I got on the tube with my wife. Two young women were boarding: one with a ridiculous, tiny dog that even I had to admit was a little bit cute (it had it’s head fur in a little sticky up pony tail!), the other with a skateboard. A man sitting next to me with a too-neat-beard immediately tried to engage them in conversation.
I have always found this kind of unsolicited public chat-up a bit unsettling (and because I am a man I don’t even have to endure such approaches on a daily basis), but he was American so there was a chance he was just being friendly. There was more of a chance that he was trying to hit on them, after they had foolishly brought along props allowing him to demonstrate his improvisational comedy skills. “Look at that dog,” he said, “I bet you sometimes go out with the same hairstyle.” Comparing a woman’s hair to her dog’s is not a great opening gambit. She didn’t respond.
One strike and you’re out. Those are the rules.
But he persisted. If only they had found him as witty and cute as he did. Everyone around me was visibly bristling with embarrassment. The ladies in question could deal with this on their own, but it was a shame that they had to deal with it at all.
He asked them if they were good friends. Probably mate. They’re spending Sunday together. “It’s just you’re so different. You with your fluffy little dog and you with your skateboard.” Yeah, how could two people carrying things that weren’t the same be friends?
But he was showing that he was observant. Which impresses women. Sorry, I meant no one. It impresses no one.
The ladies politely chatted with the reluctance that comes from a lifetime of experience. Trying to put off the moment where he transformed from charming to affronted shouting, “You talked to me. Why did you talk to me if you’re not interested? I’m a good guy. Why can’t any women see that?"
“Are you heading to the park?” asked Pesty McPestface. No thoughtful person would ask that. Because it looks like you’re trying to gather information to facilitate your next sex-crime. “You know, you’ve got the dog, you’ve got the skateboard, so I wondered if you were going to hang out in the park,” with an unspoken, “I am free to come and hang out with you if you like… I am almost certainly not a rapist.” The skateboard lady deadpanned that skateboarding required a hard surface so parks were not ideal.
I’ve been lonely and desperate for human company and up to a point I admire him for trying. But you have to read the signs and let stuff organically. The pick-up artist handbook should be one page long and say, “Nobody likes pick-up artists. Harassment isn’t sexy. Maybe take up a hobby or join a club?”
He spotted the dog was lying with its legs akimbo and genitals pressed into the floor. I assumed he wouldn’t say anything, but I assumed wrong. “You couldn’t do the splits as well as that,” he said to the dog owner. She pretended not to hear. “Look, your dog is doing the splits,” he persisted.
He was observant, but not so observant as to realise that the ladies were actually more than friends. That’s what stopped me wasting my time chatting them up. That and a basic sense of decency. And realism. And the fact I was sitting with my wife.
All good reasons to let strangers get on with their lives.
Occasionally I come up with a joke that is so obvious I can’t believe it has never occurred to me before. This one suddenly occurred to me for the first time, “My wife went to see a comedian.
No, she went of her own accord.”
It weirdly only works if you say Jimmy Carr in a Jamaican accent. I can’t be the first to spot that. I just can’t believe I never spotted it before.