My Stalking Hell
Having read the book Freakonomics I know that, on a base level, humans respond to incentives. I’ve never been an early-adaptor of new technology and for years shied away from mobile phones due to all the hoo-ha over brain tumours, and the like, but all that suddenly changed exactly eight years today when factors in my life shifted and I felt I really needed to have a mobile phone with me… Just in case.
A previous mobile I’d had at my disposal, before this, was for professional purposes and was a brick. Not an eighties Yuppie brick, but a brick all the same. This was when as a Postgrad student in Wales I did periods on-call looking after student problems that arose on a Halls of Residence site with 1500 residents. Even though it was for emergency use only my girlfriend knew when I was on call and used to send me sweet messages, which are lost to digital posterity, but are still engraved on my heart, and all this was all a novel experience… having a girlfriend.
That phone was so old that I spent most of my first week without even realising that the speaker wasn’t even working. Still, much later after university in 2004, girlfriend-less (she married a man from NASA who sends robots to Mars – how could I compete?) and working in Manchester I wasn’t bothered about joining with the in-crowd until, doing a bit of Christmas shopping, I stepped into Lush: the funky organic soap shop. At the time, with their freshly-made soap of every smell, colour and flavour, I did assume that they were a local concern and that their plethora of trendy-looking female workers made all of their produce out-back, Fight Club-style, in vats. I now know that they’re a bit more of an international chain as they got a mention on a New Jersey-based podcast I listen to, Tell ‘em Steve-Dave, and so assume Lush to be everywhere.
I can’t remember what I was buying for my Mum, but the single queue led to three tills and as I got near the front one of the girls with shoulder-length brown hair really stuck out. I was infatuated. And as I only got to get served by the girl that randomness and universal chaos dictated I prayed to the Gods of the Tills and, that day, they smiled on me.
Odds of getting the girl on the till: One-in-Three.
It is the only time I claim this, but it was love at first sight, as she short-changed me ten pounds. As my life is all out of order on this blog I can’t remember if I’ve ever said yet that I find that all the prettiest shop girls in life tend to overcharge you. Don’t worry, I will… I will!
However I may have been all gooey-eyed, mentally trying to fathom things about her that you really don’t want to know, but I wasn’t that far gone and with the spell broken insisted on my money back. I got it, in much the same level of regret that she was falling prey to a confidence trickster who was pulling some sort of stunt, but I was happy how it only prolonged my conversation with her.
I came away with my money, a smile on my face, and the realisation that I had to go back… And as soon as possible. The next day after work I was back. I’d come to the sudden conclusion that, as well as my Mum, that my sister-in-law also wanted hand-made organic soap from me for Christmas. I can’t remember what I got her, it’s not important, but what is important is that the girl was working one of the tills, again, and I was at the mercy of the queue… again. I reacquainted myself with the Gods of the Tills and hoped…
Odds of getting the girl on the till twice: One-in-Nine.
Bingo. And, even better than that, she remembered me.
I’m always surprised when people remember me. Especially as I imagine myself drifting through life, with a Howard Moon pink balloon face, and there was one occasion where I didn’t believe the spiel a shop assistant was giving me so I went off around every other shop in town before coming creeping back a week later to have the same girl jump out on me and said: “You came back then!” Freaked me out.
Anyway, back in Lush,I was redeemed in this particular girl’s eyes as she said that when they’d cashed up the previous night the total had been correct and that she had indeed short-changed me. She apologised.
She was great.
I left without my infatuation diminished and the realisation that now everybody was going to get soap off me for Christmas. My main problem, apart from the fact that I was now effectively stalking the girl in Lush, was that I had a limited list of people who I could realistically buy brightly coloured soap for. I was really scraping the barrel by the fact that next of my list was Big Kev who’d emigrated to downtown Bangkok with his new Thai wife. A Thai wife who was about to benefit from a wrapping paper-themed Christian festival that wasn’t even celebrated in her own country.
I can’t remember what I bought her, it’s really not important, but when I returned there again was the girl, the queue, and the tills… You know the drill by now.
Odds of getting the girl three times in succession: One-in-Twenty-Seven.
I got her again.
The odds were practically astronomical.
It was like fate.
I asked her some stupid questions about the stability of their products, say in a theoretical warmer monsoon-laden climate, and despite expecting cosmetics expertise, from a shop specialising in selling soap, she didn’t seem to have a clue.
Still, I came out with a smile on my face and an imminent airmail postage bill that would equal the cost of the expensive soap I’d just purchased. I can’t remember if Big Kev and his wife appreciated it, or if it even arrived, but it’s not important. What is important is that I’d come to the staggering realisation that I had to go back in just to ask this girl out. Only, how do you do that without a phone number to give? And so despite my idealism, and the notion that I could live without one, I went and bought a phone. Nothing fancy, but there you go. The number of girls I’ve asked out in my life you can count on one hand, so don’t count this action too lightly, but the next time I returned to Lush I had absolutely no intention of buying any expensive multi-coloured organic glittery bath products.
Unfortunately I found that, for once, the girl wasn’t in. It was quiet and instead there was only a highly tattooed redhead co-worker, to whom I must have clumsily explained the situation (above) in less than fifty words, and the tattooed redhead told me that she didn’t think that the girl was single.
I never went back.
I figured, much later, that they’d probably say that to all the weirdoes who come in.
And so my stalking career ended, without victim.
Although, saying that, my definition of real stalking is when you’re the first and last thing she sees every day from her window, lurking in her garden, with a dirty butter knife under your coat. I know that’s not a legal definition, but I’d like to think from anyone reading this that my (romantic?) actions (above) would pass the taste test.
You tell me.
But before anyone unfairly goes on to draw comparisons with this incident and what’s in my upcoming Christmas blog post then I’d say right now that that’s just a load of “highlighted coincidence”.
And if you just happen to know Jenny who worked in the Manchester Lush, in December 2004, then you can tell her that I bloody loved her…
I’m bet she’d be gutted…
Odds of that being true: Long shot, hundred-to-one odds… and then some.
I’ve recently bought a new phone. No great life-changing story this time. True it sort-of coincidentally coincided with me almost meeting up with American girl No. 02, but over the years since 2004 I had used the original to destruction. I found that I ended up only putting half the numbers into it that were in the old one. That’s fifty-percent natural wastage… Or a “Contacts” half-life of the lifetime of a phone… The clincher in finally choosing this model was the mighty 300,000 KB camera! That and it was a bit cheap as befits my self-imposed austerity-lifestyle of a writer who’s earning no money. Now I’ll never be caught short with the opportunityto give girls my number, or the ability to take low-grade Paparazzi zoom-lens photos from half a meter away. You might not be able to work out what this picture represents, taken especially for my specially held-back Christmas blog post before I realised that it was absolute rubbish, but don’t worry, you will… you will.