My new new years resolution is to speak to strangers more frequently, to engage them in a random and unexpected conversation. This is the exact opposite of my usual comportment. So far it's going very well and I find it leaves me feeling quite satisfied and happy. However, it was bound to backfire since, at heart, I'm not very good at it. The main reason I don't speak to people, other than that I don't like most people, is that generally I will say something stupid and embarrassing that will keep me up all night moaning with regret. The point of this exercise is to get over that, and become a more friendly person.
This weekend I ran into Steve as I was gazing at the mural in the barber shop in lower 1st Ave., a most pleasant surprise. I had already engaged several people in brief verbal encounters, all to positive effect. Steve was wary about this, but kept me talking long enough that engaging him in conversation distracted me from other encounters. He accompanied me on some errands, and then we decided to pop into an open house for an apartment for sale on 2nd St. It was a small 5th floor walkup, not dissimilar to where I live now, but with modern conveniences such as light switches, which I covet because I yearn for hand made light switch plate covers.
Our plan was to pretend to be married, and going up the stairs we came up with a back story that we were moving to New York from Canada, because just moments earlier I had been mistaken for a Canadian at Russ & Daughters due to my unnatural knowledge about sturgeon. I was still formulating my elaborate story when we greeted the real estate agent who, without a moment's hesitation, said to Steve, "I've seen you before, you live around here." I was deflated that my plan was kicked in the butt before we even started.
On our way down the stairs, another couple was coming up, discussing whether they had ever in their lives seen so many stairs, and whether Whole Foods would deliver into the high heavens. Here was quite the opportunity to further my resolution and without thinking I replied to them, "Oh yes, they'll deliver, but you have to pay extra - $10 per flight."
Really, had I just said that? I couldn't take it back, that would be worse. In fact, that is the amount that furniture stores charge to deliver furniture up the stairs and it was the first thing that popped into my head. The truth is that living on the top of 76 steps I am indeed familiar with the delivery dilemma, and for groceries or heavy-ish items we generally abide by the double-the-tip rule (ie a normal person would tip $3 so we tip $6).
They howled in disbelief, and I could hear their little minds clicking away as they added up the cost in their heads ('An extra $50 for Whole Foods if we live here? Can we afford it? How can we not afford it?'). They asked how I knew and I said, "I've lived in a 6th floor walkup for 20 years and order Whole Foods all the time." Why not continue the deception? So much easier than admitting a lie. What was funny though, was that because I said it with such conviction, they believed me.
Steve accused me of single-handedly ruining the economy of the East Village, ruining the potential income that the nice agent would have generated from this very fashion forward couple and also ruining the potential success of Whole Foods who might have lost a new customer. This new years resolution might be good for me, but bad for those that come into my sphere.