One City, One Book, One Dream

Yesterday I managed to snag a seat on a crowded BART train, getting on at the 24th street station, delighted to have a few minutes to read.  My current book is West of Kabul, East of New York, the 2008 “San Francisco Reads” pick which may as well be called “Lael Reads” because I have yet to see another person doing their mandatory civic duty.  Surely if we all at least skimmed this book our BART and bus rides would be filled with scintillating conversations and good-natured ribbing of the main characters. However, my dreams of constantly striking up heated debates with mysterious and articulate literary strangers hasn’t quite panned out, no matter how visible I make the cover of the book.

So anyway, I sat down and began to read.  It is at this point that my seatmate, a girl in her twenties, begins to complain to her friend sitting in front of her.

“So, I’ve begun noticing that the same kinds of people ALWAYS sit next to me! I mean what is it about me that attracts them?”

She then proceeded to turn and look at me. Then she turned back to her friend.

“It’s always these old Asian women, with lots of shopping bags.”

I am neither old nor Asian, and I carried exactly zero shopping bags.

Girl: “I just wish that once, some really hot guy would sit next to me and start talking to me.”

She then looked over at me again, this time in disgust.

I looked back.  I sensed in her a kindred spirit, someone else who wanted to connect with a stranger. I thought about sharing my book approach with her, but there are only so many hot guys in our city, and even fewer who read, and I deemed this secret strategy too precious to be shared. So I kept silent, knowing she would never know just how alike we were, and that old Asian ladies sit next to me on BART all the time too.

9 Responses to “One City, One Book, One Dream”

  1. CAK says:

    I have been touting The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and stood next to someone on BART who was reading the same but alas, no conversation. I had one literary conversation with a stranger on the N Judah about two years ago and still remember it fondly. Let’s make tshirts: “I read. Ask me how!”

  2. teamawesome says:

    I read the OCOB too and found it delightful. Another reason why people aren’t reading it now is because it was a program that was started (i think…) in August 2008. Hope you enjoy the book though…I felt like I learned a lot from it. Also, its fun to see Mr. Ansary around town.

    Regarding the “hot guys” in San Francisco. They’re all either taken, or stupid (I’ve found). Do tell me where these attractive smart men are? Someone told me that there is a 3-1 ratio of women to men in sf. not good for the ladies… le sigh.

  3. Anna says:

    I read all the time on BART, and most of the time get nothing from my fellow passengers. However! Recently, I picked up ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ at a used bookstore in Berkeley and was reading it on the BART ride home to 16th/Mission, and the nice young hip guy next to me was all excited to talk to me about it. “Oh my god, I LOVE that book. Jonathan Lehman is my favorite author ever.” Etc. etc. Totally made my day.

  4. j says:

    i thought all the hot, smart guys in the city were not looking for hot girls??

    why doesnt some hot girls talk to me while i am zoning out on bart listening to npr on my iphone? doh!

    every hot girl on bart has their headphones on anyways, how can a hot guy like myself strike up a conversation with you?? someone give me that line, please!

  5. diethylether says:

    The old Asian ladies with the shopping bags sit next to you because you’re peacefully reading and not frothing batshit crazy (from outward appearances at least). If we’re lucky to be ambulatory enough to get out, shop, and take transit when we reach that age, I imagine we’d want to be able to enjoy the trip in peace as well.

    Good luck with the bait, though.

    P.S. A high percentage of “smart hot guys” drive cars.

  6. Lael says:

    Of course, its not like I have EVER started a conversation about a book, so really it is probably my own fault.

    @CAK – I’m liking the tshirt idea – although that is hard to wear daily. The stink might offset the sentiment.

    @diethlylether – You’re right, I am a fairly wonderful seatmate, anyone who sits next to me is going to have a very peaceful ride. I take it as a compliment. Except then I start to get nervous when it is almost my turn to get off, worried they will be annoyed when they have to get up.

  7. Eric says:

    The best way to strike up a conversation is to have the balls to talk to yourself pretty loud. That way people have something to respond to. Otherwise, everyone just sits there in silence.

  8. wheniwasarobot says:

    Well, the other day I was reading “Pride and Prejudice” on Bart, and had some guy who was sitting with his buddy yell across and say “Hey! What ya readin?” at which I didn’t answer just smiled. Which obviously was taken as an invitation to talk to me more, because he proceeded to ask, “You wanna read to me?” They ended up leaving soon after when I wouldn’t give him the time of day.

    Either way, I don’t know about you, but I enjoy reading my book on Bart and would rather not have some idiot think its ok to interrupt.

    Of course, if he would have wanted to discuss what I was reading or what he was reading, that would have been ok.

  9. Drew says:

    Dude, she was macking on you. That was a frying pan to the head to engage conversation. Unless you look like an old Chinese lady…?

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