On Public Reading
I had a little time to kill between yoga class and meeting friends for trivia last night, so I decided to read in the park. It was a lovely summer evening, and I had a bench all to myself in the Common. I was pretty engrossed in my book, enjoying the breeze and the quiet peace of reading time, just for me, when a man in a rumpled suit appeared out of nowhere. “What are you reading?” he asked, sitting on the bench beside me as though we were old friends. Confused, I held my paperback up and mumbled, “Hemingway” in as uninviting but not rude tone as I could muster. For the next ten minutes, this man proceeded to ask me questions about my hobbies, my profession (“Are you an artist? I just get this artistic feeling from you.”), my background “”You’re definitely not from the East Coast–West Coast right? Like California?” I am from Rhode Island.), and my summer plans.
The real kicker came when he said I reminded him of Lady Gaga when he first spotted me (“You know, the whole Diet Coke cans in your hair, cigarettes in your glasses kind of thing”) and when I laughed, he shook his head and said, “Yeah, no, now that I’m talking to you I can see that it’s more of an Angelina Jolie vibe.” WHAT? I am about as far from Lady Gaga or Angelia Jolie as they come–I was dressed in a white skirt, pink t-shirt, and multi-colored sandals, hardly Lara Croft attire. Also, I have nary a tattoo, alternative piercing, or small orphan.
Though I was tempted at several points to snap “I was enjoying reading my book in peace and quiet before you started talking to me, and would like to get back to that,” in response to his many questions about my book and why I was reading it in the park, I kind of enjoyed the quirky spontaneity of a conversation with a stranger in a public place who was largely non-threatening and just seemed genuinely interested in talking to me. Anyway, the interaction got me thinking about how reading in public can spark some interesting discussions and situations. Are you more likely to approach someone if they’re reading a book you love, are interested in, or that you hated? Have you ever been approached by a stranger because of a book you were reading? Did they compare you to Lady Gaga? Just curious.