Strangers in the night

Updated: February 13, 2009 - 3:58 pm

On a recent Thursday, I sat down at the Uptown Green Mill bar for a post-gig beer and burger. The Lakers-Celtics game was on the tube and in overtime, and I was happy to sit alone, take in the night and drink in the sights and sounds of one of God’s greatest gifts: A pub gathering in full bloom.

In no time, two boisterous, beautiful women sat down on the bar stools next to me. They ordered drinks, we made small talk and they loudly suggested I buy them their drinks. We laughed; I made it clear I wasn’t buying anybody any drinks; they persisted, and when their friends joined them for a night of Aquarian birthday revelry, they told me they were off to the late-night happy-hour at Rudolph’s.

"Go find yourself another sucker at Rudolph’s," I told Becca, the ringleader, only half-kidding. As she left, she turned on her heels and vehemently insisted that their girly requests had been a joke, and part of me knew as much — the part of me that wanted to go find her at Rudolph’s and make it clear that I knew we’d just been playing, flirting, whatever.

Another part of me was reminded of a column I wrote five years ago about a woefully inexperienced guy who met a girl in a bar for 10 minutes, fell in obsessive love with her, got her name tattooed on his arm and has been searching for her ever since. Unlike many readers who called the guy a "freak" or "pathetic," I felt for him.

Bars are petri dishes of romance and heartbreak and everything in between, and sensitive souls can get pummeled. Had I been a less experienced bar-goer the other night, I might have emptied my wallet (and heart) to those women, who, in these economic times, can’t be blamed for figuring out creative ways to go out drinking on the cheap. But that’s not the point.

I believe in all that stuff about the butterfly effect, and about how each action precipitates another action. I believe that how we treat each other matters, no matter how small the interaction. There was a genuine connection that night, a friendly exchange that restores your faith in humanity and makes you feel alive. From our brief encounter, I’m positive that woman wasn’t a player.

She seemed like a good person with a big heart, but because of one minor misunderstanding, we both went out into the world a little more wary, and, at a time when true communication about how we feel about our fellow man and woman has never been more readily available or urgently needed, that’s a shame.

Contributing writer Jim Walsh also writes a column for the Downtown Journal’s sister publication — the Southwest Journal.