Army Guys

I get asked a lot about how the whole experiment has changed me and here’s an example.

I was eating lunch and two guys came in wearing Army uniforms. They got their lunch and sat down. The thought popped into my head, “I should say something to them, just an ‘I appreciate you’ or something.” But as soon as the idea of saying something to someone pops into my head, this new alert fires in my brain that says, “You can’t not say it now.” So it’s not so much an encouragement as a refusal to wuss out.

It actually makes me smile whenever that alert goes off. I’m like, “Shit, I really don’t want to say something, but oh, all right. Fine, I’ll do it.” Then I go over and start talking.

In this case, I literally just said, “Sorry to interrupt, guys, I just wanted to say thanks for doing what you do.” They were very appreciative that I said something. So this just reinforces the alert in my brain because it always winds up being the right thing to do.

So if you want to start doing this experiment with me, focus on the “don’t wuss out” factor more than the impulse to talk to people. Because the impulse happens naturally, you just need a mechanism to avoid not following through.

Employee of the Month

As you may know from earlier posts, I sometimes go to El Pollo Loco for lunch. It’s surprisingly good and if you don’t eat the tortillas, it’s pretty healthy (I get the 3 piece combo with pinto beans and fresh vegetables).

Anyway, I don’t go every day. At most I go twice a month. But I always get the same thing. (I usually settle on a go-to order at most places and just stick with it forever.) Well, this one woman taking orders, Laura, not only recognized me, but she recited my order perfectly.

“Three-piece combo, dark meat, pinto beans, and veggies, no tortillas.”

I was stunned. I was like, “How did you remember that?”

She said I always ordered the same thing.

I was like, “Yeah, but how many other people also come in here every day?”

She just laughed like it was no big deal to remember customers’ orders but I was seriously impressed.

So much so that while I was waiting for the food I asked to speak to the manager. It was a short Hispanic lady and I told her that I was very happy with Laura’s service. I told her how welcome she made me felt and that employees like her build customer loyalty. The manager thanked me for my comments. I definitely got the sense that paying her employee a compliment was a rare occurrence. My food came out and I sat down to eat. Laura wasn’t privy to my conversation with her manager, but after lunch, I made sure to say “Have a nice day” to her on the way out.

On the way back to the office I was feeling good, wondering if this would help her get a promotion or something. But then I started to doubt my feelings, like I was patting myself on the back a little too hard. Something one of the commenters said last month about how the whole blog is a series of self-congratulatory stories where I portray myself as an amazing person because I deemed to talk to some lowly cleaning lady, or something like that. I honestly felt good about saying something nice to the manager because I thought Laura deserved some recognition. But then I felt guilty about how good I felt, like I was being patronizing. I’m not sure how else to explain it. I know I was over-thinking it. But  this moment of existential doubt did in fact sour my mood.

Koo Koo Roo Smooth Talker

I ate lunch at Koo Koo Roo yesterday and I was as friendly as could be to the cute young cashier.

I asked her why they got rid of the big menu above their heads and went with regular menus instead. After all, there are no waiters; you have to order at the counter, so why hand out menus?

Anyway, I thought I had done a good job of talking to strangers. But while I waited for my order, I watched a true master in action. First of all, this guy was maybe six three. Being tall I think goes a long way towards a lifetime of confidence. Second, he was a smooth-talking black guy. I wasn’t sure it was worth mentioning his race, like how is that relevant? But watching the way he talked, it just mattered. His being black was just part of his whole thing. I don’t think it’s racist to say that a person’s race defines who they are in some ways.

Anyway, he walked up to the same cashier with a big smile and asked, “How tall are you?” (To complete the picture, the Hispanic woman was pretty short.) The way he asked it, though, was so friendly, so disarming, she couldn’t help but smile. She said, “Five two.”

Then he launched into a series of questions about what types of guys she liked to date. And she was loving it. I have never seen a girl so enraptured before by a seemingly innocuous series of questions about height. He could have said, “So let’s get into my van and get it on, cool?” and she would have just giggled and gone off with him.

But the interesting thing was, he just ordered his food, got it, and took off. He wasn’t trying to pick her up. Maybe he was flirting, but it wasn’t because he was trying to get something. He was just passing the time.

I was totally baffled by it. I could have sworn he was going to get her number at least. But he didn’t. He was just being a smooth dude.

El Pollo Loco

I was in the mood for El Pollo Loco for lunch yesterday. Don’t ask me why. I just felt like it was time to go back.

So I drove to the El Pollo Loco and ordered the three-piece combo. Oddly, the place was jam-packed. No open tables and the counter was full, too. So I waited by the salsa bar until they called my number, and when I got my food, I scanned the place for empty seats at tables occupied by friendly-looking people.

Being a people person with a lot of experience talking to strangers, I picked a guy in a shirt and tie (like me) sitting alone at a table for two. I walked up and said simply, “Hey, there’s no empty tables, mind if I join you?”

He looked up at me and said, “Fuck off.”

Seriously. I was actually startled by the reaction. I didn’t even respond. I just turned and walked away.

This guy totally crushed my confidence for the day because I went back to the counter and asked them to wrap my order to go. Then I ate the food in my car.

Lunch Date

I emailed Michelle this morning and she was free for lunch so we went over to the mall and ate at 59th and Lex, that little restaurant inside Bloomingdales.

I’d never eaten there before (what man has?) and was not surprised to find it was mostly empty save a few elderly ladies.

Anyway, I haven’t seen Michelle in a while and I asked how things were going with the wedding plans. She said they were going fine but I could tell that something was up. I pressed a little, but she stuck to her story that everything was fine. She changed the subject and asked, “How’s your love life?”

I told her about Chloe and that I was sad that it didn’t work out. But then I said, “I think I’m more upset about the idea of the relationship not working out than things not working out with Chloe specifically.”

Michelle said, “I know what you mean.” But she said it in a cryptic kind of way as if I were privy to the special meaning of her words.

It was a strange lunch but I was glad to see her. Despite all that’s happened between us, I still really like Elevator Girl.

Reality Star

I called Chloe yesterday and we made up. More on that later.

So yesterday I ate lunch at the food court and a random woman came up to me and asked if I wanted to be on a reality show.

I guess she was a booker or a promoter or something like that and she was handing out flyers for an audition next week. Well, she picked the wrong guy.

I asked her a bit about the show. Seemed like some sort of bullshit about living in a house, competing for money, doing humiliating things– basically the same as every other reality show. Now coincidentally, I am currently reading a great book, “The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America.” It’s written by Dr. Drew Pinsky, so I was a little suspicious at first, but I have to tell you, this book is a must-read for anyone living in L.A.

So I proceeded to tell the woman that narcissism is a mental illness and that this fame-seeking through outrageous behavior is caused by severe childhood trauma like physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. The woman actually seemed pretty intelligent and debated the issue with me for a while. But I told her that reality TV normalizes the kind of unacceptable behavior that we should be condemning. That you know children are getting the wrong message when 51% of all kids list “becoming famous” as their #1 or #2 most important goal in life.

Anyway, we parted ways on not very good terms but the whole thing really riled me up. I have repeated railed against people whose sole mission in life is to get attention without any laudable accomplishment to back it up.

And p.s., that is why I choose to remain anonymous. I have never printed my last name because I value my privacy. I write this blog to share my experiences. At first, it was because I wanted “someone” to talk to. But then when it started working, I realized that I wanted to share my success as a wake-up call to other people who were lonely and isolated like I was. But the idea of being a celebrity is nauseating to me.

Lunch Truck

I’m still plotting my next move with Elevator Girl and have consequently been in a bad mood all week, but still I couldn’t resist talking to this stranger: the guy in a lunch truck outside of work.

In case you’re not from L.A., gourmet lunch trucks are the new hot thing here. Not like the old fashioned turkey-sandwich-in-a-plastic-bag lunch truck of yesteryear, these trucks have things like Fifty Kinds of Chili, Rack of Lamb, Penne Pasta in a Vodka Cream Sauce, or Chipotle Lime Steak Sandwiches. (Side note, how did chipotle become the new hot pepper of choice? Did the Chipotle Growers Association spend a lot of money marketing their pepper? What ever happened to just plain old jalepenos? Bad marketing?)

Anyway, I stopped at the truck outside work yesterday because I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to try an “authentic” Philly cheese steak. I’m not from Philadelphia but I am from Pennsylvania so I’ve had authentic cheese steaks before.

This cheese steak was made with gouda. And you could get it with ribeye, chicken, sliced turkey, or lamb.

I said, “Can I get a regular cheese steak?”

The guy said, “What’s regular? Regular to you may be totally bizarre to me.”

I said, “Steak means beef and cheese means Provolone.”

So he said, “You must be from Philly. Don’t fuck with your cheese steaks, huh?”

I told him my story and he made me my cheese steak. But when I tasted it, I nearly gagged.

“What is this?!”

He said, “I wanted you to try the lamb and goat cheese.”

He completely ignored my order and gave me some bullshit Greek cheese steak.

“I do not want this.” I handed it back.

And then he just looked at me like I was an asshole and said, “Open your mind.” Literally. He literally said, “Open your mind.”

I was so steamed, I said, “How’s this for opening my mind? Fuck you!”

And I stormed off. I went to the mall and got a hamburger.

WTF?!

So lunch didn’t happen with Michelle till today. Here’s the relevant portion of the conversation:

“So, I’m sorry things didn’t work out with Adam,” I lied.

“Yeah, I’m sure you’re really sorry,” she said with a smile.

I laughed. “Okay, well, maybe I’m not crying per se… You seem to be taking it well.”

She explained, “My sister helped a lot. I’m mostly over it. I mean, we dated for eighteen months. I thought we were going to get married. But I haven’t been happy for a long time. And I guess I’m just fine with how things turned out. It’s for the best.”

All I heard was, “I’m over it.” It seemed like the whole Valentine’s Day thing was going to work out after all. I don’t remember my exact segue, but somehow I turned the conversation to Valentine’s Day.

“So I was wondering. I’m not doing anything and I’m guessing you’ve got no plans. Do you want to hang out and grab some dinner? No pressure or anything. I know it just sucks to spend Valentine’s Day alone.”

She looked away, kind of embarrassed and said, “I’m sorry. I’ve got plans.”

Then, still being a totally naive idiot, I said, “Oh, one of those things where you hang out with your single girlfriends?”

She smiled. “No, I’ve got a date.”

She might as well have gotten up and hit me over the head with her chair. I was literally speechless. In fact, my whole body was paralyzed. I just sat there staring at her. Then, after like twenty seconds, I said, “But…”

And that’s all I could get out. I just said “but” and I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

She must have understood my confusion because she explained, “I know it’s really soon but Alexa knew this guy, it’s this whole blind date thing, I know it’s totally awkward but Alexa said I shouldn’t be alone on Valentine’s Day.”

Alexa I’m guessing is her bitch sister.

She continued, “I’m sorry. I think it’s better this way. I think I just need something casual right now. I can’t just jump into something serious again.”

I said something about how I totally understood. How it was great to start dating again. How she should have fun.

But inside I was seething. Because I had the next fucking number in the deli line.

Lunch with Old Guy

Yesterday I went to the mall to have lunch and it was packed. There were no tables anywhere so I made a big move: I asked if I could sit down with some old guy eating by himself.

The old me never would have done this in a million years. I would have just taken my sushi back to the office. But I was hungry and I wasn’t going to eat standing up.

Naturally, I starting talking to the guy. He was a lawyer, one of the founding partners of a medium sized firm in Century City. He’s retired now, but still goes into the office just to “keep an eye on things.” We got to talking and I told him about Scott and the TV. Not exactly asking for a legal opinion, just wondering what he thought I should do.

And the guy said, “Let it go.” I couldn’t believe that was his advice, but he gave me a whole speech about life being too short, how litigation makes you tired, etc.

So I guess maybe I’ll just let it go.

Elevator Girl in Play???

I had lunch with Michelle yesterday to catch up, wish her a New Year, etc., and she drops a bombshell.

Dr. Perfect and her are having problems. Now they didn’t break up or anything but she said she went to visit his family over Christmas and it did not go well. Now she’s giving him ultimatums, he’s feeling pressured to propose, and she’s talking about going into couple’s therapy.

I mostly just listened. It was a dicey situation because I didn’t want to seem too eager for things to fall apart for her. So I said vague things like, “You have to do what’s right for you.” Which actually came across as very supportive.

If it goes south on her, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the next ticket at the deli counter.