Strangers. Most of them in London keep to themselves, but there are certain individuals who just overstep the mark when it comes to standing next to someone at places like bus stops, or in check-out queues.
Generally, you can tell the ones who are going to be socially spastic, and talk to you, hassle you for money or just generally rant and rave about their problems, real or imagined, while the more emotionally stable of us just look at the ground and inch away quietly, occasionally sharing “look at that crazy guy” faces with one another on the sly.
One such weirdo decided to spark up a conversation with me the other day after I turned up at the bus stop with a heavy suitcase in tow. Since the 268 bus is famed for being late, I asked the man next to me whether the last bus had just been, to ascertain the length of time I was likely to be waiting. The converstion went a lot like this:
‘No, I too am waiting for that bus‘.
‘Oh good, thanks.’ (End of conversation…or so I thought).
After a pause, ‘Are you going to Golders Green?’
‘Yeah.’ Derr, that’s where the bus goes isn’t it?
‘Are you living with your parents?’ (What kind of a question is that?!)
‘Where are they? You are too young to be on your own‘.
‘They live in Australia.’
‘In Australia? What are they doing there?’
‘They live there.’
‘You are Australian? You are only 15, no? Too young to be living away from your parents.‘ (I found this particularly funny as I’d spent most of the night before drinking cider and was only surviving on 3 hours sleep, and sporting excellent bed hair and dark eye circles).
‘How old are you? You are 16?‘
‘I’m in my twenties.’
‘It is just that you look only 15, that is why I am asking. What is your name?’
‘ – ‘
‘What is your name?’
‘I’m not going to tell you my name.’
‘Because you’re a stranger. I will stay anonymous.’
‘Oh, Ok.‘ (pauses) ‘Are you student here?‘
‘Then what is it you do? You must be student, yes?’
‘I’m a teacher.’
‘You are very beautiful. What is your name?’
‘ – ‘
‘My name is Yusuf‘.
‘Ok, Hi Yusuf.’
‘You are very beautiful.’
‘Can I have your phone number?’
Soon after this little conversation, the bus pulled up, and after politely refusing his offer of help with my suitcase I sat as far away as possible from him. End of.
It’s not the first weird inappropriate phone-number-asking-for conversation I’ve had, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Some people here just think of bus-stops, supermarkets and places of work (ie, the indian guy who works in the off-licence across the road) quite normal places to poorly chat up unsuspecting citizens. It makes me wonder how many times these people actually score phone numbers. Hopefully not often.
Oh well. These guys are just one more little thing I get for living here. Bugger it.