Monday, April 18, 2005

Casual Encounters Day

Casual Encounters Day!

The headline of the ad read, "I JUST WANT TO TALK." When you clicked on it, the ad read, "I have a story to tell and I don't trust my friends anymore. I need a stranger's ear." You haven't left your apartment for a long time because you stopped paying rent a couple months ago and your landlord might padlock the place when you step outside, but this sounded too good to pass up so you responded to the ad with an email containing a time and a Starbucks location.

When you get to the Starbucks tonight, you'll find a man with sad eyes peering over the rim of a Chantico. You'll sit across from him without ordering anything and you'll assume a welcoming posture, one that you've practiced under the tutelage of your therapist.

"I'm Jimmy," the man will say. "And I met a girl today."

"You can't tell your friends that?" you'll ask.

Jimmy will chuckle. "I lied about the whole 'I don't trust my friends' thing. I've never had any friends. Just figured no one would respond to an ad from a guy who's all alone."

Your heart will melt for Jimmy. "You're not alone. Tell me about the girl, Jimmy."

Jimmy will tell you his story and you'll discover why he doesn’t have any friends. He'll talk about a neighbor in his building who responded to his saying hello with only a nod. Jimmy's face will turn red when he talks about how she "thinks she's so much better than me" and how he "could teach her a thing or two about what happens to people who don't have good manners." His voice will have the whine of a child, even though Jimmy is 48. He'll in fact mention "Mom" several times. You'll sit with Jimmy long enough to try to learn what building he lives in, gathering information for your call to the police later. But he won't let on, and he'll get so worked up that you'll leave in fear of your own safety.

In the end, you'll make it home okay and you'll contact the police and Craig's List, but you'll go to bed frightened, and you'll think that maybe if your landlord padlocked the apartment while you were in it, that might not be so bad.

Happy Casual Encounters Day!