Thursday, May 29, 2008


I think I must have a freak magnet stapled to my forehead.

So not too long ago, I'm at the bar with the teachers. We'd been out a while, having a good time. Two of us had already gone home, and we had two empty seats. Two empty seats at a table full of women at a bar populated with about a billion men? They didn't stay empty long. Some guy sat down next to me and started talking.

He and his friend ordered beer and wings almost immediately. Clearly, they meant to stay awhile.

So okay. A man sits down next to me, and I'm going to talk to him, especially if I've had a beer or three. This is what I do. I talk to men. Most of them I hate after about five minutes, but still. You've got to try them on a while before you decide. I can't hate everybody, can I? Well, yes.

So this one worked for AT&T and he wanted to see my phone. Then he wanted to know what I do. He has one of the typical reactions to my job ("Oh, what do you do with all those bad kids? Punish them?"), and I'm bored already. But he'd ordered wings, and I was stuck. So I answered his questions. This happens to me a lot. I get cornered by somebody and I get stuck answering questions.

My friends in Brooklyn had a theory about this. "It's because you're from the midwest," they'd say. "A real New Yorker would have told that guy to fuck himself long ago." It's funny -- anything a New Yorker doesn't understand about the conservativism of rest of the country they blame on the midwest. Susan used to tell me that my real problem is I let people make eye contact. Once they make eye contact, they've got an in.

She's probably right.

Ivonne leans over and says she can get rid of these guys for me if I want. But it won't be pleasant. I sort of cringed. One must always be polite, mustn't one? I said I'd deal with it.

Telephone guy tapped me on the elbow. "I've got something to show you," he said. Then he flipped open his cell phone and told me to look at the picture. The picture? A penis. Erect.

Yeah. That was my reaction, too. I mean, what did the guy expect? That I would see the penis picture and say "take me, I'm yours"? I mean, seriously.

I wondered if he ran around showing off his dick to unsuspecting women all the time. We were in the middle of a bar, so of course he couldn't drop his pants. I suppose he chose the next best thing.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened to me.

Once I was walking down the street on my way to the train. This was a few years ago -- I was still living in Brooklyn. So I'm walking in my morning cloud (I'm impossible before nine o'clock in the morning. It's a wonder I can even function) and a man steps out from between two cars and shakes his dick at me.

At first, I didn't even notice. That's how much of a morning person I am not. And to be honest, there wasn't much to notice. When I did see what he was waving at me, I said, "Oh, for chrissakes," and kept walking. When I got to school that day, I told the story. Everyone said they'd have handled it differently. I should have pointed and laughed. I should have taken out my cell phone and called the cops. I should have, I should have, I should have...

It's because I was from the midwest, they said. They really couldn't blame me all that much. He probably sensed I was from the midwest and that's why he waved his dick at me.

But really: does anybody know what to do when that happens? I'm just so bemused by the unreality of the thing that reason escapes me.

Another incident: I was in Paris and I was on a rush hour train with my friend Kari. It was packed, and so when I felt a certain body part rubbing against my rear, I just shifted away. Then it happened again. The train car was packed. Whoever it was, wasn't going to move away without help. I stuck a sharp elbow in him.

We were on our way to the airport, and I had a heavy suitcase with me. The car began to empty out. We were one stop away from Charles de Gaulle when the lone remaining man in the car reached into his pants and pulled out his penis.

Kari and I looked at each other. "Put that away!" we said. In English. He was French. We tried to get out of the car, but when the train is in motion the doors don't open. We were stuck with penis guy. He started rubbing himself.

A minute or two later, the train pulled to a stop: Charles de Gaulle. Kari and I scrambled out and sped up the platform. He'd followed, and was standing there, staring. A few feet up, there was a gendarme. I hurried towards him, then stopped because I realized that I didn't know the French word for penis. Knowing me, I would have said something so convoluted that he'd have arrested me minutes before I was supposed to leave the country.

So I did the only thing I could do. I nodded to him. "Bonjour," I said, as if that was what I'd meant to do all along. And then I left the country.

By the way, the French word for penis? It's pénis. For your future reference.

Anyway, back to the bar. Deus ex machina. My cell phone lit up at that moment with a text from Matt. I grinned when I read it. I had no idea what it meant, but that didn't matter. He'd just given me an out.

"Who's that from?" telephone guy said. "Your boyfriend?"

Yes, I said, feeling absolutely zero guilt about my baldfaced lie. I then turned my back to him and started talking to the girls.

He tried to talk to me again. "Your boyfriend's a lucky man," he said.

But no. I was done being nice. "Listen," I finally said. "You just showed me a picture of your penis. That's just fucking weird."

I turned my back again and eventually he disappeared. I had no idea where he went, and I didn't care.

I don't know why these things happen to me. I really don't.

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