Yesterday at 5pm there was a mass exodus from the Earls Court Exhibition Centre as the London Book Fair came to a close. No more double airkissing for another year. Or so I thought.
Waiting for the tube, I caught sight of Thomas, a German publisher I’d met a few months ago. I went over to say hello and we both got on the tube together, anticipating a good old chin-wag. We started off by trading pleasantries on how we’d found the week and if business was good. Then I asked when he was heading home to Germany and he said he was actually doing a 5 month stint in London – and anyway, Switzerland was home. Strange. I looked a bit closer. It was Thomas, right? He looked a bit more tanned, and now that I thought about it his hair was a bit different…
Further careful chit chat revealed I had indeed made a mistake. This man was an absolute stranger and my enthusiastic witterings about his family and what he’d been up to for the past few months were completely misplaced. Clearly he’d been humouring me thinking that
a) perhaps he’d met me somewhere before and was trying to place me, or b) London publishers were exceptionally welcoming to foreigners.
I think it dawned on both of us in the same instant that we were indeed complete strangers. But what next? I had another two stops to go. Should I confess that actually I’d made a horribly embarrassing faux pas and the airkisses meant nothing? If it had been a private conversation I might have but we were on the tube - there were other people listening. Also, the train was moving incredibly slowly. So instead, my automatic nervous chatter reflex kicked in and the poor guy listened to absolute random waffling while the bloody train groaned along at snail’s pace prolonging my agony.
Finally, we got to my stop, but of course Fate decided that this should be his too. But this was too much for me. I pretended I had a few more stops to go and waved cheerfully goodbye to my new friend. I then waited till he was walking down the platform, before jumping off just before the doors slid shut trying not to look like a poor extra on Spooks. I then picked a very broad, tall man and shuffled along closely behind him just in case ‘Thomas’ turned round and saw me. Oh, to be the person watching the CCTV cameras.
The worrying thing is this is not the first time I’ve done this. A few years ago I was in a bar (so at least on this occasion I could blame the alcohol) and started chatting to Mike, a guy I knew. We chatted for about five minutes until he told me his name was not Mike, and although he recognised me from the gym, we’d never actually formally met. Oh. Ah. Oops.
Two weeks later I saw the real Mike, who smiled welcomingly at me so I went over, said hi and told him about the mortifying scenario a few weeks ago where I’d started chatting to a stranger thinking it was him. It was hilarious, I giggled. The poor chap thought I was completely bonkers. At this point, the poor guy sighed and informed me that he was (still) not Mike and yes, he did think I was a bit odd.
Please tell me this happens to other people?!