8/30/2013

Crazy Encounters

You meet all sorts of people wherever you go, but the scariest encounters I've had have all been here in the UK. Ok, there was the one time in the Mexico City metro when a woman hit me on the legs with her walking stick and then rushed off the station, but it was nothing compared to what's happened here: FOUR crazy people randomly yelling at me.

The first of these encounters happened a few months ago. I was coming out of the supermarket (they have all been near a supermarket, funnily enough) and was walking down the streets headed for home. I got to a corner, pushed the button for the pedestrian crossing, and stopped to wait. I had barely pushed the button when the woman in front of me turned around and started yelling at me. She thought I was following her, because she had been walking in front of me for half a block, and we stopped at the same place. But I hadn't really noticed her; I mean, I was just going home! I had to apologize repeatedly and take a different route home before she calmed down. I still cannot understand how you decide that someone is following you just from walking half a block (if it's been a few blocks, then yes, I can see it).

Then came, outside a different supermarket, the beggar drunk. This one I saw coming, because he was asking money from another woman who was passing by, and when she didn't give him any he started yelling obscenities at her. I kept walking straight on, leaving them behind, but again had to stop at a traffic light to cross. This is when he asked money off me. I pretended not to have heard him, which was plausible as I was listening to music on my headphones, but it didn't stop him from yelling at me the way he had at the other woman. I was afraid he'd turn violent, so I crossed quickly. He went on to bother someone else.

A couple of weeks ago, on almost the same street as the beggar, again coming home from buying food, I passed a man who was walking rather slowly. As soon as he saw me he started preaching, telling me... no, yelling at me to repent. This went on for a full block before I was able to turn a corner and give him the slip. Still, I think he was the most harmless of the crazies I've met.

Finally, yesterday's guy. Some of the self-check-out machines at the supermarket weren't working properly, there was a huge line and only two or three assistants, running all over the place. I was next in line for when a machine got free, and I started wondering what's going on, why do the machines get stuck, noticing but not really paying attention, the problems of the guy in the nearest one. He got an assistant to help me and, wallet in hand, turned around and yelled at me. I should mention that I still have some trouble understanding the local accents, so I had no idea what he's saying. I just shook my head and said no, and I knew my eyes were wide with incomprehension. Luckily, a machine became free and I hurried along to use it, get my stuff, and put some space between me and crazy guy. He went on and on at the top of his voice about nosy people getting into other people's business, trying to get their credit card info. This is when I realized that while I was wondering about the machines, I must have been following his movements trying to pay: getting his card out of his wallet and stuff. Then the assistant got his attention again and he shut up, but as I was getting ready to leave they both walked behind me, towards the customer service desk, and he went off again, warning other customers about me or something. And he never took his eyes off me as I left. By then I was really scared, because I thought he'd turn violent or harass me once outside, so I took a short-cut and practically ran all the way home.

Maybe I should start going to a different store.





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