Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I like you

When my paternal granny was a youngster, 15 perhaps, working in a fancy confectioner's shop in central Copenhagen, her superiors, Konditor Klens and Mrs. Hoffman, always let her do the daily run to the bank to deposit money. They all knew, she says, that she was going there to flirt.

Her "flirt" was a middle-aged man, married with children, who was eventually shot dead for reasons I'm not really aware of. But in all the years she came to his bank, she would stand patiently in line to deposit the money with him even if all the other tellers were open and available. And when it was her turn and she stepped up, he would make a big fuss out of counting the money she placed before him, while peeking at her out the corner of his eye. If he found one bill that hadn't been perfectly straightened or had a bent corner, say, he would look up at her, do a little cough and say "tsk tsk Miss Nielsen, what is this?" all the while my grandmother stood there doing her best to keep a straight face. Of course, all this was exactly what she came for. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if she had bent the corner of one of the bills herself.

I've heard this story so many times over, and even though my granny is now 90, she tells it the way she's always done, with all the same details, always ending the story by saying: "He was so nice to me. And to believe he was murdered. Someone just walked straight in and shot him."

She tends to laugh a little at herself, as well, these days, finding it funny that she so looked forward to going to the bank, being teased and innocently flirted with, and every single day the same thing all over again. "Imagine he didn't get fed up with me", she sometimes says.

I looked up flirting on Wikipedia and found it initially described as "a common form of social interaction whereby one person obliquely indicates a romantic and/or sexual interest towards another. It can consist of conversation, body language, or brief physical contact. It may be one-sided or reciprocated (encouraged)."

A bit further down it says that: "People flirt for a number of reasons. It is often used as a means of indicating interest and gauging the other person's interest in a relationship....In other situations, it may be done simply for amusement, with no intention of developing any further relationship."

I like the latter description. The idea that it is first and foremost a relationship that the flirter is trying to establish with the flirtee. I also like the idea that this relationship may be ever so furtive, brief, momentary. I think it's so apt for describing what's going on when you pass someone in the street, and for one reason or another, you wind up having eye contact, sharing a smile, and that's it. I think it's apt for what's going on when I do my shopping at Trader Joe's and the cashier tells me that he or she also loves the cookies I just got. I think it's apt for what's going on when I sit down and pet a dog in the street, when I wave at a toddler in a stroller or when Al "ooh's-and-aah's" when he takes the first bite of something sugary I just baked.

It's all about establishing a relationship, understood in a very wide and almost all-encompassing sense of the word, as a form of connection, kinship, a moment of sympathetic recognition. Kind of like I like you, therefore I am, or I see you liking me, therefore I am. Or perhaps rather, we like each other, therefore we are.

I think this is the kind of flirting I master and respond to, and I think this is the kind of flirting American are masters at. I love liking others, and love being liked. Americans are the same way, I think. (You may insert snazzy jokes about over-simplified assumptions and American foreign policy here. Please do, 'cos I'm too lazy to come up with any myself).

I was flirted with again today. At Ninth Street, of course.
Sometimes, I think I flirt with my baristas by simply showing up. Much like my grandmother's bank-teller, they know I love it if they crack a joke about my daily regimen of a small Americano.

"A small Americano, please", I said to barista No. 1 when I arrived.

"You got it", he answered and did a cool little pointing at me with with both hands, a little like a mix of an air hostess pointing in the direction of an Exit and a cowboy drawing both his guns.

"A small Americano?", barista No. 2 said to barista No. 1 in exaggerated disbelief. "You know Mark, the other day she got a decaf, iced Americano".

Barista No. 1 laughed.

"I like to surprise people", I said. Laughed.

"Oh, I see", barista No. 2 said. "So you were planning it?"

"Yeah", I said. "'today I'm gonna throw him off his feet'"

Barista No. 1. and No. 2. laughed. A little.

"Hey, you go running a lot, right?", barista No. 2 asked.

"Yeah, I do", I said. "Well...I guess I don't go very far".

Then we chatted. About my running. About the running track. And stuff. And then I walked home, walking on clouds, thinking how much I resemble my granny and how I ought to tell her about my daily flirt. I know she'll like it.

1 comment:

Johanna said...

I loved this post. I loved your description of air hostess + cowboy, I know exactly what you're talking about! (sorry, am a little behind on reading)...