Now that it's finally hit me that I have two substantial projects and one tiny one due in the next four to six weeks--while classes at RU begin in three and a half--I've been hunkering down and trying to get some work done.
Since I seem incapable of doing anything other than reading or course prep at home, for the past week or so I've been writing in a nearby café. The place has good coffee, lots of tables, and huge windows that let in tons of light. The music is loud, but it's a big space with high ceilings, so somehow the music seems backgroundy even while it successfully covers up the conversations going on around me.
It's a nearly perfect workspace. I love the staff. And when I need a break the people-watching is awesome. The only problem is that, among the flotsam and jetsam of the place's patrons--couples on blind dates, political activists plotting their next rally--often enough there's some guy who decides that, of all the lone individuals bent over their work, I'm the one he needs to talk to.
These tend to be men rather older than I, odd-bally but not especially creepy, and, as far as I can tell, they're not hitting on me. They just think I want to hear whatever they have to say.
So there I am, revising a chapter draft in longhand. I have a printout I'm carefully interlineating, a legal pad for longer additions, and several stacks of notes spread out around me. I do not think that I look interruptable. But suddenly there's a 50-something dude hovering over me.
"Grading papers?" He asks.
I look up and smile briefly. "Nope. Not during the summer!"
"Oh. So you're a--you must be a student? At [Local R1]?"
"No, I'm a professor at [RU]."
I return to my work. He keeps hovering.
"So--do you know anything about early Christianity?"
This is startling enough that I look up again. "Um, I guess. Some."
This, of course, is just the in he's looking for. He starts nattering about this ancient manuscript that has overturned scholars' assumptions about the early church. I don't catch the name of the manuscript, and I don't totally understand what's revolutionary about it, but since this isn't the least interesting thing I've heard all day, and since I'm trying to be minimally polite, I ask one or two questions--it's a Gnostic text, is it?--No no no no no! he says impatiently. I'm thinking of the Dead Sea Scrolls! Those were discovered much later!
After five minutes I've had enough. "Well, that's interesting!" I say with finality. "Thanks for telling me about it!" He hovers for a few more moments, but when I don't look up again, he drifts away.
Of course, he doesn't actually leave, and comes back at least twice to ask me how I take notes--do I use index cards? he never figured out how to use those, himself--then to tell me that I should really go to XYZ Pub, on Wednesday nights--well, some Wednesdays, he doesn't know which ones--because some professors have a philosophy reading group there. He's seen them. And he's sure it would be right up my alley.
In the grand scheme of things, this isn't a big deal. Guys like this aren't actively offensive or inappropriate, and when I'm really not in the mood, I can shut anyone down. But somehow it's easier when they are obnoxious, or interrupting me and my friends at a bar, or whatever. When they're just harmless pests, I feel like a bitch when I don't at least paste a pro forma smile on my face and give them a tolerant few minutes. As Dr. Virago wrote a couple of years back, it's exactly this assumption--that because you're female and in public you're required to be nice--that permits behavior that is, at bottom, aggressive and inappropriate. (Would this guy have pestered another man, however young? I doubt it.)
After all, he's just being friendly! Geez, lady: what's your problem?