Erik (eriktrips) wrote,

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middle america

on the train last night i had dinner with two men. many things happened during dinner but i am willing to bet i am the only one of the three of us to take close note of what went on. not because i am so smart or observant but because i tend to treat every encounter as an opportunity for research.

to begin with i noticed that none of us rushed to introduce ourselves and the first half of the meal passed with remarkably little small talk. i'm not going to draw any broad conclusions about men and women from this one instance of sitting with men but it was interesting that we didn't seem compelled to socialize at once. this is almost never the case in mixed company although in mixed company it seems to be a toss up as to the gender presentation of the one most likely to start conversation.

that is they didn't seem compelled to socialize. as always i was quietly watching the others to see what they would do and also because i am rather new at interacting in all-male groups so i wanted to see how it would unfold in this case.

in some ways the conversation was backwards. we started by commenting on current events which included things such as the train being late as always due to passenger rail's low priority on tracks owned by a freight company; only after we were through eating did we introduce ourselves by name and this seemed quite natural, as though we first wanted to see what we had to say rather than begin with the pleasantries of names and destinations and professions.

instead the first thing i found out about the gentlemen directly opposite me is that he lives on a sailboat and spends months out on the ocean alone. we also noted that he and i were both afraid of airplanes whereas the younger man seated next to him flies quite often.

but here are the two cool things. overall dinner was far less traumatic for me than it generally is when meeting strangers on the train. conversation was not forced and when none of us had anything to say i got the impression that no one was waiting for one of us to speak to break the silence. we just sat and ate together and were quite ok with doing so.

and then after we had begun to speak towards the end of dinner and with only the slowest of starts someone mentioned something about politics. oh no i thought. one of them is going to say something that irks me and i am either going to sit there silently and slowly burn or if they are provocative enough i will burst out with something and reveal myself to be the freak that i am.

i have to say that the younger guy struck me as particularly adventurous when he said that he was really unhappy with the way things had gone for the US in the last two years. see the older guy who lives on his boat had a little american flag pin on his lapel and i assuming the worst braced myself for something really reactionary.

but no! this fellow chimed right in with how he felt much the same way and how in many other times and places we would have had a revolution by now had the situation become as dire as it is. i was so stunned i could only say yeah! i know! rather than offer any trenchant political commentary. i mean maybe talk of revolution is a bit extreme but i really didn't expect a graying man with a flag pin to be concerned with say internet privacy while his commander-in-chief was crowing about being at war.

well so then i felt comfortable enough to sit there for a minute or two after dessert before bolting as i always do from train meals in order to get away from all the strangers. i sort of wish i had been able to make myself stay a little longer but really five minutes after finishing eating is remarkable for me.

anyway the older guy is thinking of boating to europe. it is a shame he's not my uncle or something.

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