As we speak, I’m sitting in a Starbucks. Had my own table, but it’s a busy place. So when an older man with a book asked if he could use the empty seat, well, of course I said yes.
We’ve been here for a few hours. He’s reading. I’m researching. I grabbed a drink a few moments ago, he looked at me. I made a horrible mistake …
“What are you reading there?” I asked.
Enter: The Great Flood.
He told me what he’s reading. Where he’s from. Where he coached. What he coached. His best players. His education. He talked and talked and talked and talked, as if nobody had ever asked him “What are you reading there?” ever before. He talked, and I began to send those little signals. A step away. A glance at the iPhone. A sip. Another sip.
Finally, he took a breath. “So what do you do?” he asked.
I could have said the truth. Journalist. Sports. But that would almost certainly lock me into another 20 minutes about the time he met Mario Soto at a charity golf tournament. Or something along those lines.
“I’m studying accounting,” I said.
“Oh, where?” he asked.
Now I was stuck. Lies begat lies. “Um, Iona.”
“I actually went to Iona,” he said. “But I can’t remember. What’s the name of the business school there?”
The point isn’t the blast the old man. One day I’ll be an old man, in a coffee shop, looking for chitchat. It’s a 100-percent certainty, unless I fail to reach old age.
No, the point is simpler: I’m an ass.