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By Jon Friedman

I couldn’t believe it. It looked like my lucky day.

The only empty seat at my local Starbucks on First Avenue at 17th Street was directly across from an attractive woman who was wearing, of all things, a Backroads t-shirt.

Backroads and I go way back. You understand, Backroads is an outdoors company which has all kinds of cycling, walking, golfing, cooking trips from just about anywhere — Napa to Nepal. As someone who doesn’t like to plan a vacation, I have happily gone on 16 Backroads biking trips, all over the world, since 1996. I became friends with the employees. I even once interviewed the head of the company for a story. Shoot, I could be the company’s New York rep.

The woman proudly wearing the blue t-shirt seemed intelligent and interesting and age-appropriate (and did I mention pretty?). So, I saw a definite icebreaker. Usually, when people mingle at Starbucks, they have to make artificial conversations about nonsense. You know how it is: “The lines are here are so long.” Sigh. “The service in this one is so much worse than it is near my office.” Sigh. “This coffee is so overpriced.” Sigh.

I said hi, as cool as you please, and asked her what Backroads trips she had been on and told her about some of my own. As I made my mental notes for a substantial convo, she promptly said she didn’t have a lot of time to chat. Hmmm.

Then she asked if I had been on these vacations with my “wife.” Double hmmm. Why did she care if I might be married? This is how a journalist thinks. Everything means something and is connected to a larger pattern.

I told her I had gone on the Backroads designated “solo” trips (Except once, in Provence, when I didn’t do my homework sufficiently and got stuck on a general trip with a bunch of couples who talked endlessly about their home sewage systems and sky-high property taxes). Then she stuck her nose in her notes and didn’t speak again at all, even though any television audience watching this little reality show of mine would have definitely concluded that she and I had just had a ‘moment.’

So, I sat there, like a dope, for the next two or three minutes, sizing up my next move. I actually had a doctor’s appointment to get to, about my injured left knee. I didn’t want to be late (the doctor eventually kept me waiting for 35 minutes!).

I walked out, already cursing my lameness for not asking her for a telephone number, or at least giving her mine. As someone who can rationalize anything, I decided that if she and I were meant to chat further, it wold happen. Organically. Another time. At Starbucks. Right?

So, I returned there the next day, a few hours later than the day before.

The joint was once again packed, even though the lunch crowd should have thinned out by then. There was only one seat available at a table. I grabbed my mocha and jumped on it.

The woman sitting directly across from me was not wearing a Backroads t-shirt this time. It was not the same person, as I quickly found out. Not by a long shot.

This time, the woman protested my arrival and said, “I prefer to sit alone.” I looked around. There were no empty seats to be found. I shot back, “Me, too, but I’m going to sit here, just the same.” With that witty reply, she gave me a dirty look, grabbed her stuff, swore at me under her breath, and stormed out of there.

It was amazing. She apparently hated me within seconds. Usually it takes a little longer for me to achieve that kind of decisive response.

But what if…

Can love bloom at Starbucks?

Hey, you know what? It’s as good a setting as anywhere else.

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