Two Sex Question Mondays ago, we talked about odd pickup attempts in bars. Of course shortly thereafter, I was partial to a pretty absurd one myself.
For those who don’t watch How I Met Your Mother (and you probably should), the show’s resident pick-up artist Barney (played by the ineffable Neil Patrick Harris) has a “helpful” move that he uses to try to introduce the hapless protagonist Ted to beautiful women in bars. He’ll tap a lovely women on the shoulder and, when she turns around, say “Haaaaaave you met Ted?” Here is a video example of this phenomenon:
I’ve long appreciated this move as a viewer, but I guess I never actually thought about how it would pan out in real life (as in, when the targeted women aren’t actresses). After my recent personal investigation, I now think I have some idea. It may seem cute on TV, but in real life, this type of approach is too startling to be very effective.
It started in one of the innumerable poorly-lit Irish pubs in Sunnyside, Queens. Hanging out in Sunnyside usually involves trying to determine just how much dust you’re willing to put up with in your bar of choice. The more dust, the more atmosphere. On the flip side though, the more dust…the more dust.
My friend and I had gotten our drinks and wandered back to the seating area of this particular pub. There was a fireplace back there that was lit with some sort of spotlight – but no fire. There was almost no light beyond this incandescent, non-cozy glow.
There weren’t a lot of people at the bar because it was relatively early for a Saturday night. Most of the people there were withered alcoholics, rooted to the bar after hours of sedated drinking. My friend and I did our best to avoid these sad characters on our walk to the back of the bar. There’s only so much atmosphere one can take on a Saturday night. As we approached a lonely booth, we were halted by a large man leaning into our path. This gentleman was a member of the only group at the bar that seemed to be having any fun at all. It was a group of larger, loud men, clustered around one guy in particular. The man who broke away from them to stop us was a mailman. I know that not because he told us, but because he was dressed in his USPS uniform. Including his hat. It looked as though he’d been delivering mail to the bar as part of his work day and had been sucked into the irresistible allure of drinking near a non-functional fireplace coated in a layer of ambient dust.
Mailman leaned towards us and said, “He’s right there.”
Now, even though this bar wasn’t particularly crowded, there was still loud music playing. It wasn’t so loud that you’d have to yell to effectively communicate to other people, but it was loud enough to obscure confusing statements that come out of nowhere. Obviously, I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Uh, what?” I asked him, trying to subtly shield my drink with my hand in case he was trying to get me to look somewhere else while he slipped me some sort of Queens-grade tranquilizer.
“He’s over there,” he repeated, with a roguish grin that might have been charming under different circumstances, for example if he were delivering my mail and cracked a friendly joke. And I was in a well-lit area with plenty of sober people.
“What?” I asked again, because even though I now understood the words he was saying to me, they still made no sense.
I guess he was too deep into his move to abandon or clarify it, because he repeated “He’s over there” two more times before simply pointing at his friend who had stood up from the gaggle of dudes at the bar.
“It’s his birthday,” Mailman said.
In an instant, I realized what had happened. He was trying to be cute by making the assumption that we’d been looking for a guy, and lo and behold, we’d finally found him in the back of a creepy bar. I laughed halfheartedly, and then my friend and I wished the guy a happy birthday and retreated to the booth.
It was an illuminating situation. Cute lines can be incredibly affronting when said out of context in a loud bar. That quintessential shitty pick up line, “Did it hurt….when you fell from Heaven?” might seem funny and maybe even charming in theory, but when said in a crowded, noisy bar, it becomes confusing and impossible to understand. Bars are full of music, conversation, and the lingering shadow of perpetual stranger danger. Hypothetical questions designed to be cute or funny have no place in that kind of environment.