Monday, March 05, 2007

How (Not) to Invite Strangers for Coffee

The Expressionism exhibition at the Městská knihovna has been extended a month, which seems like a good thing. I had put off going until what I thought was the last day, and wouldn't mind going again if I can get myself to do it.
The only thing that I really didn't care for about it was the attentions paid to me by one of the guards. They were very polite, but it seems to me that...
If someone is anxious to get to know me, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with admiring my jewelry or suggesting we have coffee. However, it is not sufficient to admire the jewelry, go on to admire the wearer's general appearance, and suggest coffee. Since when does this provide any reason to develop a longer conversation? People who compliment my appearance before/without saying anything else are almost never people who might cause me to respond that they too are attractive. And what else is one to say after the thanks have been made?
Over the years, I have had my share of encounters with people who were mysteriously drawn in my direction like moths to a flame and, indeed, whose most intelligent offering was that perhaps we could have coffee. I do not wish to denigrate these baffling admirers, but, to paraphrase my friend Dean (who did refer to my looks but not in this context), I look good, but I don't look that good. Helen of Troy is in no danger of competition and the few who are enthralled by my appearance should realize that it is not enough to catch someone's attention, someone's interest must also be piqued. Some sort of at least moderately interesting conversation is necessary.
For example: this evening at the tram stop, I could see that the 18 was down the street, but I took a look at the schedule to see if the 17 might be right behind. A gentleman standing nearby, possibly also strangely attracted to me, or possibly just helpful, said that the 18 was approaching.
I said that I could see the 18, but that I preferred the 17.
My companion realized that I was not a native speaker, and enquired if I spoke English. I admitted that I did, and upon further questioning admitted to being American. While clearly he knew some English, he was pleased with my Czech and asked if I was taking classes, to which I stated that I was indeed.
The conversation proceeded in a perfectly normal, ordinary way, as tends to be the case when I get into conversations with people waiting for the tram. It turned out that my companion has an antique store with a couple hundred or so pictures in stock.
We continued to talk about this or that on the tram, during which time we were obliged to show our transit passes. It turned out we get off at the same stop, from which my companion takes a bus uphill.
I would certainly consider having coffee with someone who can carry on a pleasant, no-stress, two-way conversation with me in Czech all the way to Podolí. (Native speakers of English, it is true, have to be able to do a little more than that in order to get me to have coffee. But as I'm not really in search of new people to drink coffee with, this is of small importance.)

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Blogger Kristen said...

Oh you man magnet, you! ;) I'll have to teach you my patented "Don't f*&^ with me" expression. The only people impervious to it seem to be Russian babushki. But they're impervious to everything!

March 06, 2007 1:38 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

The day I become a true man-magnet will be, I suspect, the day before I become a true hermit.

I do have a stony glare (which I did not have real reason to use on person #1), but it only works on people with some degree of sensitivity. As with your babushki, it has no effect on the really determined and really clueless petitioner, who firmly believes that he will prevail no matter whether there are next to no interests in common, a partner waiting at home for the product I'm buying, etc.

March 06, 2007 8:56 AM  

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