Saturday, January 27, 2007

Knitting alone in public

I have knitted alone in public, and it did not kill me.

Before going to last night's Blue Jackets game, I had to make a stop at Hobby Lobby. Kristin tipped me off to a sale they were having. It sounded like a perfect opportunity to pick up something for a baby sweater, a project on my list of things to do. I found something really nice, but I'll reserve this story for a day when there aren't bigger fish to fry.

My yarn shopping almost put the kibosh on my intentions to knit alone in public. Why? If I had gone directly to the arena rather than visiting Hobby Lobby first, I would have arrived in plenty of time to assure myself of one of the 250 $10 tickets. I thought I was getting there early enough and was pleasantly surprised to pull into the parking garage and be charged just $3 standard parking than the $10 event parking. I've been offered the lower price before but had it raised when I asked if that was correct for those attending the game. Both times I was told that they thought I was working the game. I have no idea why they thought that, but this time I didn't protest and took what amounted to an early bird discount.

Around 4:30 I took my place in the line, which extended out of the box office and halfway between the arena and Nationwide Boulevard. I was glad to have my scarf and gloves, but I need to knit a hat soon. It was quite chilly outside. I felt confident that I would be able to get a cheap seat, but as I got closer, I began to wonder. Wouldn't you know it, with one person in front of me, the monitor listing the $10 seats was changed to read "sold out".

One of the few benefits of attending a game or concert by yourself is that you can often find somewhere to squeeze in where couples and groups can't. Sure enough, I got a cheap seat despite the sign stating that no more were available. I bet it was one of the last ones sold.

I walked nearby to Chipotle for some supper and then headed to Starbuck's for my first time knitting in public all by myself. As I got closer to the coffee shop, I saw a crowd outside and a sizable contingent of hockey fans inside. There was a line at least fifteen people long waiting to order and nowhere to sit. The game was sold out, and the visiting Buffalo Sabres, who possess the second best record in the NHL, brought out a lot of supporters. They were milling around the Arena District. Painted faces and coordinated cheers were common. In fact, you would have thought we were in New York from the number of Sabres fans waiting to get into the arena. Ordinarily I would have had no problem setting up shop in Starbuck's, but it was not to be this night.

I camped out in front of the arena and unsnapped the clasps on my bag so security could make sure I wasn't bringing in any weapons or bottled beverages. I left my scissors at home as I thought they might present a problem. It turns out that security didn't even look inside the bag. The guard patted it down quickly and seemed more concerned that I open my coat.

I took the ride up the escalator and the walk to the opposite end of the arena before taking my seat in the center end section's top row. There were two seats to my left and twenty-six to my right, so I was in a good position to feel inconspicuous. I'd hardly had time to get situated when a father and son, Buffalo fans no less, sat down beside me on the left.

It would have been very easy for me to use this as an excuse to abandon my knitting alone in public plan. I think a big part of the reason why I said something to Kristin was because I needed her confidence and reassurance to boost my confidence and comfort level. And believe it or not, posting about my public knitting intentions made me feel obligated to those of you reading.

One thing I learned last year was how important it is to have others to lean on when you need it, even if in this case that moral support was mostly from people I've never met and who probably hadn't even read of my plans until after I had gone through with them. I guess that's one of the reasons why knowing that people are praying for you can be so powerful. The awareness that others care is what matters, not what prayers can or cannot accomplish in measurable terms. I felt like you'd have my back, and I owed it to you to follow through. I suppose that sounds like a strange thing to say, but self-consciousness, which is ultimately what feeds my knitting alone in public hang-ups, is similar. The difference is that it puts forward mental images projecting negative outcomes.

Without any fanfare, I opened my messenger bag, pulled out the needles, and began knitting Donna's scarf. I wasn't nervous. The father and son didn't freak out or burst into laughter. In fact, the boy asked me if I liked crocheting. I explained that I was knitting, talked a little about why I was doing it, and said that I did enjoy it. He said that his mom crocheted. The father asked what I was making. Neither acted like I was weird.

You can't imagine what a tremendous relief this was. I think some people further down the row may have been wondering what was going on, but I was locked on what I was doing and didn't notice anyone else. I lucked out in who was sitting next to me. If I had my row neighbors from the last game I attended, it might have been a different story.

The seat to my right was unoccupied all night, meaning I had enough room to work during the intermissions. (One trade-off of sitting in the nosebleed section is that the seats are narrower and closer together.) Yes, I also knitted during the two intermissions. I did not knit during the game, for obvious reasons. The father and I talked off and on during the game and while I was knitting. We talked about sports and a little about work. He's employed at a prison, so he's probably seen odder things than a guy knitting at a pro hockey game.

My section was full of Buffalo fans. Considering the Sabres' record and the Blue Jackets' inconsistency, it could have been a long night. Just as surprising as my stress-free public knitting was the Jackets' 3-2 win. Being around all those opposing fans became a lot sweeter at the game's conclusion.

I've been greatly impressed with how quickly traffic is dispersed from the parking garage after these games, and last night was no different. I even got waved out an exit in the garage that let me bypass a large number of vehicles. Within twelve minutes of reaching my car I was on the interstate and on the way home. I've been trying to tell myself that this is a new year, and it's going to be a lot better. Nights like this one help build a convincing argument for this being my year.

The kicker to all of this is that I frogged everything I did. The scarf wasn't wide enough. I cast on twice as many stitches (32) and started over. That seemed like too many, so I frogged it again--the fourth time--and tried 24. I knitted just a few rows. Nope, that looks wider than I want. I cast on 20 and knitted a few inches. Again, the width was too narrow once I had knitted a swatch. That's right, I frogged it this evening and cast on 24 stitches. Something wasn't looking right on a corner, so rrrrrrip. Six froggings later, I'm happy with it.

I want to get a sizable chunk of work done on Sunday, but if I need to get out of the apartment, I might try knitting alone in public again. I'm not sure where I might go. I'd prefer a place where there's less of a chance that I'll be recognized. I am not a celebrity by any standard, but having a TV show for ten-plus years in this community means that I am noticed by strangers at the grocery store and other places on a regular basis.

I must say that it's nice to discover what I'm capable of doing. I never would have thought I'd be interested in knitting, and I certainly never thought I'd sit at a professional sporting event by myself and do it. I can't promise I've conquered my self-consciousness about it, but last night felt like a turning point. I hope it makes you feel as good as it makes me feel.


At 8:15 AM, Blogger donnadb said...

What a great story. I have to attend an afternoon event on Monday with students and thought about taking my knitting along. Then I had two thoughts: (1) I don't have a knitting bag yet (what do you carry your stuff in?) and (2) It didn't even occur to me that anyone would look askance at me for knitting, because, of course, I'm a woman. I know that the latter realization is the whole premise of this blog, but it actually never hit me existentially until I compared my expectations about having other people watch me.

As a commenter noted on the post where you stated your intentions to knit at the game, doing a handicraft in public is the best way to start conversations and intrigue other people. I've tatted in airports for years, and it always seems to spread joy to those around me -- they talk to me about their grandmother who used to tat, ask me how it's done, etc. I hope you keep going with the knitting in public and have only good experiences.

At 9:24 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Yay!! I'm so glad your 1st KIP along experience went so well! I'm sure you will be taking your knitting all over the place now...I rarely leave home without it, just in case I have a spare second to knit a couple rows.

At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your first KIP. There'll be many more now, just you wait and see. I'm glad you got lucky with your seat mates.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Karen said...

Mark, HOORAY! I have the biggest grin on my face reading about your accomplishment. (That and I'm now hungry for Chipotle... thanks!)

I find so many little snippets of time during my day that I almost always have knitting with me now. Part of why I KIP is to dispel the idea that knitting is for "old ladies"!! Like you did at the hockey game, I answer questions and talk to anyone about knitting that asks.

Watching your confidence grow is fun. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.


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