Thursday, November 11, 2010

Missed Signals

Education and an eye for detail do not necessarily mean that one (okay, it’s me) will notice some of the major points. I can spot a coin on the ground from four or five parking spaces away (even in low light!). But can I find my car in the same lot? Yeah, you already know the answer. At least all the walking in search of the car yields a coin or two. If I could troll parking lots more regularly, just for fun, I might have a nice supplemental income along with reasonably firm calves.

I am getting better at reading Moose’s signals when he needs to go outside. During the night, he sleeps in the bedroom and I close the door. He wakes me up when he needs to be released from my lair by jumping up and down beside the bed that is a bit too tall for him to jump onto. Sometimes this occurs during the hours I prefer to be sleeping, (say, 2:00 a.m.). He almost always does it at 6 a.m. when I need to be getting up. He has an incredible inner clock for my wake-up call. Unfortunately, in the first few days since the clocks went back an hour, he’s been waking me at 5:00. Poor little guy doesn’t understand standard and daylight savings time, and isn't much better at discerning weekends.

When I am in my little office and he wants attention or needs to go outside, he’ll plant his paws on the arm of the chair and jump around. If I ignore him, he will issue a single (loud!) bark that gets my attention by causing me to jump. It’s shocking, because he rarely barks when I am home. If we are in the living room, he’ll saunter over to the door, plant his grubby little paws on the wall (Ack! It’s flat paint!!) and jump around like some sort of circus performer. These signals are easy to read now that I know what they mean. I missed them a few times, but learned pretty quickly.

Other signals, especially from fellow humans, are not so obvious to me.

There have been arguments with a Significant Other (at various historical points when I had a person designated as such) after a conversation involving myself and a waiter, salesperson, restaurant patron, co-worker, whatever. A former boyfriend once shrieked at me, “Are you the most naïve woman on earth, or do you just play one on TV?” Why all the aggravation? Because what I often interpret as “polite conversation,” the S.O. read as “flirting.” Not necessarily by me, but flirting nonetheless. And then I get yelled at because some dude is flirting when I am just talking. As if I can control what someone else says. I may have a few superpowers, but that isn’t one of them. (Trust me, I would use it if I had it.)

In the missed signals department, there were a couple that could have changed the course of history. Well, not your history or world history, but definitely my history.

There were guys I liked (heck, loved) who apparently liked me back. And when they ended up with other women, my friends would comment how they never understood why [insert hot guy’s name here] and I never went out. And I’d be looking at them, puzzled, saying, “What are you talking about? He never liked me.” And THEN they would fill me in on all the signals they saw as clearly as illuminated billboards that I never saw. All the ways they witnessed that guy I was pining for was also crushing on me. And the whole time I was clueless. I would like to take this opportunity to, um, *thank* those friends for not speaking up when it could have made a difference. You know, before a great guy ended up with someone not me.

These days, I am not much better at reading the clues. Not when it matters, anyway.

Let’s take Monday, for example. I was on an airplane, on the first leg of a journey home from a business trip. As passengers were standing in the aisle at the front of the plane to get off in Detroit, from my seat way, way in the back of the plane, I noticed a tall man with dark hair and really cool glasses. Our eyes met, but being me, I quickly averted my gaze (and immediately hated myself for it). Why am I never like the girls in movies who lock eyes with a handsome stranger and then in the next scene they are laughing over dinner and a few scenes later living happily ever after? (Except maybe on Lifetime, when they usually end up abused or nearly dead first.)

For an few minutes, I berated myself for not holding that gaze, for not being the bold girl who can meet a man in an airport, or on a plane, or in a checkout line, and for being my own uptight, too timid, ridiculous self. Then I forgot about it. Until I got on the plane for Nashville and took my seat in the first row (it was 1B if you really care for details). And in true Hollywood fashion, in the seat directly behind mine, and next to my client, sat the handsome dude with the cool glasses. A short time later, Mr. Client pulled me into their conversation about where to watch the Monday Night football game. I recommended a couple places I knew that had TVs, including Old Chicago. Because I was wrenching my neck trying to talk with Larry in 2B (who likes the Steelers), I returned to my in-flight, upright, uptight, forward facing position and my issue of Psychology Today.

After we landed, as people were beginning to clog the aisle, Larry asked me, “So who’s buying tonight at Old Chicago?” Now, I am sure any normal person would have recognized that as an opening signal and jumped on it. It was a chance to, at the very least, to make a new friend, expand the network. Not me. I was in the midst the very graceful process of standing up and slamming my head on the overhead compartment, hard enough for me to see a couple stars. Sadly, none of them were Robert Downey, Jr. I was trying to get the attention of someone across the aisle and one row back to open the overhead on that side. I needed to retrieve my purse, which the flight attendant put there, because it could not go under the seat in front of me because in Row 1 there is no such thing. Once I had my purse, the tide of passengers swept me out the door and down the jetway, past the pickup point for my “pink-tag bag” carry on that had to go into the cargo section (along with everyone else’s) because the plane was tiny (like a school bus with wings). I was long separated from even responding to the question, Larry was now nowhere to be seen, and I was beginning to recognize the potential signal that had gone unheeded. Or maybe he was just making conversation. I will likely never know.

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