Stranger thing

14Sep10

I stood at the urinal and reflected that large and clean public conveniences are the main benefit of a modern shopping mall. They are probably under-appreciated as a free service. In most countries the attendant would expect a small tip.

Someone took up position at the facility next to me. And looked at me.

One of the unwritten rules of a public convenience is that you don’t make eye contact with your neighbour whilst you are using it. This is in case they think that you are weird.

I kept my head down, concentrating on the matter in hand. In my peripheral vision I could tell that the weird stranger was still trying to catch my eye. Silently.

As soon as I could I moved away to wash my hands. Simultaneously the stranger stepped after me and said “Hello Alex.”

I looked at him and he changed from a slightly disturbing weirdo into a familiar acquaintance in a fraction of a second. As if a film had been clumsily edited.

“We meet in some funny places,” he continued.

We exchanged pleasantries and went on our separate ways.

For the rest of the afternoon I kept seeing the moment that his face changed from being a stranger to being recognised. I’m sure that used to be a process which happened so quickly I didn’t notice. My mental archiving and retrieval system is getting slow. Either I need some more disk space, or I need to delete some stuff.

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3 Responses to “Stranger thing”

  1. I’ve learnt that the best response is “Now… when when did we last see each other?” But having wrestled with my own hard disk over the last few days I just accepted that it had some bad sectors. At least the prescient computer warned me it was about to fail.

  2. 2 Camilla

    I don’t think this is a factor of age, I think it relates to the unexpectedness of the location. I once met my mother, totally unexpectedly, in the Pantheon Marks & Spencer in Oxford Street. (Neither of us lived in London). I had the same experience of a stranger’s face becoming, in this case, one of the faces I know best in the world. I was about 25 at the time, and it still took a noticeable period of time for her face to click into its correct slot in my brain.

  3. Besides which, why worry, the deleting will happen in time without any prompting from you ;¬)


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