Social awkwardness in a Chinese restaurant

One aspect of being a strange person is having strange experiences. Experiences that are strange merely because it’s you involved.

A strange sort of coincidence happened to me yesterday evening. Only weird because I’m weird.

I’m a man of routine. Part of my regular agenda is to go to the gym on Wednesday evenings, and then have Sweet & Sour Chicken at Lee Ann Chin’s (a local Chinese chain) afterward. This I did last night.

I was sitting at a table, eating and reading a book on my Kindle. The table was at the back wall, and I was sitting on a long bench that stretches along that wall and serves three different tables. At the time I was the only one using any of those tables.

I was reading another Logan McRae novel – that series whose quality I admire, but which I just don’t like much. But I bought this book by accident, and I wasn’t about to dump it.

This one is more difficult than most for me. It involves the kidnapping and trafficking of children. There are scenes of abductions, and scenes of children held prisoner, helpless and hoping for rescue that doesn’t come.

For reasons having to do with my personal history (which I won’t go into here) I identify strongly with such scenes, and find them very hard to get through. The scene I was reading at the time involved an adult approaching an unattended little girl, and tricking her into accompanying her to her car. Made my stomach clench. Almost put me off my chicken and rice.

At that moment I heard a high voice at my ear. A little boy – maybe three years old (I’m not good at estimating) had climbed up on the bench beside me and was looking at my Kindle in fascination. “What you looking at?” he asked.

Now, as you may recall, I’m not comfortable with children. Don’t know how to talk to them. Don’t know how to treat them. My rules for dealing with children are basically, “Don’t ask their names. Don’t engage them in conversation or encourage further acquaintance. Look around for their parents and hope they’re coming to remove them.”

It took a moment, but the kid’s dad finally did come to collect him, laughing.

Awkward. With the added effect of the scene I was reading, I felt like the police would be coming to arrest me any minute. “I didn’t even talk to him, officer! He talked to me!”

“Why would any kid talk to a weird old guy like you?” the officer would reply.

For which I would have no response.

4 thoughts on “Social awkwardness in a Chinese restaurant”

  1. I try to treat them like adults as much as possible. Just straight answers to their questions. Ask them a queation in turn. When they keep asking questions, scream in their face and flee!

  2. Perhaps next time you’re in that restaurant the place will be a bit more crowded, and as you’re seated at that same spot staring into your laptop, a voice only as beautiful– and as inexplicably healing– as the woman to whom it belongs will suddenly distract you with three words: “May I sit here?”

    I think at one time men were expected to have some rough edges (what you call “awkward” etc). The sort of old school rough edges that attached themselves to good men, and (seemingly) good men only. That’s probably why the kid came over, and why the father was laughing.

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