The Conversationalist

Posted on June 11, 2012

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This story is from Kathryn, a 22-year-old data manager from Chicago, as told to Raz:

I met Ben at a Mike Doughty concert at the House of Blues. While he was a little overly chatty, I blamed it on his frequent trips to the bar and agreed to go out with him. He said he knew a bar where we could play shuffleboard. Unusual, but fun. We made a date for the next Wednesday.

Right around the time he was supposed to pick me up, I got a text from him telling me how horrible traffic was and that he was going to be late. Forty-five minutes later, he finally made it. He immediately got out of his car to open the passenger door for me. Gentlemanly, I thought. But it turned out that he had only emerged to explain to me that the car door was broken and only opened halfway. He stood there as I awkwardly shimmied my way in.

Once I was safely inside, we started chatting as he drove. And by we, I mean he. He started by describing in detail his three unfinished novels. We drove and drove and drove. Turns out this amazing shuffleboard bar was on the West side, very far from my North side apartment. We drove some more. Now Ben was telling me all about his band. He remembered that I’d mentioned that my mom’s close friend owned a bar, and was just wondering if I could use my connections to get him a gig. I think I spoke maybe three sentences the entire car trip, and only because he asked me the occasional random question, including “Are you smarter than your parents?” and “What’s the weirdest first date you’ve ever been on?” (I restrained myself from saying, “Um this one.”). I was exhausted from listening to him speak by the time we pulled into a parking spot in front of the bar.

The bar itself was really cool. Considering that it was a Wednesday night and we were in the middle of nowhere, I was happy to see that it wasn’t completely empty. There were a few groups sitting around, and the vibe was chill. If nothing else, I thought, I had discovered a new bar. But Ben didn’t seem to read the calm mood and started shouting loudly about how dead it was. When we sat down at the bar, he ordered two drinks at once—for himself. The bartender refused to give them to him, saying it was against the law. I think he was just taking pity on me.

I suggested we play shuffleboard. After all, that was the reason he wanted to come. But as soon as we approached the table, it became clear that he had no idea how to play. Instead, he made up his own version of the game, which I normally would have had fun playing along with. But he kept stopping the game to shout at the other people in the bar, who were clearly not interested, asking them to play with us. He got so obnoxious that when he went to the bathroom, a girl at another table asked me if I was alright.

When he returned, he suggested that we order a deep dish pizza from a place around the corner and get it delivered to the bar. While I love deep dish as much as the next Chicago girl, I did not want to wait the 40 minutes it would surely take to get one delivered. I suggested that we drive (before he had too many cocktails to drive at all) to a place closer to my apartment to get some food. I know I should have just had him bring me home, but I was starving, and if I had to suffer through this, I was at least going to get food out of it.

On the trip back, I mentioned that I was working my way through watching “Twin Peaks” on Netflix. He then started retelling the entire plot to me. He was about to completely ruin the mystery for me when I snapped at him to stop. He then offered to drive me to his house in the suburbs to watch it right then. I politely declined.

He opened our conversation at the restaurant with, “What are your top 5 movies of all time?” When I paused to think, he quickly added, “Fine, you can have 10.” So generous. I gave him what I think was a fairly respectable list. He countered with, “No There Will Be Blood?!”

“No,” I answered. “I don’t really like violent movies, so I haven’t seen it.”

He then talked for twenty straight minutes (I timed it) about how There Will Be Blood is the best movie ever made, and I can’t call myself a movie fan if I haven’t seen it. He then asked me if something had happened to me in the past that had made me hate violence so much. When I said no, he made me promise that I would see There Will Be Blood as soon as possible. I agreed, mostly to shut him up.

He then drove me home, telling me all about why I must see Blue Velvet. All I could do was nod.

When we got to my place, he gushed about how much he had enjoyed the night and that he couldn’t wait to see me again. I thanked him for dinner, shimmied out of his broken car and ran to my door.

I dodged his calls for about a week. Finally, he sent me a text message saying that he was “Sorry for all the nonsense on our date, but I was recovering from a near death experience.” The thought of having to hear him recount the tale of his near death experience was enough incentive to continue ignoring him.

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