I’ve always had an unnatural fear of sitting next to attractive women on public transport. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bus, tram, train, ferry, plane or Heli-carrier; I feel slightly uneasy whenever I sit next to a pretty girl. This fear has absolutely nothing to do with a lack of confidence or some form of general social anxiety and more to do with the fact that I suspect pretty girls know they’re pretty.
They’re aware of it.
So when a regular guy (well, me) sits beside an attractive girl, especially when there are other vacant seats available, I get the feeling that she feels I’m choosing to sit next to her because she thinks that I think she’s pretty too. Does that make sense?
Because of this supposition I usually find myself sitting next to the, ahem, more eccentric members of society – the junkies, the alcoholics, the sweaty, the unnecessarily aggressive.
Now heaven forbid you’re like me and actually enjoy conversing with the person you’re sharing space with. I mean, with public transport typically heavily overcrowded, you’re usually incidentally touching the person you’re sitting next to in some random fashion, the least you can do to dilute the weirdness is make polite banter.
Being affable/gregarious in nature I find this to be no problem as it comes, um, naturally.
So, in my mind, when I happen to be sitting beside (or opposite) a cute girl that I’m naturally compelled to banter with I automatically assume she thinks I’m trying to pick her up, or hit on her. Because she thinks that I think she’s attractive.
I shared my highly complex and extremely profound thoughts about this quandary with a female friend. I told her my theorem (me + public transport + proximity to attractive female = fail) and how, because of this theory, I often avoided sitting next to well presented/attractive members of the opposite sex.
She claimed she worked in the opposite way. That if she had the option of sitting next to a well presented/attractive male or an aggressive, sweaty, junkie type she’d “take the seat near the cute guy every time.”
I asked if it mattered to her that this hypothetical cute guy was probably thinking she was trying to flirt/hit on him. She immediately stated that she wasn’t compelled to make small talk with random strangers on public transport.
This wholly internal dilemma came to a head like this…
One morning after finishing work I was train-ing it home as I usually do, and trying to find myself an agreeable seat with limited success, as I usually do. Walking through the train it became apparent that I would not have the luxury of having a two-seat to myself. There would be no space for my bag to have its very own seat on this journey.
I pass by the usual variety of miscreants and sigh audibly. Not exhaling and slumping my shoulders in the traditional motion of a sigh, I actually utter the word “sigh.”
Then I pass by a cute girl with long auburn hair, huge green eyes, freckles, and braces, sitting by herself in a three seat facing three seat booth style seat trains/buses sometimes have.
“Pfft, that’s the best free seat on the train. If only she was tainted in some way, then I’d have myself a pretty rad seat,” I thought to myself as I continued down the aisle on my quest to find a seat near a rogue scumbag.
Then I actually thought about what I was thinking about. Thoughtception.
“You’re not sitting in a perfectly serviceable seat because it’s opposite a pretty, well presented young woman. You’re looking for a seat next to, or opposite, a scumbag or old person. Why?” I posited to myself.
“You’re right internal dialogue,” I continue, “time to slay that particular dragon.”
I turn around and make my way back to the perfect seat opposite the pretty girl.
“Hey,” I say in my most casual, non intrusive manner, “anyone sitting here?”
“No, not at all, go for it.” she replies.
I place my bag in the overhead baggage storage and take my seat. From behind the refuge of my sunglasses I watch her visually investigate her new travelling companion. She doesn’t seem disgusted, which I take as an acceptance to my general presence.
It’s all I ever ask for.
Before too long my natural exuberance takes over and I begin making small talk. General nonsense mind you. Nothing that could be considered offensive or titillating: the trains being late/the weather/etc.
She then takes it a step further and asks me about my job/where I live/etc.
I do the same.
It turns out our professions are tangentially related as she’s a teaching student. This seems to further break the stranger danger code and we slip into an easy conversation that doesn’t end until shortly before her stop, when she announces that her stop is coming up shortly.
Before she departs, I declare that I’ve enjoyed the conversation. She smiles as she gathers her bag/belongings and replies that she has too. She adds that I’ve definitely made her journey less boring.
Throwing caution to the wind I casually offer that if she were so inclined I’d be well up for continuing the conversation at a later date. Her smile widens as she states that that would be “sweet”, and produces the required office supplies for me to write down my number. We share our goodbyes and she departs the train.
So, to recap, this bracer-ed teaching student has unintentionally helped me conquer my fear of talking to attractive girls on public transport. And she happily takes my number. Not a bad outcome.
No longer will I self inflict scumbag/junky/angry onto myself. I will now sit among the attractive women without fear.
I couldn’t wait to tell my female friend about my epic tale of overcoming the odds.
The next day I recount the saga to my friend in full. I leave nothing out, as is my way, and then wait for the expected congratulations and adulation my friend will surely reign down upon me. Much to my surprise, no adulation is offered. Instead we share this exchange.
“So, you never sit next to pretty girls because you think that they think you’re trying to pick them up, right?” she begins.
“Yes! But I sat next to a pretty girl! And it was fine!”
“True,” she replies, “But you clearly tried to pick her up.”
“But I… She… Number… Goddammit.”
The following day I returned to my place amongst the scoundrels.