Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Stalking Philosopher

I'm almost embarrassed to write this, but it is a funny story, even if I feel like an idiot now.

Let me set the scene. I'm waiting for a meeting to start and decide I'll walk to the bookstore and check out the magazines for a little while. The magazine racks at this particular bookstore are laid out so that they make rows, so I slowly meander through the racks, picking up and glancing at the various magazines that catch my interest. I stop at the writing section, which is at the end of one of the racks, and pick up one magazine to flip through it.

At this point, I notice out of the corner of my eye that there's a tall guy (from here on out known as Tall Guy) standing across from me on the other side of the rack and he's looking in my direction. I continue to glance at the table of contents and don't give it much thought, but then he comes around the rack to stand beside but slightly behind me. I move down a bit so that he has room to see the magazines, making the assumption that he's looking for something. I start to get a bit weirded out by Tall Guy because he stands next to me the entire time and doesn't even feign to pick up a magazine. Still, I put that magazine back and lift a few others to check out their covers before heading around to the other side of the rack to see what I can find there.

I take a look at one or two and find something interesting that I decide to flip through. Within a few moments, Tall Guy has come back around to the side of the rack he'd just left and is now standing behind me. Again, I move down a bit so that I'm not blocking his view and continue to flip the pages, hoping beyond all hope that he will pick something off the shelf and walk away. I'm totally distracted now because there are many other racks of magazines that this guy could be looking at, but he seems to be hanging around in my direct vicinity no matter where I decide to go. And none of these sections is similar in any way. So I'm not particularly paying attention and am debating at this point if I should drop the magazine I'm holding and make a run for it.

I thought about it too long, though, because before I could turn another page, he came around in front of me and said, "Are you a writer?"

Now here's where you need to understand that this is the question every writer loves to answer, so despite the heebie-jeebies I was getting from this guy, I proceed to answer with a smile and, "Yes I am." Also, to myself, How did you guess? You were just standing over my shoulder while I proceeded to look at every writing magazine on the rack. But I still don't run for safety. Big mistake.

"Oh, I'm a writer, too," he says. "What do you write?"

The question a writer loves to answer second best. So again, I answer with, "A little bit of everything. Mostly essays and some magazine articles with a little fiction thrown in." I turn back to the magazine I'm holding and flip another page, hoping to give the tall guy the hint. He's smiling, but not in a weird way, so I relax for a moment. Maybe he just wants to network, I start to think to myself.

"I'm a writer, too," he says again, and the heebie-jeebies creep back in. "I don't write for magazines, though. I write philosophy."

I try to be kind and joke, "Ah, the deep stuff, huh?" Back to flipping pages that I'm obviously not reading. Why, oh why didn't I run when I had the chance?

"Yeah, the deep stuff. Maybe you'd want to read my book sometime." Now his smile is starting to weird me out, too. And he's nodding at me in a steady, hypnotic rhythm, to which I attribute everything that I do next. I swear he must have put some sort of spell on me.

"Sssuuurrrre," I say slowly, trying to figure out someway to get out of this without hurting the guy's feelings.

"Right, sure," he says. "Why not, right?" Still nodding.

Oh. My. God. HowdoIgetoutofhere? HowdoIgetoutofhere? I start glancing around, put the magazine on the rack, look at my watch.

"We could get together and talk about it after you're done," he says, clearly not getting my hints. "Maybe I could read some of your stuff, too." Now he's smiling so widely I think I may have just accidentally agreed to marry him.

"Um, OK, do you have a card?" There, that will do it. He'll give me his card, I'll walk away and I'll never. ever. call.

"No, that would be a good thing to have, wouldn't it? Do you have one?"

Before I can even stop myself, I'm reaching into my purse. I'm not thinking, I just want this to be OVER. I pull the card out and hand it to him. I can't make words come out, I just hand it over.

"Thanks, great," he says, studying the information on the card. Which is when I remember that there is an address on those cards, personal information that I should never have had printed on a business card. What was I thinking? I need to get new cards and shred those! Thank God it's my old address. "OK. So you don't have any vacations coming up any time soon that I should know about, do you?"

Huh? "Um, no, not that I know of," I say. Is this guy for real?

"Good, so I can call you at this number." He's still grinning at me like the Cheshire cat. I'm pretty sure all color has drained from my face and I must look like I've seen a ghost. But he just keeps smiling.

"Yes, but I might not answer because I do work a day job." Can I go now? Please?

"OK, I'll call you then."

"OK." He starts to walk away and I say, as a last thought, "What was your name?" At least now I'll have a first name to give the police. Of course, he has my full name, previous address, email address, website and cell phone number. UGH!

Why do I do this? Please yell at me and tell me what an idiot I am. I get myself in these situations all the time because I don't want to be mean to people and I end up putting myself in really awkward, and sometimes dangerous, positions. How would you have handled it? I need to learn some new avoidance techniques. I need to learn to get a backbone. I need to learn a good brush-off. Something. Anything.



Unknown said...

Make. Up. An. Excuse. And you had one, you know. You were waiting for a meeting, so it wouldn't have even been a lie.

I had a similar situation in a Starbucks once, and also at the airport. Lesson learned: when you start getting weird vibes, which is probably your mind/body's way of telling you that you should get out, start thinking up an excuse to get yourself out.

Melanie said...

Wow. Super creepy! I would have said, "Well... I've got to run!" and walked away. He's probably harmless. Hopefully.

Ami said...

cate - thanks for the advice. you'd think i could have come up with that on my own, but it's like all my senses just fly out the window when i'm approached by anyone, really. i've been thinking about it, and it doesn't even have to be a man. i'm just plain too nice sometimes. i'm going to work on this though. make up an excuse. make up an excuse. this will be my new mantra.

reluctant - you're right, he probably is harmless. however, he did call yesterday (i was starting to breathe a sigh of relief thinking he might not) three times and on the third finally left a message. i'm not planning to call him back, but that makes me feel bad because i don't want to hurt his feelings. See? this is what i go through.

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