5:10 PM PST, A Few Weeks Ago On A Monday, Pho Saigon 8, Las Vegas, NV
Enter Jordan. Hungry and eager for some savory pho. My host/waiter silently directs me to a solitary table against the wall, as had become our weekly routine. He knows my order by heart.
“Numba Fifteen Large? Thai Tea? You want boba, no boba? Extra Meatball.” He confirms before I speak.
“Yes, #15 large. Thai tea, no boba. Extra meatball.” I recite to ensure proper pho-munication.
We both nod in mutual pho-nderstanding as I hand him my menu.
With the logistics of our meeting decided he scurries away and I have 5-7 minutes to wait before a steaming bowl of happiness will arrive at my table.
There is another piece of intel that you’ll need to appreciate my little story… Sitting directly across from me, 1 table removed, facing me, is a very cute girl.
Not just a girl.. But a girl that was cute and alone and eating pho. Secret: nothing is hotter to me than a girl that really likes pho. She was around my age (mid twenties) and wearing workout attire. She’d clearly just came from the gym.
I immediately liked her. Probably more than I should. For the past few weeks there had been some tension in my life. My girlfriend doesn’t like pho (I kind of hate her for that). I’d recently acquired an intense obsession for it. I’d also been getting fatter for a long time and had been wishing I’d go to the gym and lose weight.
In a matter of seconds I had mentally envisioned a scenario wherein every problem I was feeling in my life could immediately be solved by this girl. We could get pho together, fuck like we hate each other, and go to the gym. Life would be good.
Then the process of fear and self loathing in Las Vegas began.
Perhaps it’s a bad idea to build someone up to such completely unrealistic levels in my head within seconds of seeing them. It might put unnecessary pressure on the situation and be wholly unfair to them. But here I was, waiting for pho, and wondering what to do.
I should probably say something. I knew that much. But what?
“Hi?” No! That’s too generic.
Find something about her to comment on.
“Do you like exercise?” That’d be a weird thing to say.
We’d already made eye contact and exchanged a polite smile. Giving me an opening to say something. Anything.
I grab my phone to appear busy. She keeps slurping up her pho.
The smile exchange that we’d just had was one of those very clear social situations where it’s polite to say hello to someone. We were 7 feet away from each other, face to face, and we’d be remaining in that position for at least 20 minutes.
Every second that passed without me saying something made me more uncomfortable. And I imagined it made her uncomfortable too.
We make eye contact again. Another smile. I continue my streak of silence.
Smooth man… Smooth…
I get my pho and begin devouring it. Giving myself an excuse for not talking.
She actually asked the waiter, our mutual acquaintance, about some of my food (the small bowl containing my side order of beef meatballs). There is some confusion as he doesn’t know what she’s asking, she points. I’m just sitting there, looking at both of them, knowing the answer, and having perfect English skills to deliver it unlike the beleaguered waiter.
I say nothing. But continue smiling in what must now come across as a completely creepy manner.
The longer I go without speaking the more inappropriate ever speaking becomes.
She even goes out of her way to make loud comments to the waitstaff and spark up conversations with them, providing an extremely easy way for me to join. As they don’t speak very good english, the vietnamese wait staff aren’t very great conversationalist.
Clearly the girl wanted to talk to someone. Clearly it was me.
“Yes Food Good Here.” I can’t even muster that. Not a single word escapes my stupid mouth.
She finishes her pho. Then takes an inordinate amount of time getting up to leave. Like 3-4 minutes (that felt like a few hours) of gathering her belongings (consisting of a bag and a phone).
She finally rises and begins to walk towards the cash register.
Here is my chance…
Eye contact. Smile. Look back at the table in a defeated manner. Shake head in self disgust.
After paying she returns to her table to leave a tip. She has great legs. She leaves the tip. Turns around. Walks past again.
Quick glance from dejected stare at my table. Split second eye contact. Forced smile. Return to staring at table.
I can’t remember in recent history ever feeling so ashamed of myself. So fucking humiliated and ashamed.
I spent the rest of the day feeling like a piece of shit. And most of the entire week. Now, a few weeks later it still gives me an unsettling feeling in my stomach.
I had a very A/B decision in front of me sitting in that restaurant.
A: Talk to the girl.
B: Don’t talk to the girl.
Had I taken path A. The odds looks like this.
50% chance I have a pleasant conversation with a girl and that’s that.
30% chance we enjoy talking and exchange contact information. I either make a new friend or lover.
19% chance she leaves the restaurant and comes home with me.
.9999999% chance she just nods and ignores me.
.0000001% chance she starts yelling RAPE at the top of her lungs as soon as I say hello. I mean just like, “RAPE! RAPE! RAPE! RAPE! STRANGER DANGER! SOMEONE HELP ME! CALL THE POLICE! RAPE!!!!!!”
So… 99% chance I have a great outcome. About a 1% chance I’m ignored, which isn’t bad at all. This has the positive upside of me feeling good for at least having attempted. And an extremely unlikely chance that I’m publicly humiliated.
Since I took Path B… Life looks like this.
100% chance I regret not talking to the girl.
0% chance of something nice happening.
100% chance that I feel bad about myself for a prolonged period of time.
90% chance that she clearly can tell that I bitched out and is disgusted by me.
100% chance that I feel humiliated and ashamed.
For understanding. This wasn’t a situation where there just happened to be a girl and I thought I should hit on her. These numbers don’t hold true with every random girl I see in public.
This is a situation where I was basically stuck face to face with a girl for 20 minutes, where the only polite thing to do would have been to at least say hello.
I give the 19% chance of her leaving with me because she had that look. She’d just came from the gym, so her sex hormones were likely at peak levels. This has nothing to do with any skill of mine. I think any guy that could hold down a conversation and ask for it would have those same odds.
I blew it. All systems failure.
One option had a high chance of a desirable outcome. The other option had an absolute certainty of a very negative outcome. I let the negative outcome happen. Because I was scared.
If I could have just said hello, and that would have been it. Even if I was 100% certain that she would just ignore me this still would have been a better outcome than what I did.
A few minutes of discomfort where I ultimately feel good about myself for having acted. Versus probably 70-80 hours of regret, lowered productivity, and serious self loathing.
My fear and indecision led me to default to the latter.
I could reframe all of this and say, “You don’t have to bother strangers, it was fine to not talk to her. And still you shouldn’t let it bother you for so long. Be a man. Accept that it happened and move on. ”
But I’m not doing that. There was a clear cut situation with something i wanted and I didn’t have the courage to act.
I didn’t do it. All of that anguish is the cost of having not done the thing that I knew I wanted to do.