“That’s a really big … book, you have there…”

Who knew that 18th-century British literature could be used as a pick-up line?

So, I’ve been carrying around Tom Jones for the last several weeks, making my way slowly through Fielding’s tortured prose. On several occasions, I’ve taken it with me to Chipotle, where I have lunch maybe once a week. And apparently the Fielding is making me a popular regular there.

The first to comment was Skeletor the manager, who kept staring at the book as he rang up my order. I could tell he was going to say something, and eventually, he said, “Tom Jones, huh? I didn’t realize he wrote books. I thought he just sang those sexy songs. (wink, wink)” I smiled and acknowledged that “yes, it was a heavy read,” to which he responded that it also appeared to be heavy lifting.

Fine, I let that all go. But last week, I ventured in again to have lunch and read. As I sat down and opened my book, I vaguely heard, “Enjoying your book?” It took me a minute to realize that the guy cleaning the table next to mine was talking to me, since I usually just sit down and block everything out. I looked up and could see he was waiting for an answer. I said something like, “Yeah, it’s good…and nobody’s making me read it; I enjoy it.” He then launched into a little dialogue about how books like that are good when nobody’s making you read them, but if you have to read something then it’s never any fun.

After he drifted away and I finished my burrito, one of the other managers approached to ask if he could clear my burrito. I thanked him, and then he decided to comment: “Tom Jones! You know, I like Fielding’s other work. <beat> What’s New, Pussycat?” At least he knew that Fielding was the author and Tom Jones was a character…

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