I have this weird thing going on. I could stand in a vast crowd and the weirdest most messed-up person among them would always make a bee-line directly for me and start talking to me like they had known me their whole life. I have no idea why this happens. Is it my aura? Have I got one of those faces?
Today at work is a prime example and prompted me to write this post.
I had to drive to
an ancient Roman city, to do a couple of small jobs. It's a nice drive out that
way. After completing my work in a converted army barracks there was this one
guy sitting in the middle of the square talking on his phone. I walked back to
the van and he was lingering around. He stepped up looking a little timid and
said, "Can we have a little chat?"
My first impression is that he lives in one of the flats and wants to report a fault with something as I'm the maintenance guy. Makes sense, right? "Yeah, no worries, mate." I walk over to him expectantly. "What's the problem?"
"No, no, there's no problem. I, er, I just wanted to have ... a little chat."
My second impression is, is this bloke having a laugh? "I'm a bit busy, mate. I've got to get to my next job."
He looked very disappointed.
So, I have two options at this point, and being me I try to strike up a conversation. I already know from years of experience I should have chosen the other option and jumped in my van.
"Do you come from around here?"
He kind of cast his gaze around the square looking a little confused, paused to think about it and replied with the name of a road, but didn't look absolutely sure about it.
I start to ramble. "I don't know the area, mate. I've just come up here to do some work. All the way from Hertford." As I'm chatting away I notice this bloke is just staring at me and not even attempting to add anything to this conversation, so I continue to ramble on.
"Well, it's better than being on the dole." (That's being unemployed for you non-English people.) "Not that it's worth signing on the dole these days. You've got to be pretty messed-up to get anything out of them." I'm doing light humour, politics, you name it, this guy is still just standing there with his hands in his pockets, staring.
After an uncomfortable pause he says all sheepishly, "That's what I am ... I think."
It's only at this point that the penny drops. Yeah, I am incredibly slow. He's one of 'them'. It's happening again! Now I'm thinking, what does he mean, that's what I am? Does he mean unemployed or pretty messed up? Now I'm back-tracking. Ramble back-tracking.
"I know what it's like. I've been self employed for over thirty years, in and out of work. It's not easy. I used to hate signing on the dole." His reply was the funniest thing I've heard.
He pointed across the square and spoke his words very slowly and carefully. "I'm going to go over there now ... if that's okay?"
"Yeah, okay, mate. Crack on!" I shook his hand. "Nice to meet you."
He nodded and walked away, disappearing around the corner. All I could think was, man! Have I reached that point in my life where I'm scaring off the scary people? That can't be good.