw and hung up; very uncharitable of me, yes, but I was in the middle of panicking. I turned to the pretty girl and waited for my searing ritual humiliation to begin.
And she just continued talking normally!
What was going on?? Was she just being polite and pretending not to notice my shenanigans? No, that didn’t seem to be it… and while I was puzzling it through, that’s when I remembered that when she first appeared in front of me, she seemed a little nervous. And the way she was talking to me now, kind of rambling a bit… waitaminute, is it possible that she might be interested in me, too? Is that why she didn’t notice that my phone supposedly just violated all the known rules of telephony?
And then it hit me: this was just like hiking in the forest and accidentally stumbling into a clearing with a startled bear or mountain lion.1 We’ve heard it a million times in safety lectures: “it’s just as afraid of you, as you are of it.”
The same thing was happening here: she was just as nervous to be chatting me up as I was nervous to be talking to her. That’s why this otherwise incredibly bright girl hadn’t seen through my hysterically inept bullshit.
It was a close call — and an empathic epiphany. Every conversation consists of (at least) two people, and it’s worth remembering that everyone else is wrapped up in their own emotions just as much as we are in our own crazy brain-universes. Thank God my friend’s pretty cousin didn’t notice my craziness… because she ended up giving me her number, and she’ll hopefully be coming with me to an open mic in the near future.
I just hope she never finds out that I have a blog.
- I realize that “cougar” would be perfect here, but this girl is in her 20s, so it doesn’t really fit. [↩]