I was out and about in Muswell Hill, doing a few middle class errands. You know, picking up the olives and the Marsala wine. “Trifle?” “No, chicken. With mushrooms.” “Ah, yes. Nobody buys it to drink these days, which is a shame.” (So said the man in Prohibition Wines.)
I suddenly realised that, although I had set out very deliberately with two shopping bags, I now only had one.
Bag down, you might say.
This is a big deal. Shopping bags don’t grow on trees, you know. Or maybe they do, judging from those flimsy plastic ones you see flapping about in branches.
So I retraced my steps, calling in at all the shops I’d been to. The lady at Ryman’s was particularly concerned on my behalf. I tried to reassure her that it was okay. The bag was empty, so it wasn’t as if I’d lost my shopping. But I could tell she was anxious on my behalf, and distressed that she couldn’t help me.
She shouldn’t have worried. A few moments later, I spotted it. There on the pavement outside Fasta Pasta.
I couldn’t believe my luck. So I honed in to pick it up before anybody else scooped it up and claimed it as their own. The last thing I wanted was a tussle on the Broadway over a cloth bag.
What I hadn’t clocked was the woman with a small dog coming in the opposite direction to me. Or rather, I had seen them, but I hadn’t really paid them much attention. I was understandably focused on retrieving my bag.
Woman and dog passed me as I grabbed the bag and I heard her say, quite distinctly, “A really scary man!”
I’ve no doubt that she was referring to me. I believe she said it for my benefit as much as her dog’s. She obviously mistook my joyful expression at being reunited with my bag for something more sinister. And perhaps she saw my sudden crouching movement as a threatening gesture against her little doggie. Maybe the animal was spooked and she was trying to reassure it, though it seems a strange way to go about that. Something like, “Nothing to worry about, it’s just a nice man picking up his bag” would have been more soothing, I think.
Or maybe, just maybe, she’d had her eye on the bag herself and was pissed off at me for getting there first.
I was flummoxed, to say the least. She went on her way, and I was on the point of yelling after her, “Oi! Who are you calling scary?” but decided that would only confirm her in her prejudices.
It was a disconcerting episode. And led me to reevaluate how I come across to other people, especially random strangers.
I thought back to my earlier encounter with the lady in Ryman’s. Perhaps it hadn’t been concern I’d seen on face. But fear.