I suppose any city that requires its citizens interact constantly (as opposed to being shielded inside cars) has its share of hilarious attempted pickup stories. Though I also suppose that these are numerous and uninteresting in bars the world over. I don’t know, I don’t frequent them. I remember once when I was a teen walking my mother’s dalmatian in the park, a guy with a dalmatian tried to convince me to give him my number so our dogs could play together because “dalmatians need dalmatians.” Good grief. Ever since, I’ve wanted to compile hilarious and creative pickup stories (success irrelevant. sorry, this is not a how-to), so if you’ve any good stories to share, comment below.
Yesterday, walking to the train after yoga, a guy asked me if I knew where a deli was. I raised an eyebrow, as there’s one on every block. He said, “I know we just passed one, but they don’t have phone cards. I need a phone card.” Even in the Skype age, I happen to know a lot about phone cards.
“Hmm.” I said, as we were on a stretch without delis. “Sixth Avenue will have some. If not, I know they’re sold in the train station.”
“The train station?” he laughed. “Where are you from?” he asked, with, I finally pinpointed, an Arabic accent.
I ignored his question and said, “The subway station. In the kiosk.”
“How do you know all this. Do you work in the subway?” he asked.
“Ah, no.” I replied.
“Where do you work? I am from Egypt. I work in hotels and design.”
“Hmmm.” I said. “Salaam Alaikum.”
“Wa Alaikum Salaam,” he laughed, “How do you know this?”
“My people have something called Ramadan right now.” he explained.
“Already? So early this year!” I replied.
“How do you know these things? Where are you from that you know this?”
“I travel a lot.”
“Have you been to Egypt? What else do you know? You must know habiba, too”
I claimed I did not know habiba (babe, beloved, sweetheart, etc), hoping he wouldn’t translate. I explained I had been to Egypt, but had spent more time in non-Arabic speaking Muslim countries, like Iran, Central Asia, Pakistan.
“You’ve been to Pakistan? Did you dress like that?!”
“No,” I smiled. “It was too cold.”
I was wearing a not-that-revealing yoga tank and yoga pants, as I’d just been to yoga. It was 80º in New York. There were plenty wearing far less than I was, weirdo. This isn’t Cairo.
“I’ve just arrived in NY. I got here last week. Where have you been? You look like you have been at the beach.”
We were almost to the train station at this point. “I was at yoga,” I explained.
“Oh, yoga!” He threw his head back and laughed. “I thought you said work. Yoga! You New Yorkers have such strange customs!”
That made me smile. Yes, I suppose that we do. We passed a kiosk and I pointed it out to him as a place to get his phone card. He looked at it, then at me, then back at the kiosk. “Would you wait for me while I buy it?” he asked.
“Would you have a tea with me? My people are very generous and we have this custom…”
“Yes, I know,” I replied, “and I’m sorry to refuse your kindness, but it’s not possible.”
“Can I have some way to contact you?”
“Nope. Sorry. Not possible” I smiled, as I waved and departed down the steps of the subway station. Strange customs indeed.