Sandwich Lady

Got a sandwich at Ralphs for lunch just now. (P.S. It’s much better than most sandwich shops and they slice the meat right in front of you.) So I got this older lady and ordered my sandwich and she starts making it. But first she examined every piece of lettuce there was, then picked the best one. Same with the tomatoes. Only the best for my sandwich. The turkey was lovingly laid in overlapping layers for maximum airflow…

I was mesmerized. I am a sandwich aficionado–I could eat sandwiches for literally every meal–and so I really, really appreciated her care and expertise. So I told her so.

“I like the way you’re making my sandwich!”

She laughed. I needed to prove I was sincere so I added, “I see the way you’re doing the turkey. I hate those people who just slap down all the slices together. Might as well not slice it at all.”

She agreed and said basically there’s no reason not to make the sandwich as well as possible. She makes them like she’d want it for herself. We discussed the finer details of sandwich making and then I told her that I really appreciated her attention to detail and that I bet a lot of other people did as well, even if they didn’t say so.

Anyway, I think I pretty much made her day. She was beaming when she rang me up.

And then I went home and ate my sandwich.

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?

Bao Guy

Sorry, I had to work late.

Anyway, so we’ve been working hard on this big deal and I went over to the mall to grab lunch to go. I got a salad at Take a Bao and I got their plumberry iced tea. It’s really good.

I’m waiting for my salad but I’ve already got my tea and I’m thinking, “This guy doesn’t look busy. I should strike up a conversation with him.” Of course the key is to be casual, not too interested like I’m a psycho or trying to pick him up.

So I’m racking my brain trying to figure out how to break the ice when it hits me. It’s sitting right there in my hand.

“This tea is really good. But what’s a plumberry?”

Turns out, they get that question all the time and the answer is really uninteresting (it’s tea with a blend of plums and berries).

But I didn’t let that stop me. I mentioned that I took the last sweet & low packet and they need to refill it. Which suddenly jogged this memory in the back of my brain, and I don’t remember how I segued here, but all of the sudden I launched into this story about this dumb-ass girl from back when I was a paralegal in New York.

We’d go to lunch and she’d put like literally six packets of sugar in her tea. Of course, it would just sit on the bottom because of basic chemistry: Sugar doesn’t dissolve in cold water. I tried to explain it to her, that they make sweet tea by heating up the tea first, dissolving the sugar, and then cooling it. The supersaturated sugar stays in solution and the iced tea stays sweet. It’s straight out of high school chemistry. But she would just say she likes it that way and dump a pound of sugar into the already-cold iced tea. You could literally see it sitting there on the bottom taking up an inch of the glass.

So the Bao Guy thought that was a funny story. I found out he was an actor. We didn’t trade info or anything. I didn’t even get his name. My salad came out and that basically put an end to the conversation. I took the bag and all I said was, “Have a good day.”

Still, on the walk back to Constellation, I felt awesome. I felt like a people person. Are me and Bao Guy gonna be BFF’s? Not too likely. But that’s not the point. I talked to a stranger. I made a connection. And for such a small fucking thing, for the rest of the day I had a huge smile on my face.