Jessica Gross

Awkward Communications

In musings, people watching on February 2, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Saturday night, I went to a great bar (King’s Head Tavern, near Union Square — it has shelves full of books and a working fireplace!). It was a birthday party where I knew a small percentage of people, so I was in intro mode.

“Hi, have we met before?” I extended my hand toward a woman who’d just joined my circle.

My friends gaped at me. “That’s the waitress,” one whispered.

The rest of the night, everyone mocked me: “Jess introduced herself to the waitress!” they chortled. But really, what’s so weird about that?

Admittedly, I didn’t realize she was the waitress. But still, doesn’t this say something about social boundaries? If the same woman had attended the party, no one would have commented on my introduction. But because she was serving us, the conversation had to account for some distance between us. It’s a muted, modern-day version of a caste system — only the castes are often more fluid, based on the roles we’re playing in the moment.

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