Carrying on with the previous blog, mulling over the why-oh-why of men interrupting women reading books in public. Reading books, engaged in their reading, not listlessly flicking through Cosmo.
There are, of course, circumstances under which I am not only willing, but glad to be interrupted while I’m reading in public:
- The train/bus/plane is on fire and I didn’t notice it.
- I’m about to miss my stop.
- You’re the author. (I once emerged from a plane in Phoenix clutching my extremely battered copy of ConCom to bump into Rory, who, by sheer accident, was going to be on my next flight. The exact words I uttered were “EEEEEEEEEK!” All and still, if he’d walked past me while I was reading, chances are I wouldn’t have noticed him. But I wouldn’t have minded him cutting in.)
- You have information that means more books for me. For instance, “I couldn’t help but notice that you’re reading Suzette Haden Elgin. Did you know that her early fiction can be found under X pseudonym on Y website?” I shall then feel the common bond of readership with you, and thank you. I might even exchange further words with you. Unless you’re reading; then I’ll probably leave you alone, because I actually get it.
- You’ve brought me a dressage-trained unicorn that poops Cherry Garcia ice-cream. If you come at me with something both relevant to me and truly amazing, like “I couldn’t help but notice that you’re reading Tom Robbins and turns out he’s doing a secret reading at a coffee shop down the road in 22 minutes, knock twice on the door and they’ll let you in,” I’m going to be damn grateful. Still quite possibly not grateful enough to want to hang out with you in other settings, and definitely not so grateful as to believe that you’re now entitled to my attention (and if you think you are, you’re loansharking), but grateful nonetheless.
So yes, there are ways to make interruptions work. That’s not how it usually goes, though.
I have had scores of “conversations” that started with a guy interrupting me while I was reading (and, these days, writing too). I have witnessed scores more. The usual exchange seems to start with a gloriously creative “Whatcha readin’?”, and go downhill from there. Sometimes they’ve never heard of that author. Sometimes they have. I’m not sure why anyone should care. Sometimes they want to know more about your business, where you’re going, what you do for fun. “Reading” hardly ever seems to be the right answer. The exchange tends to sound stilted and forced, which should hardly be a surprise because it is forced: one side wanted it, and the other didn’t. Yet it’s happening. And it’s happening in the apparent hope that making an inconvenience of oneself could somehow increase the chance of getting oneself laid.
I don’t get it. Generally speaking, if I want to get in someone’s good graces, never mind their undergarments, I tend to avoid pissing them off. Doing so would seem anti-useful. So is this really a working tactic? Has it ever worked for anyone in real life? And if not, why is it even a thing?