At a popular fast-food ‘restaurant’ that may give you cancer a guy in jeans and what looks like a blue ‘All day I dream about sex’ two-stripe jacket cuts in front of me at the counter, he starts his order before I notice so I let it go. He orders two hamburgers, one with salad “and shit” and just tomato sauce. The cashier is confused. The two-stripe changes his mind and asks for salad on both. The cashier looks to the man standing next to me and smiles. The guy reorders a cheeseburger with salad and a hamburger with tomato sauce but suddenly changes his mind and asks for cheese with salad. The cashier raises her brow in confusion and smiles forcing back her laughter. I look to the man next to me who’s cheeks are filled with air; my smile is wide and stomach pulsating. The cashier repeats the order for two cheese burgers with salad and tomato sauce, the two-stripe wearer confirms and reaches into his pocket for change. Noticing he is short he apologises and leaves. The cashier, man and I look at each other with wide eyes and mouths open, nobody moves until another cashier hails “next please”.
For a long time I've been fascinated by how people interact, some may say that this is unoriginal or that it is pointless but I figured since it has been on my mind for a long time I would start to 'document' my experiences. I have pondered over this for a few years in other forms, mainly by asking annoying questions which involve some of the elements that 'Moments with strangers' uses. Examples of these are when I, in the past, have made comments about how people share their experiences with people that they don't know. If all is private then when on a night out do you not go into a bar if there are few people? If your night out is to be with your friends surely going to an empty establishment will suffice? It is my 'fascination' with our 'need' to be around and share moments with people that we class as strangers that has lead me to creating this blog. Please note that the postings on this blog are of my own experience unless otherwise stated, the dates that I have posted are not the date in which the experience was... experienced.
Over the water rail is confusing, places are named the same with slight spelling differences. A beyond tipsy but respectable couple sit adjacent, him in a ‘jacket’, her in what smells like recently-spilt-on jeans. The woman persists her husband sleeps reassuring that she will wake him when their stop comes. He persists that she will not and they will miss their stop. It is humorous as I am not involved. Listening casually whilst ‘reading’ the newspaper I snigger like a child each time they ‘argue’. The woman persists that she will; her husband puts his head in his hands for a second and dramatically says “Lil, you will fall asleep.” Lil looks to see me smiling through the paper and reciprocates my smile acknowledging that the situation is humorous. Moments pass, the man sleeps. I read the paper. .. an article on litter. The train jolts and the man rises… we stop at my station. The woman has fallen asleep. It is apparent that they have indeed missed their stop. He turns to me as I collect my things and mumbles: “I knew she wouldn’t”, I shrug my shoulders and smile pushing my nose into my lip.
It's been light a fair few hours. I sit nearest the window to catch maximum light since I've a book I'm forcing myself to read for the sake of the author's reputation. I smell coffee and see formal dress and wonder: "If I had a job where I wore this clothing, I'd surely have a car?" A few stops out of the centre sees children aged twelve to fourteen in eye-catching purple blazers hail the bus. They are noisy and distract me from terrible fiction. I let out a full of air and roll my eyes in slight exaggeration to find an almost woman standing in the 'aisle' matching my expression. We catch the end of each other's roll, I glance away peering back after a second or two. I return to the book. With noise growing louder a girl or high pitched boy shouts as if rupturing my ear drum was intended. I flinch widening my eyes. She apologises. I look in the direction of the almost woman for comfort, I return to the book. The next stop brings an all-male school; this excites the girls behind who bang on the window for attention. Somehow, knowing that a similar act from before was probable I am not as startled as before but annoyed even more. I turn in my seat to face the annoying, she shows a blank stare and again, apologises. An older man behind meets my eye-line for a second and shakes his head. I say nothing and turn to catch the eye of the almost woman, she has become my comfort. She has left already. I look for a replacement.
Walking towards the sheltered bus stop I see a small Asian man with a moustache whom I vaguely recognise though can't quite place. He mimes "hello" to me as I squint my eyes forward to him racking my memory for his face. I raise my brow to him as not to be rude then take my place in out two-man queue for the bus. I hear a jingling and look toward the direction of the bus, a man approaches with a briefcase-looking-carryon and a large set of keys. His pace hastens as he approaches as a bus headed for the centre appears from the corner, standing in the queue myself and unknown friend so not raise out arms to alight it. The jingling rises and the man raises his arm to the driver. Although his action is witnessed the driver does not have enough space to slow and 'park'. I look into the distance avoiding eye contact feeling that somehow, I and 'friend' are to blame. I turn to my ‘friend' with bottom lip raised showing a sheepish eye, he raises his lip in accordance knowing somehow that we share blame... I cannot place his face though submit this encounter to memory.
A child is walking though the bus station with his mother kicking what appears to be a plastic spoon discarded by, with the essence of probability behind it, an uncaring fool unable to see the bins provided. He kicks it as if he is playing football expelling “char” sounds and punching both of his arms into the air as he makes contact with the discarded item. A tall guy in red skinny jeans, watches as the child and his spoon approach. The spoon, when kicked with the 5 year-olds force slides across the floor; decelerating it manages to position itself between what appears to be bow legs belonging to the guy in the Red jeans. He looks in my direction with his eyebrows and lips pursed looking quite confused though also having a slight scowl to his expression. I find this face humorous in this ‘pose’ and open my mouth to make a silent laugh. He smiles to me and raises his bottom lip as if to ask whether he should kick the spoon in the path of the child in order for it to proceed with its ‘game’. The child begins to run toward the rubbish moving his arms exaggeratedly mouthing “char-char” as he moves. His mother, carrying shopping bags and his school bag shouts for him to leave the spoon alone. She is loud and brash causing me to sit straight in my seat as she calls to him. The boy stops and waits for her to pass him; he then kicks the spoon from between the guy’s legs and continues to kick it behind his parent’s back. Most people at the stop look to each other raising their eyebrows, I look to the skinny jean wearer and smile, he says “Crafty get” and I nod. We part eye contact and wait for the bus to come.
Using one of the new self-service machines I pay for a drink and a sandwich, rustling through my wallet for my temporary club card I notice a guy using the machine next to me is buying the same sandwich, his T-shirt is blue with a white dragon that I’m sure I’ve noticed in a shop before; staring at his T-shirt he notices me and smiles. I leave the shop and head towards work. I eat as I walk and notice that he is parallel to me, I turn to his direction and we smile using only our brow to acknowledge that we are walking ‘together’. I turn left at the station as does he; we smile again but this time though with the brow the bottom lip is raised adding a hint of awkward emotion to the smile. Continuing we have been together at the same pace for approximately three whole minutes; we turn to each other once more but make no expression. Finally the road splits and I take the right path toward my destination, walking a few paces I turn to his direction, he looks to mine – our connection ends.
After a long shift all I can think about is getting home to check my messages. With money in hand I make my way to the bus station where I try to figure out which bus would take me home quickest. Casually wandering and looking to the road ahead in search of buses my body somehow rejects the idea of physical gripping and releases coins from my hand as I walk. There aren’t many people at the station as it is nearing midnight though with the sound of metal on the floor, most people turn in my direction. Frantically thinking that a bus will come this second I rush to pick up the dropped coins to find that a man is following my movements with his eyes. The last coin, a ten pence piece, rolls away from me in a circular motion toward a rather large old lady wearing a floral dress and leather jacket; the coin rolls between her legs. I look to her and force a smile though it is through gritted teeth knowing that if I didn’t need that ten pence to make £1.60, I might have left it and pretended I hadn’t seen it rolling. The woman’s face smiles with only her bottom lip causing her cheeks to bunch toward her mouth. I gingerly make toward the coin and retrieve it knowing that I am being watched. Wanting to get away from the situation I look again toward the road and see the yellow lights of a bus. I realise that it leaves from stand 8 which is coincidentally the stand I am stood at. I turn to the man that had watched me; we raise our eyebrows to signify that what had happened was awkward. I get on the bus as does the lady; she sits in front of me. The bus pulls away and I look to the man showing my bottom teeth and a look of panic across my face; he laughs as the bus pulls away from him.