Janet in Reception

I guess technically it doesn’t count as talking to strangers since I already know Janet, our receptionist on 19. But I don’t really know her, I just know her name. I’ve never actually spoken to her. Until today.

I had a team meeting in the main conference room and after it broke up I cut through reception to get back to my desk. Janet was just sitting there. She doesn’t get many calls. If someone needs to call one of the associates, they dial direct. And who calls the main number anyway? It’s not like a company cold-calls i-banks and asks if they have any debt restructuring specialists.

Anyway, Janet is just sitting there, probably reading a magazine, but I can’t see for sure because the facade is too high. I stopped and said, “Working hard, I see.” I know, real original. Like the stereo guy in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

She looked up and said, “Oh, yeah. It’s a thrill a minute here.”

And that would have been that on any other day. But today I was working really hard on using my powers of observation. I actually looked at her. And lo and behold I noticed something.

“New tattoo?”

She looked at her shoulder self-consciously. “No, well, sort of. I got this last month.” It was a butterfly.

I was about to launch into my usual tirade about tattoos–how it’s impossible to put something truly cool on your body, how lame girls get sayings in languages they don’t speak, how people make frivolous decisions that last forever–but I stopped myself. I think I’m funny. But the conversation isn’t just about me. Instead, I listened. Paid attention. And this is what I said:

“How many tattoos do you have?”

Not totally fascinating or surprising, but effective. I was being interested in her.

We talked for probably ten minutes. She has a boyfriend. She lives in West Hollywood. She went to Cal. State Fullerton. She’s thinking about going back to school for social work.

To be honest, I was a little bored. But it was weird, I felt like I was auditioning her, not the other way around. She was doing most of the talking and so I didn’t have to perform. I wasn’t trying to be funny or charming or interesting. I was just listening to her. And that made it so I could gather information, find out if I liked her, as a person. And she was basically fine. We are infinitely closer now than before. It wasn’t some magical connection but the point is I felt like I was doing the deciding about the future of our relationship.

Maybe that’s key to talking to women. Don’t talk, just listen. Don’t audition, make them audition. Then, if I really like the person, I’d be armed with a million facts about her to segue the conversation into something more.

Back at my desk, about twenty minutes later, something occurred to me. Was I flirting?