How to win friends

crt-tv-soccerThe TV room was my last hope to socialize with other foreign students.

I peeked inside, and saw five tall, gruff guys thrown over the chairs. The TV was blasting in an Eastern European language: a game of some sort — by the amount of green, soccer.

The men watched intently. They compared impressions through terse remarks in low rumbling voices, which — the moment I crossed the doorstep — halted.

“Hello, folks!”

My cheer, bright tenor got grunts for answer. Five pairs of eyes fixated me, and followed me as I courtly sat on a corner, legs crossed, hands folded over the lap.

Now the only noise was the excited narration of the game — yes, soccer. The men frowned angrily, staring each other, and throwing me an occasional glance. After getting a murderous glare in exchange for a smile, I decided to keep my eyes glued to the TV.

As I contrived how to slip away without further awkwardness — should I say “goodbye”? just leave? — they all got up and fled the room.

All but one, who extended his arm in my general direction, holding a keychain with the very tips of his fingers. Message understood, I took it without touching him.

“After you finish leave the key at the guardian’s mailbox.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll do that.” In a last desperate attempt, I offered: “By the way, I’m Andrew.”

“Yes. Leave the key at the guardian’s mailbox.”

And with no other word, he left.

For a minute a stood there frozen, key in hand, the TV blasting inane commentaries about a game I rebuffed in a language I couldn’t even recognize. I made the effort, dammit!

I found a remote. I turned off the TV. I locked the door as I left.

Overwhelmed by the unfairness, I had a sudden impulse: throw the key on the trash! hide it on a flowerpot! better yet: put it in the wrong mailbox — the one just below the guardian’s could pass as an innocent distraction. It’s their names on the borrow book!

The pettiness of those thoughts hit me. I threw the key at its place and went up to my room.

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