Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Don't Talk to Strangers

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting my friend The Chef in NYC. Before I left, my Mom had just one bit of advice: "Don't talk to strangers." No problem, I thought. Strangers are scary, serial killer types. I will definitely stay away from them.

Since The Chef had to work during the day, (wah) I was on my own. But I navigated the transportation system without incident. I was at the Port Authority trying to buy a subway pass to take me downtown when a stranger approached.

Speaking in a British accent, he asked, "Can you tell me how to purchase a subway pass?"

Clearly, my efforts to "blend in" had paid off. People were asking me for directions! However, since I wasn't intimate with the ways of the subway pass machine, I fessed up right away that I too was just visiting.

"We'll figure it out together," I tell him.

Now, clearly this is my first mistake. I should have given him the stink eye and shooed him away. He was a stranger, for goodness sakes!

But no, we manipulate the machine until it produced a pass for him. Then, the unexpected happened.

"Say, since we are both new to the city, would you like to get some coffee sometime?" he asks.

I say, "Well, I'm married."

He says, "That's ok. I just don't know anyone here."

Obviously I should have cut and run right there. If I had the minutest inkling of street smarts I would have told him that would be inappropriate. Or even a very polite, "No thanks," would do. As a last resort, the tried and true fake number would have been the way to go.

But no, of course. I rejected all of these options because I didn't want to hurt his feelings. (Not thinking, of course, that maybe serial killers don't have feelings.)

So, even though my mom had just told me not to talk to strangers, I not only talked to him, but I gave him my name and real number, just to be nice, berating myself the whole time for being such an idiot.

Who in their right mind does this? Well, me apparently.

But my street smarts are improving. When he called, I didn't answer. And I only felt a little guilty about it, and it passed quickly. That's progress.

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