“Of course,” he said walking towards me, “I would never hurt you.”
As conversation openers go, that’s certainly a show stopper. Oh Christ, I thought to myself, we’ve got a live one here.
“I just want to touch you,” he continued. I looked around for back up, but couldn’t see anyone anywhere near. The man kept advancing. Somewhere in the distance, a bell rang, and someone started calling about what sounded like ‘fresh pies’. I started stepping backwards, but he kept moving towards me, and in the end all I could do was hold my arm out to stop me coming any closer. He took my left hand, and shook it limply.
“Do you know this song?” he said, pointing at the ceiling from where a song was being played. I did, as it happened. It was in fact my favourite song ever in the world, which I’ll admit isn’t showing my good taste in all its glory, seeing as how it was I’m not in love by 10CC. (Shut up right now.) I decided that engaging this nut job in conversation wasn’t a good idea, and so just shrugged and shook my head a little bit.
He didn’t take the social cue that I wasn’t as incredibly comfortable with talking to strangers as he was, and continued his monologue, moving closer to my face as he spoke. “It’s 10CC, it’s 10CC, you see, they used to play this on the radio.” I nodded again, and tried to move past him, looking over his shoulder for someone, anyone, to come along and help me. No one arrived. How was this possible? This place was packed out just a moment before.
“It used to be on the radio, the DJs used to play it, they don’t have DJs any more, I remember when there were DJs, do you remember Sting?”
“I think…” I ventured an answer, maybe stall him, keep him talking, pretend we’re all cool and calm here and everything’s fine, “I do remember Sting, yes.”
“Of course you do!” he crowed, delighted we had found some common ground, “they used to play that on the radio, there was a DJ called Tony Blackburn, he used to be on in the afternoons…”
I managed to move past him and started deliberately slowly away, staring behind him with great intensity, as if I was just continuing on my way while still paying the minimal amount of attention to him, so that he wouldn’t try to block my path again. “…and in the mornings there was Dave Lee Travis, I remember him, he was on the radio all the time, of course he’s not anymore, there don’t have DJs any more, do you remember?”
I nodded again, and he again seemed triumphantly pleased to have jogged my DJ-related memories. I turned the corner, and my heart sank as he followed me. “Do you need any help, you just ask if you need help, do you need any help?” I smiled, and said no, and then turned around to look at all the other people who had suddenly reappeared, none of whom were looking in my direction and completely ignoring my silent pleas for help, from anyone but the man who was offering.
“No, thank you,” I finally turned and said, “I’m okay, thank you.” I smiled to let him know that I meant this and then deliberately walked away down the aisle. He called after me, “Just ask anyone if you need any help!” and then started talking to the next lady he came across. “Remember me from last week?” he asked her, and she, obviously remembering very vividly her previous encounter with him last week, fastened a fixed smile to her face and said yes. I didn’t hear the rest of their conversation, but I imagine it involved DJs.
I’m all for equal opportunity employment, and applaud the supermarkets for their equal employment policies, but dear Lord, that man needs couching on what is and isn’t an appropriate conversation starter. Also, personal space issues. And hygiene. I’m just saying.