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



  1. Look on the bright side. At least you both had pants on. At least I hope you both had pants on. If not, I would patronize that grocer anymore.
    In the States, we just compare the size of our guns (do with that double entendre what you will).

    1. Of course we didn't have pants on! We were shopping at the supermarket where the meat and two veg are always on show. Oh wait a minute - is this just a British thing too?

  2. I think it just might be a British thing.

    1. Damn it! Humour/humor doesn't always travel well across the pond!

  3. Hahhaaa you have a knack for extracting humour from perfectly mundane situations. But yes, I can't tell you how many times I've had that "Has this person seen me noticing them yet, can I still pretend to not have seen them in order to continue doing my own thing (listening to music, reading the news, not talking to them, etc.)" moment.

    1. Interesting, Daniel. Maybe this behaviour is a European thing, not just a British one. From the other responses to date it doesn't seem that my friends in the USA can identify with these discomforts.

  4. HAaaaa.
    You Brits need to be more lovable.
    I would've given him a BIG HUG)))) x

    1. Yes, you're right - we British tend to be a bit reticent in the touchy-feely department.
      Take care XX

  5. It's such an awkward thing to run into people who are basically strangers, several times in one day! Hey---sorry it took me so long to get over here. My life has been a roller coaster lately.

    1. No problem, Marcia - I appreciate you've had some upheavals in your life recently. Take care.