I saw that the annual NYC pillow fight is scheduled for this Saturday at Union Square. I’ll be skipping it, and not only because I have practice that afternoon. Been there, done that.
Once upon a time I was totally into quirky “Only in NYC” stuff like this. Now I just find it tiresome and I make a note of when it is simply to avoid the vicinity. I did the pillow fight a couple years ago and it was an odd experience.
I was living in Astoria at the time and I’d met this guy (I can’t remember how I met him but it was likely via OkCupid) and we decided that a good first date would be the pillow fight. So I met him at the Ditmars stop (easily recognizable as we were the only people carrying pillows) and we made conversation on the N train into Manhattan.
After this I realized how much I hate talking to strangers in public, because there’s really nothing more awkward than doing the whole “getting to know you” routine with a captive audience in a train car. It’s always painfully obvious that it’s a first date. I’ve been witness to it before and cringed in sympathy at the awkwardness. With this guy (I think his name was David), it was clear within the first few minutes that this just wasn’t a love connection. When I did online dating I didn’t like to do a lot of back and forth before meeting because it’s really easy to think someone is great online and then meet and be disappointed at the lack of chemistry. So I avoided the whole situation by setting up a first meeting after one or two emails: “You seem cool, I’m cool, great, let’s meet.” Sometimes it worked out well, sometimes not so well.
David and I got off the train at Union Square just in time for the countdown to begin the pillow fight and as soon as they said “Go!” there were feathers flying everywhere, I’d already been bashed in the head 5 times and people were screaming with glee. It was fun to let loose on strangers for about 3 minutes and then it lost the luster. I suppose I get my need to hit people out of my system pretty regularly with roller derby. So I dropped my pillow and looked around for David and he was gone. Swallowed up by the crowd without a trace. I got out from the middle of the melee and searched around the edges for him and there was just too much going on to see clearly. Feathers in the air, in my face, in my eyes. Hundreds of people anonymously taking swings at each other with pillows. Never mind that I was already forgetting what he looked like.
It was a cold day, so to stay warm I got back into the crowd and halfheartedly tossed my pillow around while looking around for David. We hadn’t exchanged phone numbers at this point, so texting or calling wasn’t an option. After about 20 minutes I gave up. I felt like I’d breathed a pound of feathers into my lungs and they were in my hair and embedding themselves in my jeans. I actually had to throw out that pair of jeans because they became so itchy after that day that they were unwearable, despite numerous washings.
The chances of me finding David again were pretty small, and I wasn’t so into him that I’d search through the crowd, which was still pummeling everything into a downy pulp. I went down into the train station and rode back to Queens, the only idiot on the train covered in feathers and with a pillow tucked between my knees. It was at this point that I thought, “Was this worth it?” and the answer was a resounding no.
David emailed me a day later saying he had fun and we should hang out again sometime. We emailed back and forth for a week and then I just didn’t write him back and that was that. I recalled seeing his name somewhere a few months later, maybe the comments on a blog post or the Astorians message board or something mundane like that.
What I learned from Pillow Fight 2008 is that if you are kind of iffy about a guy, go on a first date where you can lose him pretty easily. But if you think you might be into him, make sure to get his phone number first.