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Talking to Strangers

I never talk to people on public transport. It’s something my mom or Larry’s Aunt Rose would do. And it’s clearly against Personal Space Rule 45-21b as outlined in the Strap Hangers Holistic Handbook (SHHH).

I guess I was a rebel yesterday. I sat down next to an elderly black woman on the Jublilee line. She was wearing a too-heavy coat for the mild day we were having had her handbag open intently digging around inside.

Sitting next to would-be crazy people is also warned against in the SHHH.

Turns out she wasn’t digging at all. She had a small Tupperware container of tiny beads and was picking them up with a needle, one at a time, stringing them along in an autumnal pattern of brown, orange, and yellow.

“What are you making,” I asked. “A bracelet?”

Oops, I just broke PSR 45-21b. I figured she’d snap at me and tell me to mind my own damn business, and kind of regretted opening the crazy window.

She looked up from her work and there such kindness in her eyes. “It’s gonna be a five-strand necklace,” she said to me, very softly, as if it were our little secret. Her voice had the lilt of the Caribbean. No wonder she had a heavy coat on, she’s used to island weather. I’ve probably bought an anklet or a bracelet (or ten) on the beach from one of her great nieces.

“Wow, how long’s that gonna take?”

It’d take 2 hours, including tying it off and putting the clasps on, if she was “indoors” (which I thought odd, ‘cause I’ve yet to find the ragtop underground carriage). But today she was on a long train ride and was just passing the time, which she found to be highly amusing.

I laughed along, pretending to be in on the joke. Crazy is contagious.

“How often do you stick yourself?”

No more laughter with question. “For some people, this is a hobby,” she told me. It used to be a hobby for her, and that’s when she’d accidentally jab her finger. But now she’s done it so much that she never sticks herself. She’s a professional. Professionals can't work with sore fingers.

We shared more knowing laughter and she went back to threading the first of the five strands.

Just as my stop was approaching, she looked back up at me and said “It’s funny you talked to me. Just earlier today, I was walking up the steps in another station and this guy in front of me, nicely dressed, he had his trousers up at his waist, you know?”

I didn’t but nodded yes anyway.

“His trousers up at his waist, nice trousers mind you, but his underpants was all bunched up and sticking out in the back.” The train was slowing down now and I needed to get off, but didn’t want to interrupt her and just bolt. Part of me wanted to stay, but I had a plane to catch, so station missing wasn’t in the cards. “And I tried to tell him, but he just sneered at me. But you, you’ve been real nice.”

I thanked her kindly, wished her luck on the necklace and popped off the train.

Later that evening, I found myself on a Band Geek Flight from Heathrow to Frankfurt. How did I know it was Band Geek Flight? Well, the tell-tale give away is when you walk into the cabin and it’s abuzz with the yammering squeals of overexcited teenagers, and you notice about a half-dozen seats are occupied by cello and bass cases, their fat bodies all strapped into window seats and their skinny heads poking up over the headrests.

And Willow was there doing unseemly things with her flute.

The cutest blonde boy sat across the aisle from me, reading a text on the history of the trumpet. He clearly didn’t fly much, as was evidenced when he turned around to the guy behind him and said, in a voice no less angelic or innocent than Oliver asking for more, “Excuse me sir, would you mind if I put my seat back?”

Totally kissable, and polite to a fault. *sigh* If it weren’t for the perfect English accent, he could have been Canadian.

Anyway, after fantasizing over Blowme McTrumpeter for most of the flight, I decided to go ahead and break Personal Space Rule 45-21b again. I’m pretty sure there’s a double jeopardy clause and they can’t cite you twice in one day.

“Are you guys performing in a concert or a contest or something?”

Turns out they are with the Royal Academy of Music and are off to Wiesbaten for a concert. Back to London on Thursday. Hmm, I’ll be back then too. Perhaps I’ll have to become a patron of RAM.

Also turns out that my backpack had been nestled in with Blondie’s trumpet case in the overhead. As he hoisted it over his shoulder, I noticed a small beaded flag pinned to the case. Couldn’t identify the flag, but the beads reminded me of my friend from the tube.

Wouldn’t it be cool if she made it for him?