It’s not written about very often, but most women know that the iPod is much more than just a spectacular little mp3 player—it also happens to be the best line of defense against unwanted male attention. The second I slip those little white buds into my ears, it’s as if I’ve wrapped myself in an invisibility cloak. I no longer have to worry about mumbling “um…I’m seeing someone” or “sorry, I’m not interested” at strangers who ask me if they can “just talk for a minute.” Instead I can just walk on by, completely oblivious to the comments. In the rare case that eye contact is obtained, a simple shrug and point to the ears will generally suffice. [Note: This trick also works with panhandlers and those creepy people who cover themselves in silver robot paint.]
After spending nearly six months without an iPod, my reentry into the earbud wearing ranks has proven refreshing and even a little bit freeing. I was just starting to get comfortable, just starting to lose that feeling of always being watched while running errands or commuting to and from work, when I met him—the man for whom the word “persistence” must have been created.
The scene: Atlanta Hartsfield Airport
The time: late last night
I was returning home from a business trip and while waiting for my flight, I decided to watch a few episodes of ATHF, which I’d recently downloaded from iTunes. I was completely immersed in the show when I realized that a shadow had descended upon me. Three well dress men in their early thirties had surrounded me and were talking among themselves in Spanish. I lowered the volume for a second and realized that they were talking about me.
“She’s so pretty,” said the tallest of the three. “Wow, she’s pretty. Do you think she can understand us? She looks Latina.”
“No I think she’s Italian,” said one of the others. “You should talk to her in English.”
Please keep in mind that these men were literally standing 8 inches away from me.
I lowered my eyes and focused on the tiny screen in my hand. After a few seconds, they walked away and I relaxed. I got into the show again and had nearly forgotten about them when I noticed that the tall one had come back and was now sitting in the empty seat next to me and facing in my direction. It took me a moment to realize that he was talking to me. I stared at him for a second and pointed at my ears. He kept talking.
“This must be what it’s like to be deaf,” I thought to myself. I frowned at the guy and then finally removed one bud. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I can’t hear you. I’m watching a show…”
“You’re very beautiful,” he said, as if he hadn’t heard a word that I’d said.
“Um,” I stammered. “Thanks. I’m going to watch my show again now. Bye”
I put the headphones back in and did my best to concentrate on the show, but I couldn’t help notice the fact that he hadn’t budged and was apparently still talking to me.
I took the earbuds out again. “When I have these in, I can’t hear you. Ok?”
I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or run away. Fortunately, they had already started boarding and so I quickly packed up my stuff and got in line. The plane was large and only about a third of the way full. I took my window seat near the middle and had the entire row to myself.
For about three minutes.
“Can I sit here?” The tall man asked as he settled into the seat next to mine. His friends walked by and high-fived him.
“Lucky!” One of the three shouted. They took their seats a few rows behind us while I immediately started searching for the emergency exits.
“So…” tall guy started, leaning into my already crowded seat. “Where are you going?”
I stared at him in disbelief.
“I’m going to Newark,” he offered.
I looked at him. “You know this is an airplane, right?”
“You’re so beautiful…”
I turned up the volume—ignoring the “turn off all electronic devices” warning—closed my eyes, and fell asleep. I woke up about 30 minutes later to find an empty seat next to me. Relieved that he’d finally given up, I raised the armrest and waited for the flight attendants who were coming down the aisle with snacks. I was trying to decide whether I wanted a granola bar or pretzels when the male attendant leaned down over me.
“That gentleman in the back has purchased you a drink,” he said.
I laughed nervously as the attendant turned around and shouted at the woman pushing the drink cart. “Hey, someone bought her a drink so give her whatever she wants. Ok?”
“Oooooh,” squealed the drink lady. “Aren’t you lucky?”
By this point, everyone on the plane was turning around to see who the girl getting the free drink was. I sank in my seat and laughed half-heartedly.
“So what’s it gonna be?” she said when she had wheeled her way to my seat.
“Whatcha got?” I asked, expecting the standard airplane drink menu of whiskey, scotch, Bloody Mary’s and wine.
“How about something fun? A mojito, perhaps? With fresh mint? Or I have new mango vodka! That’s good with cranberry juice…”
“Yeah, I’ll take the mango,” I said.
“Hey Tracy!” the flight attendant shouted back towards first class. “Do you have the shaker?”
Tracy brought down a shaker, and I watched as she measured out vodka, ice, and cranberry juice and shook it with all the flair of a professional bartender. She garnished the drink with a fresh lime and handed it to me.
“Thanks,” I said and took a sip. It was unexpectedly good.
The plane started to hit a bit of turbulence and the seatbelt sign came back on. I took comfort in this, hoping that it would mark the end of Mr. Persistent’s courtship. Moments later another flight attendant leaned into my seat.
“That guy would like to buy you another drink and he asked me to give you his card.”
I tried to mask the tortured look on my face, but she picked it up and laughed.
“I’ll tell him thanks, but no thanks?” She offered helpfully.
Once the flight landed I grabbed my things and barreled out of the plane. I had to use the restroom but I pictured him waiting for me outside so I practically ran to baggage claim where my mom was waiting to pick me up.
“Let’s get out of here,” I told her. “Quickly.”
“What happened?” She asked with a look of alarm.
“Oh, I’ll tell you on the way home…”