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.

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

One thought on “The lost art of meeting people in person”

  1. How I mitigate this…

    It hasn’t happened on a bus, but in meeting someone from an online service like, I always say, “Not to be presumptuous at all, I just like to set expectations, I am not interested in any kind of relationship at all. I’d love to meet for coffee or a drink.”

    This gives them the option to opt out if that is what they were looking for, and nobody’s feelings get hurt.

    With regards to my number, I don’t ever give it out. “I hate to talk on the phone, and I don’t have a texting plan, but I’d be happy to exchange email addressed if that’s something that works for you,” is my standard answer. And then I can create a Google filter: If from:xxxx Delete if things go awry. :-)


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