[VOID] Det[Matrix] = -1

Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Sun, 6 Jun 1999 05:46:36 -0700

[Harbor House Cafe, Seal Beach @ 1:04 AM]

This has been a tough week for me. Been kinda depressed, sleeping all
day and working not much at all. Been reading too many psychological
potboilers, too (Peter Kramer's _Should You Leave_, anyone?)

But now, tonight, I feel more centered and soothed -- a night with
CobraBoy always does the trick... first, a teaser, for the horror you
are about to hear...

[Typed by CobraBoy:]
>CobraBoy here, sitting with Rohit at Harbor House Cafe at 2:15 AM
>Saturday Night. Now as some of you might understand I have taken
>Rohit along the winding dirty little whore-infested route of life.
>And while Rohit has made great strides he still bogs down when the
>going gets rough.
>Take tonight for example.
>We go to the movies to see The Matrix. I'm sitting their and low and
>behold a tall good looking Indian girl comes over and sits down next
>to me. This *IS* Rohit's dream girl. I nudge him and tell him to
>jump on the opportunity. After a cheesy excuse we swap places and
>Rohit is next to his dream girl, who was born in Huntington Beach,
>and is attending Harvard for Law. Perfection for Rohit. Someone of
>the female persuasion that will read the Sunday New York Times with
>him. Me personally I'd rather have nasty dirty sweaty sex with our
>waitress named Sarah, but I digress.
>In my schooling I have always told Rohit when going out dress as if.
>Rohit even though I had a major fit with him and made him buy
>Sketchers shoes one night still doesn't. So of course Rohit shows
>up tonight in what I call his clown outfit. Large obnoxious Hawaiian
>shirt, shorts, and Tevas. Maybe not the best thing to make a
>impression on his dream girl.
>Well needless to say, things literally fell on the floor. But I'll
>let Rohit explain the rest......
>Oh grasshopper lessons are never easy...

I only include Tim's comments by way of reinforcing the embarrassment
value if our dear S. ever should find her way to these pages -- but
I'm safe, given my track record with random encounters with Harvard
(c.f. Aparajita Ramakrishnan at
http://xent.ics.uci.edu/FoRK-archive/oct97/0898.html and
http://xent.ics.uci.edu/FoRK-archive/jan98/0453.html ).

While MIT (and Caltech) are extremely wired for locating community
members, Harvard is predictably decentralized to a fault, and
memory-less to boot (the Crimson online archives go waaaay back to...
February!). So I'll flag the only meaningful search result as:

>Sheila Flynn '01 and 1000 women from the Classes of 1953-98.
>Photomosaic by Robert Silvers, based on photograph by Farnsworth
>Blalock Photography.

(Yep, there's MIT Media Lab alum Silvers again...)

So let's take the tale from the top.


Wake up. Realize I missed the Farmers' Market. Whip up an Old
Bay-curried turkey burger for brunch (Crabby?
http://www.redroost.com/pickcrab.html Knock off your own:
http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/1073/10.html). Futz around with
4K Associates logo. Generate several dozen possible business cards,
all similar. After too many hours futzing around the bedroom, toss on
the nearest piece of clothing -- Hilo Hattie blue floral Hawaiian
shirt atop blue cotton -- and critically, pocket-less -- gymshorts.
Go into the office to reboot XeNT, get Jim's opinion on the artwork.
Feeling chilly, grabbed an orange-on-black Hypertext99 T-shirt Jim
brought me from Darmstadt to wear under the Hawaiian shirt.

[8 PM, aimlessly driving up the 405 for no good reason other than I
left the office and didn't want to go home]

It occurs to me that when I'm really, really bored, I eat -- okay,
okay: even when I'm perfectly well busy, too! -- so I surrender to
the thought that three days' worth of the Wall Street Journal, the
Economist, and the Atlantic Monthly simply won't get read without
some food to leaven the passing of time. This one way to get as fat
as I am: read while you eat; and eat while you read. It gets to be
like corn flakes and milk, pour in a little too much of one, then a
little too much of the other. Repeat.

So I'm passing by Tim's House of Brews junction when I try to call
him in on the desperate procrastination of a Saturday night. After
some back and forth with Mr Moviefone (can anyone confirm that
777Film, a CapCities/ABC production, was bought by Moviefone and thus
stolen by AOL right from under Disney's nose?), we decide on the
10:15 showing of the Matrix at the AMC Marina Pacifica in LB.

Mind you, this is while driving up the 605, slack-jawed at realizing
an ENTIRE mall! has gone up alongside it, called, creatively enough,
the Long Beach Shopping Center -- anchored by yet another new Edwards

[9PM, Little India (Pioneer Blvd in Artesia)]

Bought cassettes of Hindi film music oldies by Mohammad Rafi and Lata
Mangeshkar, respectively. Picked up a surprisingly-thick
complimentary Indian SoCal Yellow Pages. Bought pickles, tandoori
paste, samosas, and a case (!) of ripe mangoes for $6. Pigged out on
lamb seekh kabob, goat biriyani, and onion flatbread. Zoomed down to

[10:10PM, stumbling into the AMC]

Apparently, Tim had bet himself that if I showed up looking halfway
decent, he'd write off my ticket, but in my Hawaiian-on-black look he
was vindicated. Besides, pocketless, I stuffed my keys, wallet, and
bulky cellphone into my Hawaiian shirt-pocket. Decided, against all
reason, to splurge on an ICEE, but then decided at the last minute
for Nestle Crunch ice-cream nuggets.

Here comes the blow-by-blow; no pride left to sheild:

Tim sat down 4 seats in from the wall; I was fifth. In the dark
auditorium, I could make out one more pair of folks coming up to our
row (it was fairly packed for so long into the Matrix's run). The guy
went back out; the lady sat second from the wall in our row. As she
shuffled past, I thought "Pretty tan -- I'd suppose Indian, but you
never know in LA".

She asked Tim something while folding down the seat between them for
her sleek black leather jacket. It turned out her friend was a wee
bit tipsy and was off sobering up. In his usual discreet fashion, Tim
challenged, "He won't throw up on me, will he? He won't throw up on
the nice man in the next row down, either, right?".

It also came up that she'd already seen the Matrix, and oblivious me
rejoined the conversation at the point of comparing Phantom Menance
(unfavorably) to the shoddily-written Matrix. This was the point Tim
had his inspired cheesy moment to swap seats "so you two don't go
talkin' across me". Later, once her friend had sidled up to the last
chair in the row, blissfully buttressed by the wall, yet another
couple shuffled into the row, gesturing at the seat with the jacket
between us. Before I could mouth my peevish "it's taken," Tim told a
confused Rohit to shift down one to make room. Thus, if you're still
counting, Tim managed with two of those convoluted horsey-moves in
chess, to get the two of us side by side, nary an armrest 'tween us...

The conversation, in the meantime, veered awkwardly ahead from
"where are you from?"
"Originally HB, but Seal Beach for the summer"
"where before that?"
"oh really?! I just moved out from there."
"Where in particular?"
"Cambridge; I worked at MIT for a few years after Caltech at the Web
[Note the ever-so-subtle bourgeois name-dropping :-]
"I was in Cambridge too -- I'm going back to Harvard Law in the Fall.
And yeah, I've heard of W3C [!] "
"wow, so um... <brain stall: coincidence meter fried!>"
[This was one more moment in life I bemoaned having a digital camera
handy, since I've decided FoRKing photos for a diary will make an
excellent pretext for introducing the list and my other parochial
obsessions... and it would help out my meager memory, struggling to
reconstruct how beautiful I thought she was once I heard those words
:-) [Yeah, I'm a classist bastard. So sue me! -- if only she would
"How 'bout that Media Lab"
"pretty crazy stuff -- fun to check in over there -- conflict with
LCS -- the black-leather home theater Living Room of the Future --
the new LCS speech-research Hummer"
[turns to her friend] "Can you believe that? a Hummer on a grant?!"
[pause while I crawl back into my shell and pop open my now-softened
[offer one to Tim.]
[Alert! Brain stem, all ahead, full! -- it finally occurs to me to
offer some to my seatmate]
"Wow! Nestle Crunch! These are my favorite!"
[Share until box complete, including a gentlemanly pass down to her
sobering friend]
[Decide to look *slightly* less trashy and take off Hawaiian shirt --
with bulging pocket full 'o stuff -- and wrap it up into a tight ball
alternately held between us and in my sweaty palms.]

Various bits of MST3K commentary on the trailers and between us two
Matrix veterans. Verdict: the second time round, the script sounds
even MORE poorly written, and emptily acted, but it's just as
stunning a thrill ride. Of course, I'm spending most of the two hours
on adrenalin, wondering what, if anything ought to happen. Tim wanted
to go to Harbor House afterwards, and it occured to me the most I
could ever wish for would be to all go on there afterward. I keep
looking over, probably far too conspicuously.

Roll credits! Here's where the game gets in gear, where the carefully
crafted lines come into play, culminating at least in the passing on
of a colorful FoRKcard at least. I get up, unwrap the shirt, slip one
armhole on, and turn to suggest -- WHAM! -- the phone and the wallet
go flying down two rows.

"Hey, can you find everything?"
[Clambering down a row to spy half of my cellphone]
"Yeah, parts, anyway"
[Too flustered to enlist her in helping search, the real answer.
Instead, briefly exchange names, look down again for the battery, and
turn around to see they've already gone, and a despairing furrow
across Tim's brow]


Post-mortem: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Now, let's not be crass here: 'victory' isn't about getting a date,
or even a phone number. Heck, nothing clearly said that the fellow
wasn't a boyfriend. For me, I'd like to just make an acquaintance
with a woman, especially Indian, of an essentially similar level of
achievement and compressed speech (she actually talks as fast I do!).
As Guy Kawasaki cautions in the _Macintosh Way to Love and Marriage_,
it's the installed base that counts...

From the Department of Shoulds, ranked from shallow to deep:

I should have exchanged names right upfront. Should have invoked the
same rules of engagement for striking up conversations in First Class
cabins :-)

I shouldn't have tried putting on that silly shirt. It was a dark
room, and my taste in fashion could hardly be stacked against me at
this point. Should have just kept the cards handy. [Memo to self: get
those damned 4K cards ready! they make fine personal introductions,
too, you know!]

Most of all, I shouldn't have let the fact they were walking away
stop me from firmly announcing, "Well, S, it was a pleasure meeting
you, and I hope you enjoy your summer in Seal Beach. I'd love to talk
to you and D some more if you'd like; here's my card."

Calling after someone, especially in so forward a manner, is a
potentially rude thing. In any kind of setting with repeated
interactions, it's simply unnecessary.

What I needed to do was properly frame the fact I really was dealing
with a one-in-a-million situation (literally, given the Indo-US
census) -- and it was worth a nine-out-of-ten chance I'd be seen as


MORAL: Business is about accepting Type 1 (false-positive) errors;
Dating is about accepting Type 2 (false-negative).

The essential reason I took such a passive posture is intense
business training, where you don't get pushy with a customer, nor
encourage them to believe this encounter is "It." The goal is to
avoid, at all costs, false negatives: people ruling you ineligible
for their business before delving deeper into your background.

In this case, though, it's the complementary risk at hand: if you're
NOT seen as immediately likable, no amount of "see my site later"
type of info will help reverse it. You may think this person would
like you if they knew you better, but your first impression has
already opened or closed the door.

So be strong, and take a few risks -- IT'S ONLY REAL LIFE!