Short Friction

Writing to entertain and to stimulate thought

Wayne’s date

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I found myself in this really uncomfortable situation today. Again. Why can’t I just act like myself with chicks? Anyway, I’m going out with Sandra, right, for the first time — this is like a full-on date so I’m excited and all — we’re catching the train (she’s so great, likes public transport because its better environmentally — so no need to impress her with a car, eh?) and the moment I sit down next to her: kabang! My mind goes blank. It’s like when you go in the video store, right? You walk in, you know you want that classic movie — whatever — and you just forget the minute you walk through those plastic security things. End up walking out with “The Night of the Cows”.

So I’m sitting there and my mind is blank. All I could find to fill the terrible void was the knowledge that, hey! I’m sitting next to a gorgeous chick here and what’s more she knows me and what’s more she is still happy to sit next to me! But I figured that was no good to have a conversation about. So I’m sitting there and well aware that for every second that goes by in which I say nothing, the relevance of whatever I do end up breaking the silence with must increase exponentially if I don’t want to sound mundane. It’s like, if two people sit in silence for fifteen minutes and one suddenly says, “Nice weather, innit?” the other will inevitably think, “what a complete twit,” or something to that effect. Once two people have been silent for more than about thirty minutes, the only hope for starting a conversation successfully is for one of them to be struck by lightning, allowing the other to ask of their ensuing well-being and perhaps also comment, “ ‘s a nuisance when that happens — really puts a damper on the rest of your day, don’t it?”

A thirty second pause like I had to deal with isn’t nearly so irrecoverable, but I knew I had to act soon. So when a conversation topic of even mild potential hit me, I jumped on it without a moment’s hesitation. In order to give my statement at least the appearance of some context, I made a point of first subjecting the interior of the train to significant observation. I turned my head this way and that, looked at the lighting, the seating, the hand-holds. I applied a look of intense bewilderment to my face. It worked — Sandra looked at me, followed my eyes in an effort to determine what was so interesting.

I looked back at Sandra and observed, as casually as I could manage, that for the least populated, least profitable and most dangerous train line, we seemed to consistently be getting the newest and most comfortable trains all of a sudden.

She looked at me with mild surprise. She couldn’t believe I didn’t know the story behind that fact. But, believe it or not, I didn’t. She said it was all in the papers. That was great — more conversation! I got to tell her that I didn’t read the newspaper or watch the news on tv. So then she told me how it all came about.

Sandra pointed out that the new trains no longer had the scrolling electronic advertising signs at either end of the carriages. These had been in Melbourne trains for as long as I’d lived in Melbourne – so at least since 1998 – and had proclaimed a single message day and night without variation in all that time: “Put your name here and be seen by over 1 million people a week!” Never once had anyone bought advertising time on the system.

Sandra explained that it just so happened that a start-up IT company in the city finally bought advertising on the electronic signs for next to nothing with a contract guaranteeing certain minimum daily exposure on particular targeted (i.e., wealthy) lines. The advertising department were so excited about someone finally showing interest that they jumped on the contract without hesitation – hopeful it might lead to future interest. Unfortunately this all happened too late for the production of the new trains, which had dumped the electronic signs for paste-up advertising due to lack of interest. The new trains now used a similar sign in the centre of carriages to display the names of upcoming stations. The powers that be in Connex believed that having similar signs displaying advertising would create too much confusion, and refused to retrofit the new trains with them. The company with the advertising contract to Connex to court over the issue and the end result was that all the new trains were to be put on lines that weren’t in the advertising agreement until the contract period had completed.

Anyway, it was a nice save for my awkward silence. Her enthusiasm for the whole story was very encouraging, and it was easy to find things to talk about after that.

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Written by shortfriction

22/11/2009 at 13:05

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