The lost art of meeting people in person

A couple of weeks ago I was on the 43 bus headed up from downtown to Cap Hill. At the stop after I boarded, a guy sat next to me and pulled out some papers to read. I glanced over and saw it was the Windsor opinion. And while unlike me to be this forward, I asked him “reading for business or pleasure?”. We conversed on the 15 minute bus ride and got off at the same stop. After getting off the bus he asked if I wanted to exchange numbers.

This caught me completely off-guard for a couple of reasons. It’s been over a decade since anyone has asked for my number after just meeting me and I realized I had no idea what the proper protocol was. Also any interest I had in the gentleman were platonic but how do you convey that? Is that the time to convey it at all? I ended up saying yes and gave him my number and he texted me on the spot so I had his. The end of the week he texted me asking if I wanted to hang out Pride weekend. In my response back, I said yes, that I’m dating someone but would enjoy hanging out. His response was cordial and said that sounded great and thanked me for being up-front.

I appreciate forthrightness and yet I feel like I failed in this encounter by being too forthright. I made the assumption that he may have asked for my number because he had interest in me beyond friends (ego check!). That might not have been the case at all. On the flip side if he did have more-than-friends interest I didn’t want to lead him on.

Another friend had a related encounter where he offered his number to someone with the intent of pursuing a friendship and was rebuffed. Has the exchanging of numbers, which use to mean “call me sometime” a decade ago, become so rare that it has a deeper meaning? When did the cultural norm of exchanging numbers turn into a more-than-friends default? Have we lost the ability to form friends by meeting strangers in person?

For me, I’m resolved to assume a default of friendship as that’s the kind of world I want to live in.