15 Days of Social Discomfort: Day 4. Excuse-Approaching People

It’s 12:45 pm and for the first time doing this, I am not anxious, having spent the last two hours sitting in buses and trains while listening to Luis von Ahn on Tim Ferriss’s podcast (highly recommend that episode, by the way). Or it is because I have slept some 12 hours recovering from two nights of binge-watching. But that’s unimportant: I’ve just declared today’s goal to be appraching ten random people. Excuses are allowed.

Soon, however, I’m making them for not approaching: There’s a cute girl at the bus stop across the street. All by herself (almost). The target (I only use this for lack of a better word) I have fantasized about for years of my life. I walk toward her. She looks at me a bit coy, but then smiles and, as I am fewer and fewer steps away from her, opens her arms to welcome me lovingly. She’s been waiting for this as much as I have.

Jk. I cannot get myself to even walk toward her (maybe that would be a great way to push myself over the edge? I’ll think about it). Not today, I tell myself. Today, I can approach anybody. I’m getting into my head more and more, and that isn’t made better by the fact that I am too shy to even ask for directions now and a few moments after crossing the street spot two benches on a meadow, with a girl sitting on each. Dammit. I suck. Let’s “recover” and read something.

Since I forgot my phone charging cable (such a complex word. We Germans say “ladekabel.”), at home, however, I’m looking for the nearest tech store. And I shall find it with the help of a young dad sitting on a bench, who seems happy to give me directions. I spotted him, I went toward him, I asked him. It’s as easy as that and I’m proud of myself.

Something I notice while trying to find someone else to ask is my screening people: Too hot, too concerned with herself, too focused on his phone, too frightening.

It’s now 1 pm and I decide to cheat a little: I ask a woman at the hardware store for what I’m searching. It counts because I still have to approach her, unlike a cashier whom I inevitably get in contact with. 8 euros for the cheapest cable they have, by the way? Screw those guys. That’s like 10 cents in production.

Fast forward ten minutes of walking down the pedestrian zone and looking at people, and I’m in a fairly good mood, even after spotting the next nail spa. Only the glaring sunlight is keeping me from doing my almond-throwing show. And I have reached the end of the pedestrian zone. Dammit, this city is way smaller than I had thought. I don’t want to do it, but I ask an elderly couple walking towards me whether there’s anything interesting if I further go in that direction – a) they’re visibly happy to answer and b) there isn’t. On the way back, a girl is walking next to me. I want to approach and turn my head left… It’s a woman in her fourties. Never mind. But I’m in a fabulous mood just from the elderly couple.

Another observation about my screening shenanigans: I keep looking for attractive girls even though I permitted myself to approach anyone and would chicken out at the sight. But my imagination does its best to convince me otherwise.

On my way back to the train station (this city feels too small), a shirtless guy on a bicycle passes by me, enjoying himself quite a bit. I instinctively give him a nod and finger-point of approval.

1:40 pm. Dammit. My train leaves in half an hour. I don’t wanna wait that long and turn around, going back into the city. Let’s make some approaches at a bookstore. Girls are more relaxed and moving slower there (I know I’m fixated on girls. But that’s my teenage testosterone. I’ll happily admit that I’m a jerk). I ask a middle-aged woman, and I ask a punky young woman 20 seconds after that. Both seem a bit frightened – possibly because I’m running around with a notebook and pointing my pen at them – but stop to help me, and the second one recalls something in the mall.  Half done for today.

I’m still in the shabby part of town. Some guy is leaning in a shop entrance, smoking his cigarette. After a long stare with nothing happening, I nod. He complies, I take my gaze off of him and onto my watch, which I then thrust up my arm a bit.

I ask a man, again using the bookstore excuse. I can do this. He points me to the same one as the young lady. The woman I ask a minute thereafter is only in town for shopping, but advises me to visit the mall. After a look onto my watch, however, I decide to turn around and get my train. I can get the three remaining approaches done on the way to the train station, especially since I have momentum after the last five minutes. I ask a young man on his phone for the time (my watch isn’t working correctly) and, although confused, he tells me. I smirk.

Then, another girl – alone, walking toward me, not many people here. I look at her, consider – nope. But again, I was closer to it than ever before. In a few days, I will not have to think. I will stop them and say some stupid shit intuitively. At least that’s what I tell myself after her having passed. Maybe it would help if she wasn’t wearing sunglasses and I could tell her level of interest from the eyes? Maybe it would help if I wasn’t, too. Let’s not wait until winter to find out, though.

Asked a middle-aged man for directions to the train station I have been to twice today. He is even more confused than the guy whom I asked for the time, but points towards it. It’s not even 400 metres (a quarter-mile for those wondering) away, although another building is blocking the sight… Okay, I’ll admit it. Better excuses have been found for approaching people. However, there’s only one more approach I have to do – but I’m lacking the pretence: I’m walking toward the train station and thus clearly not interested in buying books, or directions of any sort – which I in fact am, as it turns out: I can’t find the right track. I ask a man standing on the bottom of a staircase, and he gives me just the directions I needed. The beauty here is not in the directions. It’s in my turning around and then instinctively asking this guy whom I  – in a split-second – judge to be a frequent traveller. I don’t think about it. I just do it. That’s where I want to get, and apparently that takes only a few warm-up approaches.

Key takeaways? 0) My wrist hurts from typing this. 1) This city is a shithole. And a small one. 2) Resting targets (this now sounds really predatoresque) are easier to approach. 3) Uncrowded places are easier to approach in. 4) Approaching with excuses is easy… Who’d have thought. 5) State/zone/flow/momentum feels really good. It’s as if I’m another person.

Oh, and guess who showed up when I was leaving the second train station on my way back home: Kind-looking people next to a stack of free bible courses. It’s getting creepier by the day.

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