An encounter

So, I rather ungraciously snubbed/rejected a guy today while I was in San Francisco. Actually, rejecting is probably too brave a word–I just ran away.

I was at the San Francisco Public Library’s History Center today to do research for my thesis. Because I’ve never gone alone to SF before, I was a little on edge to start with. But the people in the history center are really nice, so I started feeling comfortable again. (The center is a wonderful resource, by the way, if anyone else out there who reads this is interested in California history!) I told the people there what I was looking for, and within minutes two or three librarians swooped down upon me with stacks of books. I was totally overwhelmed.

By about three o’clock, my stomach was growling, my hands were cramping up and I had a headache. I didn’t want to leave, so I thought I’d take a break from writing by playing around on the internet a little. I go to the computers, where these two guys have been for what seems like hours, and on the one vacant computer, there are something like twenty windows open, and they’re all porn. You’d think someone who was spending hours in a special collections/research room in the library looking at porn would at least be embarrassed enough to close the windows! I mean, the history center is on the sixth floor, and you have to sign in and check your bags and everything. You can’t just walk in and walk out. I don’t get it. So of course I was really grossed out and freaked out about touching the computer. I went back to my work, disgusted and disturbed.

At six o’clock they kicked me out (well, it was closing time). I was totally disoriented because I’d just spent so many hours straight researching, so when the elevator doors opened on the fifth floor, I didn’t even think and just walked out. Then I realized where I was and ran back in. This guy followed me and started talking to me. A nice-looking if slightly nerdy Asian guy. I wanted none of it, so after saying the bare minimum in reply, I looked in the other direction, but the guy there was a slightly crazy looking middle aged guy missing a front tooth (sounds like a pirate movie, but it’s true–I was a little fascinated actually), so I looked at the door instead. But the Asian guy wouldn’t stop talking to me! To deflect his attention, when the other guy asked how I was doing, I started talking to him instead. I asked how his day was going, and he responded that it’s so refreshing to see a pretty woman. I thought, oh great, now there are two of them. So as soon as the elevator got to the lobby I ran out, but the Asian guy followed me and kept talking. I think, actually, he abandoned the library book he was going to check out, because I was walking quickly toward the exit, so he left the book and followed me.

Once outside, I couldn’t make my escape as quickly as I’d wanted to, because it was raining and there was an anti-war demonstration. By this point, I had learned that he was from Canton and recently graduated from UC Davis, that his name was Alex, and that he had a sister. And he had learned my name, that I went to Berkeley, and that I was not married but had a boyfriend, and that my Chinese is not very good. I was getting pretty desperate by that time. I didn’t want to be mean to this guy, because he was quite nice, but I really wanted to go home! And after five hours doing intensive research in a library, I wasn’t even all that comfortable with the present day anymore, let alone people, strangers. In the end I just said that I really had to catch my train, and left. He said something about keeping in touch but when I misheard him (or seemed just plain uninterested) he decided to let me go and just said bye.

As it turned out, if I had stopped to give him my email address, I would have missed my train, so it’s all for the best. But I still feel bad about it. Two reasons: although he apparently liked me enough already, I feel bad that he didn’t see my usual friendly self. I don’t like being rude to people–even though what I consider rude is to some people perfectly normal–which is partly why I hate telemarketers so much. They make me feel like a bad person. Also, I feel sorry because he seemed like a genuinely nice person. Maybe that’s just his act, carefully calculated through years of hitting on the kind of nice girls who respond to nice guys, but… he seemed nice! I tend to think of guys who hit on girls as unpleasant or shady characters, but he seemed serious about it, so I feel extra bad about leaving so abruptly. And maybe he’s just lonely and wanted a friend. I wouldn’t mind being friends with him, so I kind of wish I’d stopped to give him some way of contacting me online. He knew I have a boyfriend, after all. It wouldn’t have hurt me to give him my email. I feel really bad about that. Plus I made him lose his library book! And I’ve been spending so much time working on Chinese and Chinese American history, I feel like I have a cultural obligation to faciliate friendship and cooperation between people of the same background. He seemed really interested that I have roots in Canton.

I’m just not used to being hit on. I don’t know how to respond in a way that doesn’t make me seem available, yet manages to stay true to my friendly impulses. I actually wanted to get to know him better and hear his story, but I was too nervous to stay. I suppose if I were a songwriter I’d write some awful clichéd song about this. On BART on the way home, I kept imagining what friends would say when I told them about this. I know one person who would say, oh sweetie, you should have just given him your email address! And I know someone else who would say, ah whatever, he’ll get over it. But since I’m me, I can’t respond the way anyone else would… I guess my response is just to feel bad about it. Bleh.

I do feel somewhat better now, though, because I called up Erik as soon as the train got out of the transbay tunnel and I had reception again, and we arranged to have dinner at Great China. Researching Chinese restaurants really does crazy things to my food cravings. We got a table and ordered a ridiculous amount of delicious hot food, and I was all back to myself again, until I got home and sat down to write this and started feeling bad again. Grr.

But I do have leftover napa cabbage with dried shrimps.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]