To Freak Or Not To Freak

Have I mentioned lately that I catch the train to my place of work?

Yes I have. Regular Grumpyans are probably fed up of reading about it now.

Tough. I’m going to write about the predicament of the complex woven web of familiarity, similarity and social etiquette.

It isn’t the first time I have used this form of transport to and from work you know? I used to catch the train before, about three years ago and it’s funny because returning to the same station, I recognise a couple of people who used to catch the same train back then. Of course, I can’t help feeling a little sympathetic towards them as they have clearly been stuck in the same boring monotony for the past couple of years. The same routine and perhaps the same job.

Unlike me, who before, when catching the train, was a commercial insurance claims handler. Yes I know, pretty high level stuff.  I then progressed my career by moving to a company near home and for two years worked as a…. commercial insurance claims handler. What an aspiring move that was.  Now I have moved once again to a large, successful, global organisation to be a ….. commercial insurance claims handler. *Sigh*

Anyway, there’s a particular chap who I remember from before. He stands out because he still looks the same if that makes sense. He is a smart black guy in a flat cap, three quarter length coat and always looks sharp. I remember seeing him years ago and thinking, ‘He looks sharp. Fair play,’ as I stood there in my shirt, trousers and obligatory converse trainers.

But now, I’m a little older, balder yet hairier in places and a little wiser and I also dress more sharply. I too now adopt the flat cap and three quarter length coat. My trousers have a sharp crease you could slice cheese with and my shoes are shiny and reek of climbing the corporate ladder!

So when I saw him again at the station, having recently returned to commuting by train again, I couldn’t help but notice that we are very similar. Well apart from the skin colour and the fact that he obviously invests a lot of time into trimming his facial hair. I don’t know his name, let’s call him Gavin.

But recognising Gavin from before is not where our crossing paths should end. It turns out, he works on the same business park as I do, in the building directly opposite mine. We walk the same way to work from the same train at the same train station every morning. Sometimes he’s ahead and sometimes, I’m ahead. Fascinating stuff.

On top of that, we catch the same train to and from work, regularly find ourselves at the same train door and have even ended up parking next to each other in the car park by sheer coincidence. We give each other an awkward look as if to say, ‘Are you following me?’

But it doesn’t stop there. If only. The other Sunday I was passing through a lovely little dive called Blackheath and who should I see crossing the road in front of my car? Yes Gavin! We both didn’t have our hats on and it is evident that we both adopt the wet shave styling of our complete heads. I saw Gavin, he saw me, we both recognised each other and yet we did not acknowledge and as quickly as we had stumbled upon each other we had gone our separate ways.

He’s not stalking me because, well, he was there first. He also dressed that way a couple of years ago. I’m definitely not stalking him and everything is pure coincidence. I can assure you I have no interest in wearing his skin. He is a little shorter than me so it would be a stretch anyway. I’m thinking too much about this.

Despite all these times of seeing each other, we haven’t really acknowledged one another. There was one time when we ended up at the same train door again and he did that thing where you raise your eyebrows, pull that awkward fake smile and nod your head back. It’s international sign language for ‘hello.’ I did the decent thing. I replied in exactly the same way.

We’ve never said hello and never really struck up a conversation but I feel like we should. I mean fate has thrown us together. We could end up being really good mates. The amount of hours we could spend having a good old banter every week, to and from work would be a great use of the time. We could take the piss out of fellow commuters whilst fellow commuters would probably take the piss out of us as we, both dressed similar, look like some kind of wannabe extras for the BBC TV show, Peaky Blinders! That or furniture removal men from 1935.

Perhaps deep down, that’s why we haven’t spoken. Because we’re dressed too similar. It would be too embarrassing. You don’t talk to someone at a party wearing the same thing do you? You maintain the distance and remain at polar opposite sides of the room. Should both outfits come into close proximity, the world could implode!

But we could be the bestest of friends! I could find out that he plays a mean slap bass guitar and we could get together and have a jam. He could be a black belt in Judo and bring his lovely wife, June,  round to Chateau Grump for dinner! He could have forgotten to tell us he was allergic to mushrooms and end up having an anaphylactic shock in the middle of our kitchen floor but luckily I remember watching a film in 1987 when the same thing happened and someone saved their life with an ingenious use of a biro and a Swiss army knife. I don’t have a Swiss army knife but I do have several butter knives. Might take a bit more force and might take longer but as long as he stays relatively still, it’s still doable. Again, I could be thinking too much about this.

I haven’t seen him for a couple of days. I wonder why he’s off.

I wonder what his reaction would be if I just randomly went up to him the next time I see him and say, “I noticed you were off for a couple of days. Everything okay?”

Perhaps I could freak him out by following it up with, “I missed you.” Yeah that would freak him out wouldn’t it? He’d probably change his working patterns to avoid me or leave the job altogether.

But what if he then said to me, “I missed you too!” Uurgh!! That would really freak me out! Then I’d be in an awkward situation. I’d have intended to be the freaker-outerer but in a weird twist end up being the freaked-outerer.

I’d have to awkwardly own up to this man who thinks I have feelings for him in the same way as he does for me, and tell him that I was only joking. That I was just saying it to freak him out and that I didn’t actually want to wear his skin. Or hold hands whilst running through a wheat field in the low golden haze of the summer sun.

Then he’d laugh and say that he was actually joking too.

Then we’d both laugh and I would say that he really had me worried there. “Oh Gavin, you’re such a wind up merchant!” Then I’d give him a pretend punch on his arm.

Then we would be instant friends. We’d have our own handshake and in jokes that only we would understand. We might text each other or email each other at work if we have a bag of crisps or can of fizzy pop we might want to swap. He and his lovely wife, June, would come over to chateau Grump and we’d have a lovely meal.

No mushrooms though.

I’m thinking too much about it again aren’t I?

Oh well, it’s never going to happen.

We’re just too similar.

And I love mushrooms.


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