My father gave my mother and me an inspired Christmas gift a few years ago: an adorable knitting basket, complete with several yarns, needles, and a scarf pattern, for each of us. Mom knew how to knit, but hadn’t done so in several years, and was delighted to teach me. Knitting has since become a major bonding activity for the two of us, and we love finding new yarn shops and tackling new projects, either together or separately. (Dad has of course benefited from his generosity – his wardrobe has gained several scarves, sweaters, hats and mittens over the years!)
There was a great little yarn shop in the city we used to live in–a very neighborhood-y place in a gorgeous old building, with a big oak table down the center of the shop for people to sit and work. They always had fresh water, tea, and baked goods on hand, and there were various groups that met there regularly, several nights a week. Mom and I were never part of a regular “crowd,” but everyone was friendly and it was a great place to go and seek help on a difficult project, or just have a chat. We went there one summer evening to pick up a few yarns for a blanket my mother was working on, and having paid, sat down at the big table to work. Before long, Mom and I were in conversation with a woman sitting across from me, whom we had never met before. We covered the usual ground–what we were working on, how long we’d lived in the city, what high school I went to, what colleges I was looking at, how Mom felt about her soon-to-be empty nester status, and so on.
The woman was friendly, but way too friendly: upon finding out what my dad did for a living, she mentioned several times that she was looking for a job in that field, and had heard that his company was great to work for, and she was unemployed at the moment and didn’t really have any references or background but knew she’d be great at it, and also did she mention she was looking for a job in that field? Not a crime–you gotta network somehow, I guess–but she certainly went about it tastelessly. This stranger also offered some very decided and unsolicited opinions of a couple of the colleges I mentioned (“Oh, you don’t want to go there, it’s so small! You’d hate a small school. You should look at Big Huge University, it’s so much better.” For the record, the college from which I just graduated houses about 2400 undergrads, and I loved all four years). Eventually, the woman asked us what our plans were for the rest of the evening.
Dad had been out of town on business for several days, so to celebrate his homecoming, Mom had made reservations at a restaurant within walking distance of the yarn shop. The place was a local favorite and really excellent, so reservations were a “must” on most nights as it was always busy. My mom mentioned this, and added how nice it would be for both of us to spend time with my dad, since he’d been gone and we’d missed him.
The stranger exclaimed, “Oh, great! I love that place!”, and looked at us expectantly.
“Oh, yes,” my mother replied, a little confused. “We love it, too.”
“I haven’t been there in awhile,” the woman hinted. “And it’s one of my favorite places.”
“It’s one of our favorites, too.”
“I would love to meet your husband,” the woman went on.
My mother was astonished, but stood her ground. “Well, we’ll have to bring him by [Yarn Store Name] sometime.”
“Oh, but I meant I’d love to meet him tonight. After all, we’ve been having such a nice chat. I’d love to get to know you all better.”
“I don’t think he’ll be stopping here tonight,” my mother answered, feigning obliviousness. “He’ll be going right from the airport to the restaurant. We’re meeting him there.”
“That sounds just great. I love that place. And I’m getting hungry! It must be almost dinner time!”
Mom just “mmm”-ed noncommittally.
“And I really love,” the woman continued, “how flexible they are there, about reservations. If you order a table for three and show up with four, they’re so accommodating! And I’d just love to get to know you all better.” And she continued to smile at us expectantly.
I had been shocked into silence up until this point, and also I was a clueless little teenager who had no idea how to deal with utter rudeness, but I jumped in here. “I’m so looking forward to spending some time with my dad,” I gushed. “I’ve really missed him. He’s been traveling a lot lately, and it’ll be awesome to hang out with him and my mom. We haven’t done anything together, just the three of us, in so long!”
A little blatant, maybe, but so were the stranger’s attempts to cadge an invite to our private family dinner.
“Well, that will be nice,” the woman answered, smiling at me. “And I’d really love to meet your dad. So what time is the reservation?”
Notice: she referred to it as “the reservation,” not “your reservation.” On purpose? Does it mean anything? I’m not sure, but at this point, my mother had had enough.
“Actually, sweet pea,” she said to me, “we should get going. You know I wanted to stop by [Other Store] and [Other Store] before dinner. It was so nice to meet you,” she said to the stranger. “Have a lovely night!”
And we hightailed it out of there. I admit, I glanced over my shoulder as we left the shop to make sure she wasn’t following us. But she was just sitting at the worktable, looking supremely offended. I should mention that this woman had never told us her name, nor asked for our names. That’s not a big deal, when you’re chitchatting with a fellow customer over a bundle of yarn–but at least introduce yourself before barging in on a total stranger’s dinner reservation.
I recognize now that we should have employed the “bean dip” technique–persistently changing the subject–but honestly, I think my mother and I were both a little too flabbergasted to think entirely straight. We went back to the shop a few days later, and another customer who had been sitting at the table that night (and had been equally astonished at the stranger’s audacity) congratulated us on our “near escape.” Fortunately, we never saw the dinner woman again. I can’t help wondering if she expected my parents to pay for her meal, as well as invite her to it. And then she probably expected my dad to offer her a job. 0630-12
I think your mom did a great job of deflecting the unwanted guest! Hints galore that stranger woman was not wanted. Love it! But your Mom was up against a world class moocher con artist, someone who knew how to play the emotional strings to maneuver people into situations that benefited her but certainly puts them in awkward circumstances.