Thursday, March 31, 2005
My refrigerator is a barren wasteland. There is little in the way of "real food" in there, and even the copious amounts of beverages that I normally stock are woefully inadequate at the moment. My cupboards are equally bare; I've got some dried pasta and a bunch of condiments, but not much more.
When you are one person, buying and storing food seems like a big hassle. Cheese and meats frequently go bad not because I don't want them, but because I can only eat so much over so long a period of time before they spoil. I have bought loaves of bread (the smallest ones I can find on the shelf) and wound up throwing more than half of it away-- once it's opened for that first PBJ, the damn clock is ticking.
Even bottled, canned, and dried foodstuff has gone bad on me before.
And I hate food shopping. The stores don't cater to people like me, they cater to mom's with big families and who need quick solutions on the go, go, go!
Actually, my local Albertson's used to have a section just for me-- I called it the single-guy's gourmet. Out of the 2000 or so square feet in this store, there was a little spot on the end of one of the floor refrigerators filled with pre-made meals that the store wanted to quickly sell through. So they packaged two breasts and some bread, or corn and fish, steak and rice, or some other combo in small, not more than two person-sized meals, with the spices and trimmings included, for cheap. Basically, just the right amount of meal, with just the right amount of effort needed to finish it.
I did much of my shopping there. I could get a steak, chicken, pork, and fish meal, enough for two servings each, usually, for relatively low prices. And all that was needed on my end was to fire up the grill or put it in the oven. Usually 20 minutes later I'm eating something good with little effort.
I sometimes feel like, if I could just get someone to come into my apartment, review my eating habits and dietary needs, and then go shopping and stock me up with everything I'm missing, I could then maintain it from that point. But I have no desire to make the initial effort. I actually don't mind cooking, and sometimes really enjoy it, but I just don't want to make the effort most days. Again, when you're cooking for one, why bother?
And now I'm heading back to the apartment, knowing that the cheese is close to going bad, that my loaf of bread is likely already on it's way to penicillin, and that any milk I do have is not something I want to reopen. Here's wishing someone develops The Jetson's full-course meal pills soon!
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Music—the music industry releases hundreds of titles each year and millions of people buy them. Of the 350 million people in our country, nearly all listen to the radio, buy cds, or in some other way have music as a constant influence in our lives. Whether it is rap, heavy metal, country, or pop, the shear numbers of those who listen and “connect” with a song(s) is staggering.
Video Games—the video game industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Video games are sent around the world. In places like China, Korea, and Japan, video games are played by more people of greater age ranges even than here in America. There are huge numbers of European video game players. And the numbers of players in America are staggering. Yet, most video game players are the people you want to meet.
Gun Manufacturers/Owners—there are approximately 70-90 million legal gun owners in America. (It's hard to nail down a specific number, this range seems to be the census.)
The Internet—this is so pervasive that nearly ever person on the planet in a second- or first-world nation is touched by this medium.
If these industries/entities, and most any other you could name as being somehow “at fault,” actually were the bad guy, with the numbers of people who use their products, we would have an epidemic of violence on the scale of genocide.
But we don’t.
As we look deeper at this child, we will find patterns of abuse or neglect. We will find indications he was a violence-prone person with antisocial behavior most likely from an early age. We will likely find that there were plenty of ignored warning signs along the way. Just like we found with the two boys who committed the atrocities in Columbine. Just like we find in any other predatory, violent act.
We have plenty of laws in place that, if properly enforced and maintained, would keep guns (and other dangerous weapons) out of the reach of those who shouldn’t have them, children included. Most responsible gun owners follow the safety rules of never leaving a gun out, never storing a gun and it’s ammunition in the same place, and always using safety and education as a first line of defense to ward against gun accidents and violence.
At some point we have to lay the blame squarely where it should be: on the child. This child is at fault. No matter how abused or neglected, no matter how picked on or ridiculed he was, he still made the choice to seek out a weapon and commit these acts. Others may share some of the blame, but it is still his in the end. If he got the weapon from his parent’s stash, then his parents are partially to blame for not properly securing the weapon and not teaching the child the proper gun etiquette, safety, and respect. If he somehow bought or obtained this weapon from a dealer of any sort, then that dealer is also somewhat to blame—the law is very strict on the ages of those who can purchase weapons and many places (it may even be all now) also require you to show proof that you went through a gun safety course. On top of all of this, there are the mandatory waiting periods and background checks. Add in the fact that the boy apparently wore a bullet-proof vest, and you know that this person planned for this violence and it was premeditated.
The fallacy of blaming the weapon, or some form of media, is prevalent in our society and can be traced pretty far back. In the 1950s, Fredric Wertham wrote a book called “The Seduction of the Innocent.” In it he suggested that the growing prevalence of comic books was creating a world of antisocial children who were prone to violence and criminal acts. He made this supposition because he went to juvenile halls and youth prisons and interviewed the children there. He noted that the jails had comic books and the kids liked reading them. Because of this, he concluded that comic books had caused the acts. He never bothered to find out that the prisons bought the comics and had them available as cheap sources of entertainment. He never asked if the boys read the comics before or after coming to prison. He never found out that the guards found the boys to be less hostile and easier to watch if they had comic books (and other such literature) available to them while they were incarcerated. Wertham put one and one together and came up with the answer he wanted because he didn’t like comic books. Similar studies found correlations to pornography in the 70s and 80s. Others have linked Dungeons and Dragons and other popular, but misunderstood, roleplaying games to violence and criminal acts. Every single one has been dismissed by a majority of healthcare professionals as baseless supposition at best, and outright lies with no credible scientific evidence to back it up.
And today that “blame trend” continues. No one is responsible for his/her own actions. The simple fact is, once we look at the life of those who commit these crimes, we nearly always find patterns of steadily rising acts of violence, bouts of severe depression or paranoia, run-ins with authority (police, school, parents).
The US Department of Justice backs these facts up. Even at our worst, there are less than 20,000 gun related homicides per year. Out of the tens of millions of people who own guns, you’d think that stat would be higher if the guns or the gun manufacturers were really at fault. When you add all of the illegal gun owners into this mix, it becomes an even smaller percentage. Even if you take into account nonfatal gun-related violence, that number is still only around 100,000 incidents per year. Similar statistics can be used to show the large number of people who buy music and video games in comparison to the very small amount of violence and deaths that occur in relation.
This act, as with Columbine, stands out for the shocking brutality of it. It stands out because it is a child committing violence on other children. We are horrified that our society can create the type of person who could do such a deed. And, because of media saturation of the event, it will stay in our public consciousness for many weeks and months to come. But it is still not the music, video game, gun manufacturers, nor the internet's fault.
I am sorry for those who lost their lives and feel bad for their families. I feel pity for the family of the one who committed this act and who now have to live with the media scrutiny and the questions. But I do not blame anyone except the person who committed this act. He made his choice and now a lot of people have to live with it.
Monday, March 21, 2005
I just got back from going to the drive through at a newly opened branch of Taco Bell/KFC. I have gone through the drive-through 3 other times and have had problems, but not insurmountable ones, each time. Once I ordered a chicken meal and substituted a breast for one piece of the meal. They tried to charge me the breast substitution price twice because the meal came with a breast already (try explaining that, when a meal starts with a breast and a wing and you want to substitute another wing, that does NOT mean they substitute a breast for the first breast and then a breast for the wing, at a total substitution charge of $1.60 (for two breasts)!). Another time they tried to convince me there was no sauce on their quesadillas, even though they slather each one with a vile green sauce that is anathema to me. And each time the fact that not one worker was even remotely fluent in English was a major stumbling block to ordering and then fixing the order when it was wrong.
This time the place took it to a whole new level. I clearly said “T3,” which is a three regular taco combo with a large beverage. I then said “With Soft tacos” (you have a choice of crunchy or soft) and “Pepsi.” What I saw on the little screen confirmed this. I then said, “Quesadilla, no sauce.” All of a sudden, the window read 3 taco supremes, no sauce, and a chicken quesadilla. Strange. The woman then read back my order, I assume, because she said everything in Spanish. Based off what I was seeing on the menu, I said, “No.” I then reiterated my order speaking as clearly as I could into the microphone. This time, everything appeared to be correctly written on the monitor, so when she read it back in Spanish, I just said, “Okay.” As I turned my head to start driving forward, I saw the window flash and $5.47 came up again. Weird.
Now, I try to eat my lunch for around $5 a day. I like Taco Bell because there are multiple menu items I can get and stay within my budget goals. Yes, it’s crap food, but it’s filling and cheap. I have ordered this same meal, no matter the menu designation, a lot. It always comes up to $4.83. It’s something like $3.79 for the meal deal, and about another buck for the quesadilla and the tax.
The woman and the money window says, “$5.47.” I ask, “Why?” She says, “You order T4 with quesadilla.” I say, “No, I ordered T3 with a quesadilla. Three soft tacos.” Much Spanish to someone inside later, she responds with, “Same price. $5.47.” I say, “This order has never cost me above $5 in the past.” I’m not being mean when I say this statement was beyond her ability to grasp. So I break out some more money, pay her and hope to have better results at the food window.
At the food window, I am handed a small beverage in a paper cup. What I ordered comes with a large beverage in a plastic cup. I point this out to her. All she can muster is “Out.” To which I reply, “I was charged for a large plastic cup.” I continue to try to get my point across, but again I run into a language barrier that I cannot get across. I know to little Spanish and she knows too little English.
I have to admit, at this point I’m mad, but I always try to remain polite when I’m mad. I ask for the manager. A third girl appears. I ask if she is the manager and she replies with a cryptic, “I’m currently in charge.”
I say, “First, I ordered a T3 and got charged for a T4. Secondly, both the meal I ordered and the meal I was charged for come with a large plastic cup sized beverage.”
She says, “We are out of plastic cups.” To which I respond, “So you also over-charged me for my beverage, then.” She says, “Same price.”
I laugh. Out loud and in her face. I can’t help it. She’s trying to convince me that a small and a large are the same price? Does she really think I’m that stupid?
“They are $.20 different. I can refund you the $.20?” she says. I guess my laugh indicated that I had found her error.
I reply, “What about the $.50 difference in price between what I ordered and what was charged? You need to refund me more than $.20.”
“Same price,” she responds. I laugh again.
I say, “You know what, just give me my food, keep all of the money you just stole from me, and I will contact Taco Bell about this and choose not to ever come back to this particular store.”
From the look on her face, I’m guessing she is an assistant of some sort, and she was hoping to satisfy me without having the actual store manager or anyone else know about it.
I then take my food and drive away.
So, from my perspective, I have the following beefs with this Taco Bell/KFC branch:
- Two of the three people had poor English skills. This is a problem because they are working in a predominantly English-speaking area (in Irvine and on a college campus). Note: I do not care if English is their first, second, or twenty-third language—I just want them to speak it clearly and understand it effectively.
- I ordered one meal (T3), was charged for another meal (T4), and then was told that both were the same cost.
- I ordered and was charged for a large beverage in a plastic cup but received a small beverage in paper cup.
- I received no refund for the difference in the costs for any of the disparities encountered. I was blatantly lied to be “the person currently in charge” when I pointed this out. Reluctantly the same person offered a $.20 refund—but only after I pointed out the difference.
Long story only marginally longer: I have used the Taco Bell website to make a formal complaint about this entire incident. If this goes like any other incident with a fast-food chain, I will receive a couple of worthless coupons in the mail and no apology whatsoever.
In the meantime, I will stop frequenting that Taco Bell/KFC and will ask any and all of my friends and coworkers not to visit that establishment.
4101 Campus Drive
Irvine CA 92612
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Peter then takes the person to Heaven. Here he sees the exact replica of the room in Hell with the same monstrous silverware and the same huge, feast-filled table. But the people are laughing, joking, and having a good time. The difference, Peter points out, is in how they deal with the situation. In Heaven, each person is helping the other; one is using the knife, another the fork, while a third uses the oversized silverware to feed yet another person. When one is full, they switch places so all can eat their fill and enjoy the feast.
The moral of the story—Heaven and Hell are what you make them.
A person in a cube near me at work has been out for six weeks. Why he was out is his business, and I won’t ask him. But, upon returning, he is greeted by many friends and colleagues who wish him well and welcome him back. His response? “I can’t believe I came back to this hell-hole.” I also heard, “Yeah, I’m back in the cesspool that is [place I work].” I heard these comments not an hour into his first day after returning.
I have to admit that hearing this irritated me. Yes, he’s probably disappointed to find out that things went on without him. He may even be disappointed that many things are still the same. But at least give the place a chance before you stroll back down that path to misery.
I have a good job and I enjoy where I work most of the time. It is true that right now I am doing work that I don’t enjoy and that is a taxing me, but I still enjoy the people and the business well enough. I am paid well and have adequate job security for the times in which we live.
If I ever reached the point where I honestly felt like the place I worked was a “hell-hole” or “cesspool,” I would look for a new job. Why come back from an extended leave if that is how you felt about the place you work? I don’t know why he was gone as long as he was, but surely he could have found some time to do some Monster.com job searches and interviewed for a job or two?
I was struck by how we are both in similar situations but our responses to them were so different. It seems to me that he and I are in mirror images of the same room; in his version, he is miserable and morose, while in mine I am content and well-adjusted.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Note: I previously posted this on my website. But, since I dreamed it again, and I never updated that website, I thought I'd move it here and share with a new audience.
I am in some unnamed city and it is dark and cold, sometimes it is raining outside, and some force or event or need drives me to seek shelter in a bar. It is one of those bars that you walk down into and no matter when you stop by, day or night, it has this cloud of smoky air and a perpetual darkness about it.
If it's raining, my pants and shirt are soaked, as though the jacket I am wearing wasn't made for the amount of precipitation unleashed outside.
I order a Pepsi from the somewhat attractive but certainly life-weary waitress and sit down at a table toward the back. I notice a woman at the piano in the corner with an old brandy snifter partly filled with bills and change. She's just beginning to entertain the meager audience.
Counting myself, the audience is mostly men, with only one or two women hidden in dark corners. Everyone else looks like they have grown into their chairs and I guess they are this bar's regulars. Each is drinking away some part of his life he would rather forget or not be involved in.
As I slump into a seat at a table and let the events that carried me here spill over my memory, the piano eases to life. The red-headed woman begins to sing. The songs are painfully well-known to me. I examine the singer more carefully and see it is Tori Amos.
Even in the reality that is the dream, I am not surprised to see her here.
She plays some cut down versions of 'Little Earthquakes,' 'Crucify,' and 'Concertina,' then kicks into a rocking version of 'Caught a Lite Sneeze.' She pauses long enough that I almost think she's finished. She closes her eyes, and begins to sing 'China.'
She invests her entire self in the song, her lower lip constantly kissing the bottom of the black and silver microphone and quivering slightly.
She does not open her eyes and the mourning in her voice and the sad sob that creeps out during the high notes brings me to tears. Her voice becomes gravelly and full of anguish during the low lyrics.
"China, all the way to New York..."
I sit mesmerized. All sound outside of the piano and her voice cease to exist. I am transported to a world of pain and loss and unfulfilled love.
"Sometimes, I think you want me to touch you..."
Tori is barely moving. Her hands on the piano's ebony and ivory keys seem to move of their own volition. I barely see her draw breath. She is elsewhere and the song sings itself.
"Funny how the distance learns to grow..."
I see a tear streak down her face as I feel wetness on mine. I can't move. I don't remember blinking. My heart is stuck between rhythms.
"I can feel the distance... I can feel the distance..."
The song finishes. Tori stays at the piano, her polished nails poised over the piano keys and her funny-shaped lip still shaking and just, just, touching the microphone. It is very quiet in the bar. The few customers are all, like me, mesmerized.
Finally, the Muse releases her and Tori is able to whisper a very faint, almost hoarse "Thank you" into the stillness.
This releases me. I stumble forward, the half finished Pepsi, forgotten, sweating a large wet circle onto the Formica tabletop.
I pull a bill, I don't know what denomination, out of my pocket and slip it into the brandy snifter. Tori doesn't even look at me as she begins the initial notes to 'Happy Phantom.'
I bend close to her ear and whisper a throaty, "Thank you."
The barest hint of a smile plays in the corners of her too-red lips. The curls of her red hair then move to cover her expression in that way that only women's hair can.
I touch her shoulder with a very brief squeeze, then hurry toward the door and whatever waits outside.
The world looks remarkably fresher and cleaner as I emerge from the bar. And I can die happy, because I have experienced Tori Amos singing 'China' in a smoke-filled bar.
Friday, March 11, 2005
That is one invective that just rolls off the tongue. It actually feels good to say it. You almost bite your lower lip to begin and the sound starts way in the front of your mouth. Then it moves back into the schwa sound in the middle and seems to reverberate around your entire, open mouth. Then it ends at the far back of your mouth in a near spit as you hit that hard “k” sound.
And it is very useful as a curse, isn’t it? Surprise, anger, consternation, envy, even a rough form of sensuality can all be expressed with this one word. You can even use the single word and let it roll around on your tongue until you get the right feel; “Fuck!” “Fuck?” “fuck.” “FUCK!” I’m sure we’ve all heard the little sound bite that floated around the internet a few years back about how it can be used as nearly all parts of speech; “Fuck the fucking fuckers!”
“Fuck” is my favorite curse word. I’ve never liked saying “Shit.” I use the lesser evils of “Damn” and “Hell” a bit. I never, ever use “Cunt” - I hate that word. I rarely use “Bitch.” “Crap” is said, but just doesn’t sound as good.
I pick my times and places to say “Fuck.” While it is true I sometimes fall into a streak where I’m cursing like a sailor, most of the time I pick what I say pretty carefully. I only whip out a good “Fuck” when I think the word will add to the meaning or emotion of a sentence or a moment.
I also rarely curse at work. It’s just not polite. Now, the guys in sales and marketing, they curse a lot. I hear some of the product support people and almost see the blue clouds over their heads. I, however, chose my times and my places.
Let me wander closer to the point of this message: Because I generally curse judiciously and with thought, people pay attention. And, really, isn’t that why we use curse words in the first place? We want to get people’s attention and show our emotion at the same time. But if you use those words in everyday speaking, they lose their appeal and power to persuade.
If every morning I came to work and said “What the fuck is up, bitch?” to my boss, outside of being fired, she would grow accustomed to hearing that kind of language from me. If a time came when I really needed to punctuate a point, she would miss it. The punctuation would drown in the white noise of cursing I created by over-use of those words.
And so I reach my point: let’s all step back and rein it in, eh?
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Wal-Mart’s ability to give us low prices is based on its size and willingness to use foreign products, which can be manufactured in many second and third world nations for much cheaper than America can make the same product. By leveraging its size and its access to these incredibly inexpensive items, it can force local manufacturers into deals that then force those manufacturers to look at ways to lower their own costs—which usually winds up being downsizing or outsourcing. Either of these choices takes money away from both the American workers (they are out of a job) and the American economy (both through job-loss and trade inequities).
I would do the opposite. As head of Target (say), I would shift my store focus to using as many American company products as possible and trying to especially pursue those items made IN America. Those items that were not made in America, I would clearly label in my stores. I would then change my advertising focus to say, in essence, “Our prices are higher than Wal-Mart’s, but all of our products are made in America. We focus on things made in America by American workers and American companies.”
With the hot-bed issues of patriotism, nationalism, and the fear of outsourcing work offshore to other nations, I think this message would sell. If it does sell, the resulting purchases would help boost the American economy by keeping jobs and money inside the United States.
Unless America can figure out a way to replace the blue-collar jobs it is losing, Americans are looking at even leaner times ahead. As China, in particular, moves into the first-nation status and exerts more power in the global economy, America's economy will get weaker. Any nation or area that can take American jobs and do them cheaper and faster will get increasingly more work from companies looking to compete. The cycle will continue until we are, like many former world-leading nations in Europe, marginalized and forced to enter unions of nations to bolster our economic strength.
Or, we can do everything in our power to bring those nations along at an even faster clip. The faster those nation’s economies expand and grow, the more quickly they reach the same manufacturing costs as are in America and the prices stabilize and competition returns. But I don’t see that happening any time soon!
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
In talking with people about my previous post, I found an interesting note: men were sympathetic (although I got a lot of ribbing about it) while women missed the point entirely and wondered why I didn’t do more.
First, to clarify for the women: yes I noticed a lot of individual details. When I retold the story, it was after I had put the evidence together and come to a conclusion. Doing so makes for a better story. During the actual event, I was noticing individual details and was not connecting the dots to form a whole. It’s like that old saying about something lost that you find in plain sight, “if it had been a snake, it would have bitten me!”
Secondly, in speaking about the event among various women I discovered that all but one of the women asked why I wasn’t more aggressive, why I didn’t do more. After explaining the point I just made (about seeing each thing as an individual event and not connecting the dots until later) I followed with a question of my own, “How many men have you asked out?” Of all the women I spoke to (in double digits), only one responded that she had asked a man out. One woman even went so far as to say she had never asked out a man and she never would—it was the man’s responsibility. Only the one woman who had asked out a man sympathized with my tale told, because she understood the stresses involved with laying yourself out there and being bold.
The point I am making is that this recent event has really highlighted hypocrisy in the women I know. They want equality, they want to make as much money as men, they want to have the same opportunities as men, they want to be considered more than just ovens for offspring-- all of which I agree with. Yet, when it comes to romance and relationships, nearly all of them want the man to make the first move, to pay for the date, to be aggressive (but not too aggressive), to hold open doors, to talk about her, and to take all of the risk.
I would argue that, if my conclusion about the restaurant incident is accurate, the woman who kept catching my eye is equally at fault. If she was interested, why didn’t she come up to me? Why didn’t she think of an opening line or give me a nod and a wave? Why didn’t she send a more direct signal?
According to articles on the subject, the biggest fear of the average person is public speaking. This fear ranks higher for most people than death or that which can kill them (shark attacks, drowning, car accidents, et al)! Asking a woman out has all of the same pressures of public speaking:
- You are usually speaking in a crowd, albeit a small crowd of a few people;
- You don’t know how what you are going to say will be received;
- You are worried about forgetting what you are going to say;
- You worried about public embarrassment; Etc.
Every single fear you, reading this right now, have about public speaking is present. In addition to all of these fears, the man has two additional fears to include.
- Fear of rejection. What if she doesn’t like me? What if I’m reading the signals incorrectly? What if she, or her friends (because how often is a woman alone?), laugh at me?
- Fear of acceptance. What if she says yes? What do I say after that? What can I talk about? Should I compliment her, and what on? Am I talking too much about me? About work?
I’ve asked out my share of women. In college and afterward, I went out a lot, less often these days. And yet, even with that practice, I still have to overcome many of those fears each and every time I ask a woman out. Every man does, to some greater or lesser degree. An aggressive, confident man, one who asks a lot of women out, is usually one who has a system in place that he is relatively secure will work in most cases. Because of this, he has mitigated many of the fears. People who are naturally more outgoing are going to have a small advantage over those who are more introverted. Those who are better at reading the signals and body language have an advantage over those who are more obtuse.
In the end, I didn't piece together the clues I was given by my admirer in the restaurant. She didn't overcome her own fears and approach me or she was totally expectant that I would make the first move. In the end, who is really at fault?
In order for us to understand each other better, I have some homework for the women who read this.
- Be direct. I want you to send less subtle, more direct signals when you show interest in the next man. He may be interested in you, too, but just is not sure of the signals he’s receiving or he may not be receiving them at all (as was my case).
- Ask a man out. Go through all of that fear yourself, even if it’s just once. You’ll have more respect for the men who do approach you in the future.
- Give us a break. As I heard it once said, “A man hopes he is having sex tonight, a woman knows if she is.” You hold most of the power in the relationship, use it wisely. The next time a shy, geeky, wallflower of a guy that you don't have any interest in approaches you, give him a break. Now you know some of the many obstacles that he had to overcome just to get the nerve up to ask you. Be nice.
And today I'm heading to the same place at the same time to see if the lady is there this week. If she is a student, it may be a routine that she stops by for lunch between classes or after a class. If she is there, I will look for even the most subtle hint and I will get up the nerve to walk over and introduce myself. Wish me luck?
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
At first they move to sit outside at the shorter girl's insistence. Shortly, they come back in and sit at the taller girl's requested location, which happens to be directly in my line of sight. Throughout the remainder of my meal, the taller girl catches my eye and even smiles. I, of course, smile back too. Have to be polite.
A little aside: when I'm eating alone-- or alone in general-- I'm in my own little world. Specifically, while during lunch, I do my best to put the answering machine on and veg-out, doing my best not to think about work. While generally observant, I am not aware of many specifics.
Then a sappy/crappy love song comes on (by Backstreet Nsync to Men Badd-- whatever, one of those boy bands) and she once again catches my eye. I smile at her singing along, then return to my glazed over, nearly drooling vegged out state.
I finish lunch, top off my beverage, and leave. I do throw one last glance in said girl's direction and she is watching me leave. I sort of nod, then am out the door.
As I am driving back to work after lunch it suddenly dawns on me-- she was probably flirting with me. Sending subtle hints that I could, maybe, come over and say Hi. There is, of course, also the chance she is just flirting for flirting's sake. Many people do this.
I've been out of the loop too long. I've only gone on a few dates recently, and none have been earthshaking for either participant. This lunch time interaction had more chemistry even across the room than either of my most recent dates.
Now, I realize this girl was probably all of 21 or 22. Gina's is right on the campus of UC Irvine, after all. As I am rapidly nearing 34, this seems very young (even if I do try to present the Dirty Old Man image and joke about dating girls half my age). Those who are 22 and 34 are in VERY different places in their lives, and looking for very different things. But still-- I should be seeing/picking up on these signals! Is my testosterone on the blink? Has my lack of activity inured me to the wiles of those lovely females who may be interested? Are my nostrils no longer sensitive to the gentle wafting of the pheromones from receptive females? How many other opportunities drift by because I'm just plain too dense to register them?
A hint to the women in my life-- be blunt. I'm blunt and don't always pick up on the subtleties. I say what I mean and futilely expect the same from those around me.
So, now, all I can do is wait for the next time something like this happens and hope I recognize it sooner and can do something about it. And I can remember the girl with the startling eyes and strange curve to her lip.