1. When you've forgotten something
I was walking along the road today when a lady walking ahead suddenly stopped, turned round, and headed back towards the other way, towards me. As she was passing me, she stopped and said, 'Forgotten my umbrella! Silly me!' and I stopped and said, 'Ha ha, I'm always doing that!' and she said, 'I know. Isn't it annoying? Then you have to go ALL the way back!' and I said, 'Yeah, SO irritating' and then we said 'bye' to each other like we'd met each other in 1845 and had been meeting for drinks on Fridays ever since, and I went on my way. Why did she feel she had to tell me? She had a perfect right to double back without deferring to me. Why do we do this?
2. When someone has been blocking you on the street
Later, in town, I was trying to walk down quite a narrow pavement. But there were two people in front of me who were obviously on a 'let's-wander-through-town-and-look-in-every-shop-window' day trip. I couldn't get past and it got to the point where I was contemplating skewering them both in the back with my big golf umbrella and making them into a kebab. Instead, I did that thing where you try and dodge around to the left or right of them, but every time I did, they got back in my way, and so it was getting annoying. Suddenly, they spotted me behind them, and stopped to let me past. What did I say? Did I say, 'About time!'? No. Did I say, 'Thank you?' and move on? No. I squeezed past them saying, 'Sorry, sorry, my apologies' and they said, 'That's okay' and I said, 'Off to see my Gran - in a hurry. Sorry.' and they said, 'No problem' and I said, 'Thanks. Have a good day.' So, in two seconds, they had been transformed from potential kebab ingredients to lifelong friends to invite to weddings and funerals. How did that happen?
3. When you're at a bus stop
People at bus stops talk to each other, but only when the bus is late. You wait in silence, or maybe listening to an ipod or texting someone, until 9.37 when your bus is due. You don't say a word to anyone at all. Then, at 9.37 and 45 seconds, with no bus, suddenly everyone starts hugging and kissing and saying, 'It's never normally late' and 'You're right, it's usually so reliable' and then someone else says, 'Ooh, I don't know, it's often late for me' and then you start swapping birth stories. Then what happens? The bus arrives at just before 9.38 and you all get on and sit on completely different seats, ignoring one another for the rest of the journey. Why?
|9.37 and 45 seconds|
4. When there's a community crisis
Sunday afternoon. Everyone's behind their doors, having crumpets or scones and cups of tea. Speak to the neighbours? Are you KIDDING? Then, without warning, out go the lights. You switch them on and off again, then off and on again, then realise it's not just the lights, but the fridge has gone quiet, and the DVD player doesn't work either. A power cut. Suddenly, your doorbell rings. It's Roger from number 30. 'Has your power gone off?' 'Yes, it has.' 'Mine, too. What a pain?' 'Hey, we've got gas. Want a cup of tea?' 'Well, don't mind if I do!' So, in comes Roger, and twenty minutes later, the people from numbers 12, 35, 17 and 41, and you're getting out the chocolate biscuits left over from Christmas, and everyone's talking about their operations, food intolerances and sexual frustrations. Then, the lights go on. Five minutes later, you're back to your lonely consumption of crumpets and tea, you have a pile of washing up as high as a lucky junkie, and Maureen never finished her story about her ingrown toenail. (Shame.)