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Who's Cruisin' Who 

Pick-up perk ups

I got cruised in Best Buy the other day. At least I think I did. I'm kind of rusty on this stuff because I'm currently serving a life sentence without parole in the correctional institution of matrimony. What marriage does to you isn't correct, exactly, so much as shutter your senses to the electrons of sexual possibility zinging around since you're out of the game, or supposed to be.

Despite my marital blinkers, I've noticed recently that a lot of places you might not at first peg as potential hook-up joints have this humming cruising vibe going on. I meet friends occasionally for coffee at Starbuck's on Sunday mornings, and if I'm there first by myself I get hopeful, inquiring looks from guys in jogging shorts who probably jogged all the way from their Lexus.

I guess I find this surprising because it's Sunday morning, for God's sake, and broad daylight, and it's strange, at least for me, to have a subtle pick-up atmosphere in a place with no alcohol, no smoking, and no dim lights. My first suspicion is that these are the guys that didn't score in the clubs on Saturday night and are trying to make the weekend still count, but that could be where I'm coming from.

Instead of coffee shops on every corner when I was growing up in Philly, we had bars. Since we could legally drink at 18, we were armed with fake ID cards by about 15 and headed straight for those bars, with parties awash in kegs providing supplemental hook-up opportunities from 9th grade on.

I swear I would have drunk a whole lot less if there had been places like Starbucks around providing sober chances to get a pretty intense buzz and have inspired conversations with strangers. You still don't have that sex-laden opportunity to ask for or offer a light, though, unless you're sitting outside in a rigid metal chair inhaling parking lot fumes in the glaring sunlight, which drains away some of the sizzle.

Singles have more opportunities to cruise today because it's spreading everywhere out of its former alcohol-enhanced confines. We were also in stores a lot less, and there were fewer stores to be in, although I do recall checking out boys while ostensibly looking at album covers. Album covers definitely lent themselves to that activity because tossing back your long hair while appearing to be puzzling over one's artwork was an invitation to some guy to come up and loftily explain its meaning and point out the symbols hidden in its psychedelic scrolls. Guys were the experts on album covers since they apparently spent every waking hour scrutinizing them while burning through baggies of dope and listening to the records they sheathed over and over again.

Squinting at the little photo on a CD cover just isn't the same; I mourn the passing of album covers, not just for their guy-magnet function, but because they made going to the record store like visiting an art gallery. Still, the big boxes that sell music along with everything else electronic are apparently keeping the cruise element alive, based upon my recent experience.

I was trailing my son, which is what I do in Best Buy. I've noticed that there's usually a few of us moms trudging along behind our adolescent kids with the same glum expression, wondering how much this trip is gonna cost us.

I had drifted over to a display of supplemental equipment for X-Box that I so totally didn't understand when a Hispanic man glided by and said in the very softest of tones right in my ear, "Hey, how ya doin'?"

It happened so quickly and he spoke so quietly that at first I wasn't even sure it really had occurred, plus I was too surprised to respond. When finally I got the courage to peek over at this guy he was playing a demo video game and staring up at the screen with a face as blank as marble. Maybe he was just being polite, I reasoned to myself, but it wasn't like he'd had to squeeze past me in the aisle, and it hadn't been said in the audible-to-everybody way of a casual remark.

I've been cruised! I announced to my amazed self, and immediately began to wonder in married-person fashion why on earth. There were plenty of women around, younger women who appeared confident among the electronics, who played the demo games with lusty thrusts and briskly clicked through the CDs. These chicks would never need to have an album cover explained to them.

Perhaps the puzzled look, which I probably wore before the X-Box paraphernalia, was still honey to the bees after all. I must have been smiling as I pondered this, because suddenly this old-as-Methuselah guy beamed back at me. Gramps probably left the store asking himself, Did I just get cruised?

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