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4

Thanks for the Drink! (Now, How Long Do I Have to Sit Here?)

Girl walks into a hotel bar. Traveling alone and therefore (she thinks) drinking alone. She plunks herself down and orders a Sidecar from the bartender, who looks uncannily like Kevin Spacey. From across the room, a male stranger, not completely unattractive and certainly not scary-looking, approaches her with a smile. "May I get that for you?" She momentarily debates simply replying, "I'm married," as that response seems terse, unfriendly and, well, unnecessary. Married women are certainly allowed to drink with men who are not their husbands (#thisisnottheVictorianera).

So she smiles back, says, "Sure, thank you," all the while touching her face with her left hand in an attempt to reveal (not so subtly) a wedding band and engagement ring. Just so there are no wrong impressions. Whether or not this man 1) sees the rings and recognizes she is married and cares not or 2) is completely obtuse and/or unfamiliar with Western material representations of marital status is unclear

He sits down, orders a beer and proceeds to make friendly, not necessarily flirtatious, conversation. Although the girl enjoys the company of her new drinking friend (?), she cannot help wondering, "How long do I have to sit here and talk to him?"

Such was the situation I found myself in recently at an out-of-town conference. And so I ask you, does accepting the gift of a drink from a stranger obligate you (morally, ethically, religiously, etc.) to tolerate their presence for a certain amount of time?

Does the guy or gal who sends you a shot from across a crowded bar deserve more than just a smile and a "thank you" gesture from afar? (Unless, of course, that person is Christian Bale, in which case you pound the shot and rush over into his arms.)

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What about the gregarious patron who buys an entire round for you and your friends (not that you asked) and then requests to join you at your corner table? If you didn't turn away the server when he approached you with the gifted beverages, can you turn away the purchaser? And if you do consent but later tire of his/her presence, can you part ways? And after how long?

Well, yes, of course, you can do anything you like. And you should, especially if you start to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. But barring those feelings, and provided you are not particularly attracted (romantically or platonically) to your new companion, how and when do you exit graciously?

Readers, your thoughts and experiences?

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