pro of being a barista: meeting cute strangers


I wonder if men feel that it’s easier to talk to women than to other men. Today at Book Club the man next to me was drinking a beer and making copious conversation with the barista, Jude, a law student taking carpentry lessons in Hoboken. They (Jude) had a sunny voice, rivaled only by the voice of a blonde girl who loudly announced herself as being from Arizona in the overinflected tones of a theater kid. I wondered if Jude was tired of being pleasant and just wanted to take care of the bar in peace. The downside of being a barista--you get trapped in conversations you don't want to be a part of. At one point an old woman named Mary Magdalene Serra was debating between buying a calendar and a pair of socks. “You should get the calendar instead of the socks,” the guy said. The conversation was a mess; the old woman kept redirecting the conversation back to the art in the calendar and talking about the various artists’ previous shows in NYC while the guy seemed like he was trying to have a real conversation about who they were. He tried to make a point about how her last name was Serra (probably to suggest as in Richard Serra). She ignored it and kept on talking about Betye Saar. "She just had a retrospective at the MOMA, it was wonderful." I tried to imagine him talking as openly with a cis male barista who would probably utter few words in response and only in a monotone, but maybe the man’s general loneliness or openness wouldn’t have hindered him from doing so. I feel that ironically even if there is some undercurrent of sexual interest that powers most conversations between hetero strangers of the opposite gender it’s just sometimes easier to talk to someone who isn’t the same gender as you. (Or maybe this isn't a contradiction?) I started getting stressed and put in my headphones, closed myself off to the environment. Related: - “Despair came over her, as it will when nobody around has any sexual relevance to you.” - “I can’t tell if when I’m interested in (becoming friends with) a girl if I’m attracted to her or jealous of and want to be her.” Once when I was on the subway going home from Eric’s apartment an old man in a Barclay’s uniform sat down next to me and started chatting with me. Giving him my seat when we were both waiting at the station had become license for conversation, which I really was not in the mood for but went along with. Sometimes I feel like when old men you don't know start talking to you it becomes clear after the first ignored comment you make that they’re a little off and not actually really trying to talk to you, they’re just lonely and want someone to listen to them. This was one of those scenarios, I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about but his rambling ranged from spending the 70s in Santa Barbara and Montecito with “rich white boys” to living in a hotel across the street from CBGB’s (the only time our conversation was at a point of mutual interest and he responded to my questions), and he showed me his phone's entire camera roll, which was mostly pictures of the ornate mirrors and animal sculptures and aquariums in his apartment. It was endearing to think of this old man undertaking this dignified project of making his home a place that really felt like home and surrounded by beautiful things that he loved, but sometimes the pictures would be of his kitchen or bathroom which were less nice and it was a little sad, too intimate. During our conversation I kept making eye contact with this couple in the corner of the train who glanced at me with pity like they knew I had been roped into a conversation I wasn’t entirely comfortable in, and I tried to imagine this happening to Ethan. What about my vibe invites this, I thought.