Thursday, 21 April 2016
The excruciating 3rd meet
Micky Flanagan, a superb British comedian, tells a gag about the social awkwardness of unintentionally meeting someone you know on three occasions within a short period of time. I didn’t grasp what he meant until last Wednesday at the local supermarket.
Four months ago we moved into a new house and, not being the most outgoing person – OK, I accept I’m a smidgeon away from a full-time hermit – interactions with my new neighbours have been rare. There is, however, a bloke who lives opposite who, several times each day, stands in his garden smoking a cigarette; I’ve yet to discover his name but Mrs Jones and I refer to him as ‘nicotine Norman’. I like to be civil so, when leaving or entering my house, when he’s standing there puffing on his Capstan full-strength, we have exchanged nods and one-word greetings.
Anyway, last Wednesday I’m pushing my supermarket trolley along the fresh-meat aisle when there he is, nicotine Norman, lumbering towards me.
‘How you doing?’ I say.
‘Fine thanks,’ he replies.
We exchange smiles and proceed with our weekly shops. I feel pleased with my show of friendliness.
No more than a couple of minutes later, while rummaging in the men’s haircare section, I look up to find Norman bearing down on me.
‘We must stop meeting like this,’ I say, feeling a bit uncomfortable at my feeble attempt at humour.
‘Yes, people will start to talk,’ he replies.
Fast forward five minutes and the worst social scenario known to man unfolds next to the fruit and veg: the 3rd meet. I’d exited the frozen-food lane, and taken a sharp left-hander, when I spot him. He is 20 yards away but approaching fast. A kaleidoscope of questions rush through my mind: has he seen me?; can I do an about turn without him noticing?; perhaps I can look down, as if deep in thought, and pass him as if I haven’t registered his presence?; or maybe I can whip out my mobile phone and pretend to be immersed in conversation with Mrs Jones?
But it’s too late; our eyes meet.
I shrug my shoulders and emit a, ‘Gee-whiz’.
He pulls a strange face, his mouth curling on one side as if suffering a stroke.
I spread my arms, with open palms, and grunt.
He shakes his head and smiles, in that ‘would you believe it?’ way.
Has anyone else endured a third meet? Or is it just a British thing?
Photo courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net