Thursday, 15 January 2009


A phone call tonight from a complete stranger who said he had found a mobile phone in the street and in order to try and determine the owner, called the first number in it - mine. My home number.

He said there was no name next to the number. I could lend no help trying to determine whose phone it was, because so few people would have my home number. The only thing I could think of was that the phone belonged to someone at my rental agency.

I have no reason to believe that this man was not genuine in his wish to give the phone back to the person to whom it belonged. "There are doctors' numbers in here," he told me, "and photos of some kids and a photo of someone in a wheelchair and numbers to do with mobility services - does any of that ring a bell?"

It didn't. Unable to help him, we ended the conversation. But oh, the things that have gone through my head since then. I imagined some sophisticated tracking device that would allow the guy and his evil friends to find out where I lived so he could break in and steal my stuff. And then I thought maybe I should hide my laptop and camera tomorrow morning, just in case. Maybe I should do the dishes. I wouldn't want them to see my cluttered counters. And I should definitely put away the laundry.

Living in the urban landscape of this island, two things start to creep in: a searing sense of bitterness towards everyone else in the country for essentially being in your way, and a lingering fear that people may wish to harm you. I often feel the first because there are just so many people here and I get overwhelmed in crowds. I feel the second against my will. I feel it despite shunning most mainstream media that aims to stuff my brain with paranoid thoughts. I constantly check to see if my phone is still in my bag. More than two young people walking down the street, sitting on the train, or hanging out in the park? Then I'm getting as far away as possible. Young Arab man on the bus with a huge backpack? My mind immediately shows me stored news images of the London bombings and I look twice at the bag before sitting down. I hate that somehow these negative reactions are so automatic - they are as instant as scratching an itch.

When I experience a strange event like the one tonight, I almost always feel like I responded in the wrong way. I should have done something else or asked this question or just hung up. I don't even trust myself.

A few weeks back I had left the pub after many hours of drink and "food porn" conversation with two fellow gastronomy fanatics (someone remind me to discuss food porn at a later date, as it deserves an entire post all to itself), and was running down Princes Street for the bus. For those of you who have heard me say time and again that "I only run when someone is chasing me," this was an exception because I was sloshing with wine and I didn't know better. As I was running, several young men passed me and one broke off from the group and ran right towards me, smiling. He approached me and put his hands on my shoulders.

"Give us a kiss, give us a kiss," he said, the scent of whisky ballooning from his mouth. I smiled broadly back at this slim whippet of a thing, likely 15 years my junior, shook my head and said "No, " while also reaching up to pull his hands away from me. We were now running in place together, a bit of comic synchronized bouncing. That lasted only a moment before we broke away in tandem. I continued running for the bus while he loped off to catch up with his mates. Thinking back, if I hadn't been somewhat drunk, my reaction would likely have been different. Certainly far more negative. As it was I flowed with the event and moved on when it was over. I wish I could feel like that about all weird occurrences.

But you must excuse me. I have to go and latch the door.


C.S. Perry said...

Just becasue you feel doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
I feel the same way most of the time. But I think it's a good thing. You're confusing paranoia with prudence. You didn't decide to feel this way on your own...society made you feel it and with good reason. The world is fraught with peril and to ignore it is to invite Doom. It's really about self preservation...and getting older. You tend ot feel your mortality tugging at your sleeve on a daily basis and you're far more aware of it than you were when you were younger.

But this call is probably nothing. Whenever something like that happens to me, I always want it to be exciting and interesting and I secretly hope to be drawn into some weird case of international intrigue...but it's probably just some loser with a lost phone.

Or the Yajuza is currently creeping up to your door.

Anonymous said...

yo. i wasn't thinking of you when i wrote my post. you are THAT person. the one i CAN pick up where we left off. and i love your blog for the same reason - it is a touchstone of friendship& a way to stay connected that also feeds the soul (& my healthy narcissism)...but, i am totally jelly of that africa trip & couldn't comment for my green-eyes.

Anonymous said...

fuck. apple. yeh - that was me above, not lui.

Jacqui said...

There are those who argue that your feelings are a natural safety mechanism, that we stereotype because it helps us to survive. I always pride myself on giving people the benefit of the doubt but having been in a situation where I did give a man who was loitering in a patch of Glasgow wasteland and claiming to be looking for directions the benefit of the doubt, I regretted it instantly when he walked away, came back and then leaned in far too close to me putting his hands to my cheeks and then down to grab my hands - I ran like hell. From now on, if a situation looks remotely 'iffy' I don't feel guilty for thinking so.

Purest Green said...

Doom! Doom! Yajuza chop!

C.S.: I'm still alive. Now all I have to fear is a leaking water tank...

Moe: I sure do love you. I remember lui. Aka Looey. You're only allowed to be jelly of the Africa trip once we have booked the tickets. In two years. I shall be Cariboo-bound in 3.5 months!

J: Good lord. I have seen some of the "patches of Glasgow wasteland." What were you thinking?