I’ve never seen myself in a film (not a big screen film), but a video, home movie or anything more flickering than a dropped photograph. And even photographs are rare.

Until we see ourselves moving, walking and talking, we never really know how we come across to other people. It’s why there’s a big industry in teaching professionals how to present themselves. Unless you have video evidence to the contrary we have no idea just how big an arsehole we might appear to others.

Hearing your own voice is disconcerting enough, but that’s a simple case of acoustics. We’re too close to our own ears. But think how many times you’ve met someone and somehow, they just didn’t seem right.

A common character is the chatty man. Able to talk about any subject he soon settles down to tell you his life story and you realise that he can talk forever. At this point the conversation is going in one of three directions: he’s either a pervert, a man with a violent grudge against the world or someone looking for money/cigs/bus fare. What started out as a social encounter rapidly descends into a situation from which there is no escape.

I’ve met them all. I must have ‘sympathetic mug’ in neon lights over my head. The last one was at a rugby match and he fell into the second category; a man punished by a school system that refused to recognise his talent as one of England’s greatest second row forwards. With his hackles rising to dangerous threat levels I was saved by the half-time whistle and he went to the bar, giving me an opportunity to hide. Fortunately he didn’t come back.

weird

I’ve never met anyone with armour made out of cutlery, but there’s time yet. (Photo by Hermann – who else – at Pixabay)

Sometimes, the encounters are not so sinister, simply surprising. Sat in my car in Windermere a few years ago I heard a tap on the driver door window and there stood a man wearing a flamboyant hat. I wound the window down and he said, “Beautiful car, mate.” It was a 1998 Mazda 323 and he was absolutely overwhelmed by it. The flowing curves, the angles, “The way that top line runs along the roof into the windscreen.” He didn’t ask for money, didn’t tell me about his wife’s favourite habits (I’ve been told everything), and had no grudge against his old school. After a few more admiring observations he said goodbye and wandered off. Had the car been a Lamborghini or a Pagani I would have understood his euphoria, but a 1998 Mazda 323?

I don’t go searching for these people, they find me, but even so I wouldn’t do what Billy Connolly once did in one of his programmes roaming around Scotland. Describing a monument on a hill, I think near Glasgow, he met an alcoholic on a bench who fell into Category Three. After a cheery conversation he asked Connolly for money to buy a packet a cigs. Connolly not only offered him the money but buggered off to the shops to buy them! I find that admirable – courageous – but admirable. Should the cynic in me suspect it also made good television? Perhaps, but what Connolly did showed the dilemma we face whenever we meet people who might be nothing more sinister than lonely.

Chatting to a stranger in public often feels strange, it’s an invasion of our personal bubble. We have expectations and our interactions are usually constrained to yes, no, please, and thank you. Anything more often feels suspicious, but why should we feel that way? Perhaps it’s cultural, an Anglo-Saxon thing. Perhaps it’s experience; I’ve met too many people who did turn out to be weird after an initial promising start.

But how often are we the weirdos? When I stand next to a stranger in a supermarket queue or I say anything more than yes please and thank you to a shopkeeper, are they shocked, do they think he’s a bit weird, he’ll be asking for cigs next? We don’t know. Unless we feel the copper’s hand on the collar and the words ‘we’ve had a complaint, sunshine,’ we just don’t know.

 

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21 thoughts on “Are We Weird?

  1. I think if people are coming to you, then that is the greatest compliment anyone can give you. I don’t know about you, but I would call that celebrity status. However, having said that, I wouldn’t want the life of a celebrity. I value my privacy–regardless if anyone knocked on my window to tell me they loved my car. Well, maybe that would be cool. Okay–that’s pretty cool! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve seen myself on TV – I featured in a documentary series that’s just replayed recently in NZ – and I kind of wish I’d put a paper bag over my head. Then there was the video I wrote and produced in which I also appeared, and the director insisted I had to have not stage but ‘TV’ makeup. ‘Don’t be a cissy,’ the makeup girl said, ‘I do the Prime Minister all the time, and he’s fine with it’. Maybe, but the PM wasn’t allergic to the makeup base, was he? Net result is I ended up on the video looking like Count Dracula, owing to the red eyes. All of this sounds rather hyperbolic and silly, but every word of it is true.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes I try to script conversations I’m about to have with real people. They constantly surprise me not only by not saying what I expect, but also by saying the stuff I least expect. Fiction has constantly misled me into expecting the mundane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll have to think of something unexpected in response to that … but can’t.

      Instead, I’ll recall a recent conversation I had with a guy behind the counter at Booths supermarket when I was buying a loaf of bread and a bottle of beer.
      “Unusual combination,” says the guy.
      “I’ve bought more unusual combinations,” I say.
      “It’s like something out of Peep Show”
      “I bought a hairdryer and a toilet brush from Tesco once.”
      “Yeah, I remember that episode.”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As one who is teetering on the edge of retirement, I wonder how long it will take before I transition from being the one who listens and plans my escape to the one who talks, and talks and talks… On the other hand, I think it’s more likely I’ll turn into one of those reclusive weirdos with 82 cats.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An interesting topic for a post. I’m usually shocked when I see footage/photos of myself. We can only hope that man with the armour made out of cutlery will feel similar when he sees this photo. If that cutlery is real silver he will be a prime mugging target, and might soon have a grudge against the World. Perhaps that’s why he has that stave thing with the spoons attached.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was recently forced to listen to one woman’s life story whilst in a queue waiting for the bank to open. I don’t remember any of it, but I do recall wearing a beatific smile whilst thinking up terrible ways of trying to stop her mouth talking nineteen to the dozen.

    Liked by 1 person

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