I’ve never been someone who enjoyed bumping into people they knew in unexpected places. It’s one of the reasons New York suited me so well; with eight million people swanning about the city, the chances of seeing an acquaintance or friend was slim to none unless you actually made a plan to meet. The odd time it happened, both the person I bumped into and I were so flummoxed we just stood gaping at each other for a few seconds and then went about our business.
Here, you bump into people from your deep-dark past and your present with alarming regularity.
You race into the supermarket on a Saturday afternoon, still in your gym gear and looking like a sweaty Betty tramp, and walk straight into a (very well dressed) work acquaintance. You meet an architect at a new project in town and spy a girl you were in the third form with (which means you have to spend the rest of the meeting fretting she’ll come over and expect to be introduced to your companion as that’s what someone with manners does, but it’s something you won’t be able to do because can’t remember her name). You attend a work lunch at Prego – a restaurant you should never expect to visit without seeing someone you don’t want to see – and spend the next two hours avoiding eye contact with a bloke you may have had a super-short-lived ‘romance’ with in London 17 years ago. It’s exhausting!
I definitely need to start taking this consequence of living in a ‘small town’ seriously. I will, from now on, take it into consideration when I leave the house (no more mooching about in gym gear and greasy hair on weekends) and arrive at public places. But what should my strategy be? Should I perfect a ‘head down, bum up, move so fast no one can stop you to say hello stranger’ gait? Or should I man up, wipe my nervously sticky palms on my trousers, smile winningly and start a chat with every one of those folks I am mortified to have bumped into?