Let’s Do Lunch

The Scene: Webster Hall, Wednesday night. I’m in the VIP area of the balcony after The Bravery have played with Radio 4. It’s the time of the night where people schmooze and network – i.e. pretend that they like or care about people with whom they only want to do business. I sidle up to an acquaintance/friend, who I had seen earlier but not gotten the chance to talk with.

“So,” he says. “How’s everything going?” It’s the standard New York greeting in such a scenario.

“Good,” I reply instinctively. That too is standard. But in saying it, I know I don’t sound sincere: this person is a friend of my friends in Radio 4 and he’s involved with The Bravery too and though I don’t know him very well personally, he’s worthy of a more detailed and honest reply than the standard monosyllable. I just need to figure out what that reply should entail.

And then one of us is momentarily interrupted as so often the case. Following which, as if we’re recording this for TV, we try again.

“So,” he says. “How’s everything going?”

“Good,” I reply a little more emphatically, and prepare to elaborate.

But before I get the chance, a charming 30-something woman gets right inbetween us.

“Everything’s great,” she says with a broad grin. “He got a new job. And a promotion!” She’s looking right at me, as if thrilled on my behalf.

Now my acquaintance looks at me too, and with some surprise – because he knows that I work only for myself. Or at least he thinks he knows that, but maybe he’s mistaken. He hasn’t seen me for a few months after all.

Meantime, I’m looking at the woman with some confusion, because she must have me mixed up with someone else. But presumably, because she’s so confident at joining us, she knows him.

“Well,” she says, filling the awkward silence. “It was awesome seeing you guys again. We should do lunch sometime.” At which she slaps us both on the back and walks off.

Another awkward silence. Then my acquaintance speaks.

“So um, how’s the new job?” he asks, his voice indicating he’s not sure whether I have one.

“Do you know her?” I ask by way of reply.

“No,” he says. “Don’t you?”

“No,” I reply.

Only then do we realize that we’ve been had, that this woman had seized on the apparent insincerity of our little schmooze – we’d repeated the opening line, after all – and turned it into a performance piece.

Her intention may have been to show us up or shame us, but it served to break the ice. We laughed at her audacity, acknowledged our own apparent caginess, and ended up having a proper and detailed conversation.

I’ll be that much more careful next time I offer the standard “Good” by way of reply to the standard New York greeting. And by the way, if the woman who interrupted us is reading this… I’ll call you next week about that lunch.

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December 2021