Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Plans & Famous Bloggers

I nearly canceled.

Having finished work far later than I planned, I seriously considered my evening plans as my host for the day tucked me inside a taxi after kissing my cheek.

"Piccadilly Street, please," I requested, sighing as I sat back in the seat and felt my tummy twist with nerves. "I'm not to be there until 7," I mentioned, wondering if the plexiglass between us would allow him to hear. When he looked at his watch, I decided he had and smiled when he politely informed me it wouldn't take an hour to get there. "No," I agreed. "I'll find someplace to wait."

Having watched out the window, I had identified suitable places and only had to walk a block through the misty rain before I could buy a soda and settle into a cushioned seat to deal with email and action items. I tackled my notes from today first, wincing when I recalled being shouted at twice. We struggled, honestly, and what was meant to be a 2 hour review turned into a 7 hour exercise in misery.

Glancing around occasionally, I lost myself in email while I sipped Diet Coke. After I finished the most urgent of messages, I tried to relax. I smiled at the girl in the corner, gesturing wildly as she complained that her colleague was just horrible and wouldn't work hard enough and clearly didn't understand! Her companion, a man a bit older than her early twenty-ish years, nodded but said little during her tirade, mostly avoiding eye contact.

The energy of youth, I decided, feeling a bit staid and settled in my early-thirty-ish age. I noticed a woman on the far wall was reapplying make-up, looking carefully in her tiny hand mirror as she brushed color on her eyelids and pursed her lips to apply gloss. Waiting people greeted those who arrived, exchanging handshakes or hugs as they settled into chairs and conversation with enviable ease.

Making a face, I realized it was time to close my laptop, escaping the safety of work in order to walk the block to my dinner destination. Some silly social impulse made me invite Richard for a drink and while he at first turned me down (something about being busy), he invited me for a meal after we finished work on Friday. Given that Jenny was joining us, I couldn't bring myself to opt out despite being nervous. They are, after all, the only two writers I know in London. I'm pretty sure that makes them famous and equally certain Americans like famous people. So I forced myself up the two steps and through the door, mustering my courage to greet the pair of them even while I wondered what I was doing.

As I expected, there was a blind-date-like awkwardness at the beginning. Having done more blind dating that I'd care to admit, I know the odd feeling of trying to rush through the natural discomfort some of us (aka me) feel when meeting new people. It actually helped when Jenny said something about it being like an interview as she and Richard sat across from me at the table. I'm good at interviews, I thought, and prepared to dazzle them. I even ordered water so I could stay sharp, give the correct answers to questions and try my best to be charming and funny.

When we ordered meals and a second round of drinks, I decided I was doing well enough to have a glass of wine. As I calmed down, I found her to be even better than I expected. Equally eloquent and bright as I imagined, but somehow with more warmth. I thought I'd like her - knew I'd be impressed with both of them - but I was a little surprised that I wanted to urge everyone to buy her book and read her blog and maybe even send her presents.

Richard was trickier. I knew him a bit better and though I sternly advised against it, would have been a bit hurt had he been obviously unimpressed. But much like my dinner with Sciencewoman (we all agreed she was missed), there were moments of easy familiarity when he laughed at something I'd said to elicit such a reaction paired with a disconcerting sense that I knew pieces of someone who was sometimes far different than I expected. Still, as reality reconciles with a mental image, it became easier to talk and laugh.

I still hesitated when deciding whether we should go to a "proper pub." It seems that means somewhere darker and louder (I did go - that's how I know that). After all, why ace the interview if you don't want the job? So we chatted a little longer while I had one more glass of wine before watching them both hail a cab while I waited patiently on the curb.

It's an odd and lovely thing, I decided sleepily as the cab wound through the streets of London to deposit me at my hotel. The internet - the blogging communities - make the world seem small. I can know intimate details of people who live far-flung or unknown places and although I'm aware that there's so much more behind that, it's still somehow amazing when confronted with it. To find unexpected commonalities (Jenny and I are both nervous flyers) and differences (Richard seems to adore living in London - I think it's fabulous to visit but there's always a piece of me missing the space and quiet of my anything-but-city home.)

"Did you take any photos today?" he asked at some point, and I shook my head sadly. I will do tomorrow though - it's a sightseeing day and I'm very excited about it. I did, however, remember the often buried under corporate business impulse to pull out my laptop and type out impressions so I wouldn't forget something I wanted to remember.


rpg said...

You nearly cancelled??

Thanks for not. I had a lovely time and it was great to meet you at last.


PS Write that damned book.

ScienceWoman said...

Aww...I can't believe I came up in conversation. Would love to have my own London blogger meet-up some day, though the one in Katie-land was quite fabulous too. :)

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