We ended up at a small but very nice Indian buffet restaurant. We had made up enough time, especially with the Vietnamese customer, that we were the first two customers for the lunchtime rush. We dished up some superb looking food and sat down in a booth in the rear of the dining room.
Val and I exchanged small talk for a few minutes, giving each a thumbnail sketch of ourselves. Val was 33, had lived in the city for about eight years and worked for the company for five. She was unmarried and living on her own in an apartment over by the river. I was 31, had lived here for five years and worked for the company for four years. I was divorced and living in a condo in a nearby suburb.
We both liked the same movies: Sci-Fi, big name summer blockbusters and classic B&W movies. Neither of us could stand reality TV shows. Val liked dance music and I floored her when I told her I liked J-pop: Japanese pop/rock music. That was when we found out we both liked anime. I like almost anything that was good while Val was partial to mecha, also known as “Giant Robots,” or anything having to do with space. She also liked comedies.
We had a lively conversation for about ten minutes, with lots of laughing and repeated outbursts of, “You do? So do I!” and, “What a coincidence!” Then Val put her fork down and looked me in the eye. She said, “Maybe I'm overstepping my bounds but this is driving me up the wall!”
“What is?” I asked, curious what she meant.
“Here it is,” Val started, “halfway through our work day and you have yet to hit on me even once!” She gave me a quizzical look. “Tell me, am I losing my looks?” she asked.
“From where I sit, if you've lost any looks you had to have been the Venus deMilo's twin before,” I replied, smiling.
“Then what is it?” Val insisted. “Are you...”
“No, Val, I'm not,” I replied. “I have noticed that we're very much alike, though. We both have a military background, we were both trained as technicians and we both have the same passion for making sure our customers are treated fairly and properly. We both like the same foods, the same movies and TV shows-at least, we both like anime. I'd guess we'd both have the same idea of the perfect date-a nice dinner, an enjoyable movie,” then I lowered my voice, “and then we'd head home to fuck the girl.”
“I don't think we're that... wha.. what.. what did you just say?” Val stammered.
“I said we'd head home to...” I repeated.
“OK, OK, I got it,” Val said, blushing. “How did you figure it out?”
“That you're a lesbian?” I replied, keeping my voice low. “I'll admit, at first I didn't think that. I figured you were in a relationship with a guy and was not happy to see a horny CSR occupy your passenger's seat again.”
“I see,” Val said, relaxing a bit. “so what tipped you off?”
I sat back. “I have learned the art of reading micro-expressions,” I explained to Val. “They are little “tells” that most people are unaware of doing but they happen all the time. The size of the pupils. A momentary catch in breathing. A smile tightening so it looks forced. A slight wrinkling of the brows. There are so many ways to tell what a person is really thinking, if you know what to look for.”
“So what was it for me?” Val asked, now fascinated.
“It wasn't your micro-expressions when we met,” I told her. “Like I said, I thought you just didn't like having an apparently horny guy riding with you all day. In fact, I didn't change my mind until we ran into Ginger.”
“Micro-expressions is a science of observing slight changes in a person” I continued. “However, when you met Ginger, well... you were acting hornier than me!”
“I was not!” Val said defensively. I just stared at her. “OK, OK, so how could you tell?” Val said, more quietly this time.
“Well, to be blunt, your nipples” I explained, grinning like the Cheshire cat. “The moment you saw Ginger, your nipples became so hard you could have put someone's eye out with them.”
“I... I... well, I...” Val stammered.
“See, even with my mentioning of Ginger you're about to tear holes in your uniform shirt,” I observed. Then I stopped. Looking at Val's pained expression, it hit me. I asked her, “Do your co-workers know about you?”
“Yes, they do,” Val said. “Ant the majority of them don't mind. I'm a hard worker, I help out other techs when I'm asked and I'll even volunteer to help if I see a need, so most of the other techs judge me as a technician. As for those who look down on me because I'm a lesbian, they can just go fuck themselves.”
”Then I take it I'm one of the first shadows to realize you're gay,” I said.
“No,” Val replied, “you're the only one who's figured it out so far. I pretend I have a boyfriend and that usually holds them off. Tony, another tech, acts as my boyfriend if they don't get the message the first time.”
“Don't worry, I don't out friends,” I told Val, “And I'd like to think I can count you as a friend.”
“Oh you can!” Val said, brightening. “By the way, your reply to my offer?” she asked with a devious glint in her eye.
“As tempting as it is, I'm going to have to pass” I replied.
“How come?” Val asked mischievously.
“Like I said, we're very alike,” I reminded her. “We're both dominant. That is a recipe for disaster.”
“Dominant? You don't seem dominant” Val countered.
“Dominance is not just about lording it over another,” I said. “Think back. Loading the van, taking care of the distracting kids, stepping in to interpret for the Vietnamese woman...”
“You took over every time,” Val admitted. “How could you tell I was dominant, however? It seemed you dommed me pretty good each time.”
“Your dominance came out in subtle ways-with the day care owner, for example,” I said, “She was a mess. She wasn't sure what type of STB she needed but you led her through a maze of information and brought her to the best solution.”
“I know,” Val acknowledged. “Situations like that are the toughest for me.”
“But you have the ability to overcome them,” I said, reaching out across the table for her hands. “Not to get all Dr. Phil on you but you just need to believe in yourself. From what I've seen just this morning, Val, you are a wonderful person.” Val blushed a little at that.
I looked at my watch. “Hmm, it's 11:45. Should we get on the road early again and see if we can kick out the PM like we did the AM?”
“Let's roll, partner!” Val answered, smiling broadly.
“I don't know how else to put this,” I said to Val as we drove to our next appointment, “so, has any of your shadows engaged in any, um... extra-curricular activities while on the job with you?”
Val laughed. I was really enjoying that laugh by now. “Yeah, a couple or so have. One or two have tried hitting on me, like I said before, and a few others have hit on some of the female customers. I tried not to let on I knew what was going on, but some of it was so blatant.” She turned left and the van went into a nice sub-division.
“I have to confess, I had some fantasies about that happening today,” I admitted to Val. “However, I like the way it's turned out so much better.”
“Are you going to ask the question that's just hanging there?” Val asked as we pulled up to the next appointment. She stopped the engine and half-turned to look at me.
“What question?” I replied. Then it hit me. “Oh, that question! As far as I'm concerned, that's your private life.”
“Thank you for a gentlemanly answer.”