Thursday, 12 August 2010

Strangers..just a friend you haven't met?

Don't talk to strangers. Don't take sweets from them. If someone in a car stops to ask for directions, stand well back, and if in doubt, scream and run as fast as your little legs can go.

We all heard it as children, when our parents were reluctantly releasing us into the big bad world on our own. We lived by those rules, mostly.

I know I did, I just didn't know how deeply those things had stuck in my mind. What makes me think of it today is something that happened to me on the way home from a friend's last night. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing threatening in the slightest.

I was getting into the lift to go home, when an older man (I'd say maybe in his early 70's, though I'm awful with ages) popped his head around his door and came out to say hello. I found it odd, especially since it was quite late, a little after midnight, but being the polite person that I am, I didn't immediately jump into the waiting lift and leave. He shook my hand, which is fine, but then wouldn't let it go. Naturally, I was uncomfortable with this. He chatted to me for a while, and I could tell he'd had a few, and since I'm not a fan of being around people who've been drinking (while sober!), I tried my damndest to get away from him. He invited me in to his apartment for coffee, and offered to show me the cowskin rug his ex-girlfriend had bought him. He then hastened to add, a few times, that there was no 'badness' meant by it, that he wasn't a dodgy guy.

I told him I was going home, he kissed my head (argh!) and finally let me leave. But it left me wondering. In today's society, where everyday there's some story or other about a rape, a murder, peadophiles etc, do we really see everyone as a threat? Was, who I'll admit I saw as a creepy old man, really just a lonely soul, reaching out for some company, a chat and a smile, maybe a few laughs, and no harm at all? The exchange only lasted roughly ten minutes, if even, but I actually felt threatened, and very uncomfortable.

I just think it's a sad way to be, and I doubt I'm the only person who feels like this. Long gone are the days of leaving the front door open for neighbours to pop around, of leaving car doors unlocked, of letting children out to play in the morning and only calling them back in the evenings, without checking in on them every five minutes. Have things gotten so bad that an older man can't stop to have a chat with a younger girl without her doubting and double doubting any ulterior motives he may have? Well...judging from how I felt in the situation, I guess they have. Pity that.