Talk to Us

An open invitation elicits perturbation

"We're talking to people," Career put in.

"What's the deal with the Segway?" I asked him, trying to understand this consumer good that may one day eliminate the tedious factor of walking from our lives.

"We give 90-minute tours," he was beginning to tell me, and I was trying to listen even as a big man in a thin, brown uniform appeared in my peripheral vision. And yes, he was coming toward us.

Authority waited one polite moment, then put to us, "What is this all about?"

"We're on our lunch break," Career said cheerily.

"And we're just saying hello to people," I added.

All of this is true. Our presence couldn't have been more benign, except for the possibility that we were making perfectly good people uncomfortable.

He paused, assessing the situation.

We were patronizing the establishment, eating lunch from one of the restaurants. It's OK to be socially awkward if you're spending money, right?

"Well," he said, "I guess it's all right, if you're not harassing anybody and they're coming up to you."

"They are," we insisted. We were just being friendly. Sniffle. Sniffle.

Friendly. Nobody quite knew what to do with that. I was surprised we didn't get the boot.

But the lunch hour was over, and Career had to resume her daily ascent to power, so we packed up our stuff like disciplined street performers and walked off. We ruminated over the discomfort we had stirred.

Alas, it was a relief to have reentered the comfortable bubble of mutual indifference. To not try.

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