So, I know Loolwa Khazzoom would probably disapprove of all these incidents, but I feel like there's a clear qualitative difference between them.
1) I'm sitting on a bus, talking on my cell phone. (I know, even I disapprove of this part.) But in any case, I'm talking to my sweetie about, among other things, how I accidentally came out as queer to a summer-school class comprised of rather a lot of my academic idols. The conversation ranges over the usual topics: one of the students who's really into semiotics asked me what cues might differentiate a feminine straight woman from a queer femme, we had a whole discussion about rhinestone cat's-eye glasses - and of course, I convey all of this on the phone to my darlin'. Meanwhile, the guy sitting across from me on the bus is trying very hard not to crack up over what he's overhearing, and I catch his eye and smile complicitly - as if to say, "yeah, I know this is a strange conversation, and I'm glad you're amused rather than peeved that I'm on my phone."
Anyway, so I get off the bus before I'm done with the phone call, and the guy passes me a note. Once I'm off, I unfold it and read it:
Have a good day! :-)
(I'll note that there was no phone number.)
At first, I wasn't sure how to react. Given that I'm usually very leery of pick-up attempts, I wasn't sure whether to be charmed or my usual squicked-out. I settled for amused - mostly, I think, because of the no-phone-number, but possibly because of the smiley-face, too.
Compare, then, if you will . . .
2) I'm at the video store this weekend. The place I'm at has a section listing movies by actor: I make some crack to the person I'm there with, along the lines of, "Wow, this may be the only time I'll see Jackie Chan next to Charlie Chaplin." A guy standing by Sean Connery laughed, and took pains to explain to me that Chan comes directly before Chaplin in the store's alpha-by-actor shelving system, and thus the bizarre-seeming thematic juxtaposition was just a coincidence. (Ohhhhhhhh... now I get it!) He starts asking me which Connery film he should get, handing me DVD cases and pretending not to notice when I tried to hand them back.
My video-store companion is nowhere to be seen.
He asks me where I'm from in the city, and I tell him actually, I'm just visiting. "Oh? How much longer are you in town?" he asks. Just - thank goodness - till tomorrow.
I keep turning away, looking at Coen Brothers movies, willing my friend to come back and the guy to shut up already.
"My name's Chris," he says, sticking out his hand. I unthinkingly give him my real first name. Oh, well. "That's unique. Where's it from?"
I respond in monosyllables. I still don't know where my friend is. Finally, she resurfaces. I'm tempted to hug her. Instead, I look over my shoulder at the guy and say, "Um, nice to have met you. Bye." He sputters, as if he's surprised that someone he's been chatting up in a video store would want to go home eventually, and says it was nice to meet me, too - very nice.
A different guy approaches us in the parking lot, wanting to know what we'd rented, and recommending that we check out Sleeper Cell. (Right, 'cause the fact that we'd gotten Quinceanera and Jesus Camp made us look like the types who'd enjoy an even-more-xenophobic 24 knockoff.)
I climb into the car, lock the doors, and ask my friend, "Is this normal here?"
Now, that's creepy. There are ways to express your appreciation for another person you know you'll never meet again - take a tip from Bachelor #1, and make it brief and unintrusive.