Posted by: Gary Klaukka | November 29, 2009

A tale of two dysfunctional conversations

Conversation 1

I was on a train in Brighton, waiting for it to leave for London Victoria. I was looking through my RSS feeds on my iPhone as I noticed a man sit down on the seats on the other side of the aisle from me.

Man: What’s the time?
Gary: It’s a quarter to.
Man: When does the train leave?
Gary: At 7.49 pm.

As I’d exchanged a few bits of information with the man, I had noticed that he was not wearing any socks and was bare-footed. I thought this to be slightly unusual, considering it was a cold, rainy November evening. He started muttering something about finding socks, and I feared that he would ask me if I had any spare ones (which, very strangely enough, I would have had). Thankfully he managed to find a pair and proceeded to put them on.

Man: So why are you going to London?
Gary: I live in London – I’m going home.
Man: You don’t sound like you’re from London.
(I wanted to ask him where I sounded like I was from, expecting him to say Hull, Newcastle or some other unlikely place)
Gary: I’m Finnish.
Man: Why do you speak English so well?
Gary: I learnt it at a very young age – I would be quite stuck if I only spoke Finnish.

The man nodded and looked puzzled. At that point I fixed my eyes on my iPhone and continued reading the blog entries I had been reading earlier. The man starts muttering to himself and mentions being in possession of two condoms and some lubricant. I would like to think that I can usually control my reactions, but I admit that I raised my eyebrows at this point.

Man: I hope you weren’t offended!
Gary: No, no, it’s alright.

I fixed my gaze even more intently on my phone, and the man left within a couple of minutes.

Conversation 2

Arriving at Victoria station, I had realised that I would need to buy something for dinner, so I proceeded to go to the Marks & Spencers at the station. I picked up some food and queued up. As I went to the till, I was served by a man who was a few years younger than I was, and sounded vaguely American. To make the story make sense, I was carrying a tote bag I had received at the annual American Civil Liberties Union conference a couple of years ago. The bag had the name of the conference on it as well as a picture of the Statue of Liberty.

Man: How are you doing?
Gary: I’m fine; how are you?
Man: [inaudible] just come back from New York
Gary: Oh, did you?
Man: No, did you?
Gary: No, no! What makes you say that?
Man: Your bag.
Gary: Oh, right. I got it at an ACLU conference I attended in Washington, DC, a few years ago.
Man: Okay.
(The man scans my item)
Man: Why carry it then?
Gary: It’s just my tote bag – I tend to carry it at weekends.
Man: Oh.

An exchange of money and goods followed, and, for some reason, the man seemed genuinely miffed. I thanked him and went off home.

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