#272: The Wait

January 22nd, 2014

A married couple on a date night bellied up to the bar a few blank spots from two Hawaiian-shirt-clad businessmen from Baaaahsten who kept talking about their kids and UMass.

A young fella still wearing his Indiana University stocking cap indoors kept guard over a bucket of Miller Lite bottles.

A white-haired couple in the corner got closer and closer as they cooed and dined on salted fatty comfort food.

I was waiting for a friend.

It was any bar, really. Any bar devoted to a false sense of Chicagoana and a big list of whiskeys. There were broseph herds waiting for the party room downstairs to open, waitresses practicing a pleasantly sexy salty attitude to cover their actual unpleasant, unsexy salty attitude. A blonde woman sipping water at the bar kept popping her head like a meerkat to look for her Internet date.

The owner kept sauntering by to give the Baaaahsten guys free drinks and hear them out on their business venture. A man in both a Blackhawks jersey and his mid 50s sat next to them, nursing a beer alone.

And I waited for a friend.

I waited for a friend I hadn’t seen in 17 years, since graduation and the mass spreading of we’ll keep in touches that didn’t happen. We got back in contact to discuss a live lit event that’s going to knock your socks off once the U of C and I feel ready to go public on it. Details coming. You’ll have to wait too.

I sipped my beer and waited for my friend.

We have so many friends now that we never see. I feel close to folks on Facebook, knowing full well that had we talked that infrequently 10 years ago, I would have given them up for gone.

Hey, person I drank with in the oughts. You’re looking well. OMG, your baby is cute. Hey, that’s a funny thing you said. Like.

I saw a meme that made fun of my concerns, one that showed a 1940s train full of people reading newspapers. In that Impact font that means meme it said “All this technology is making us antisocial.” That’s a funny thing it said. LOL. Retweet.

But now I was waiting for a real person. A real person to have real conversation with, someone to plot with about an upcoming reading for U of C. Someone to trade a whole bunch of gossip with about people we went to high school with.

And man, there was some good gossip there.

It wouldn’t be the deepest or most personal conversation of my day, week or life. I have a fiancée, parents, a sister, a heap of cousins and a bunch of buddies I’ve hung out with in the current millennium. This little chat wouldn’t be the center of my emotional life but a nice addendum, a friend of the past hopefully becoming one of the present.

We would catch up and talk live lit. We would gossip and trade war stories. Dating sucks, we would concur. Running into people we knew way when, we would deem balls awesome.

Technology isn’t making us antisocial. No one claims that. That’s the wrong question, like claiming video games make us violent.

Technology turns our interactions truculent and shallow. It makes us feel like we know people we haven’t seen in decades. It offers us the opportunity to share our thoughts in ways unforeseen and we decide our thoughts are best expressed by stock photos scribbled on in Impact font.

But making us antisocial? Naah.

The trick, as Calvin said, is to ask the right question.

Our dinner and reminiscences would turn out to be, well, great. It would be a fun time with a good person I hadn’t seen in 17 years. But as a preface, as I sipped beer two and three and watched both the clock and the Baaahsten guys while waiting for my old friend to show, I smiled.

I was about to have a real, human interaction. That’s something worth waiting for.

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You are currently reading #272: The Wait by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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