It’s taken a while for this guy to impinge on my consciousness but now that he’s arrived I find it very hard to miss him.
He works at a corner shop just down the road from me. It is diametrically opposed (both physically and commercially) to another corner shop on the other side of the road. Normally I favour the other one – the fruit and veg is always of excellent quality and all the goods are well within their sell by date. As a regular purchaser of comestibles these are the qualities that are of the most importance to me.
But occasionally I’ll nip into the “not so good” shop. For a packet of crisps. Or a Yorkie. I just happen to be on that side of the road and can’t be bothered to cross over, etc.
He – “Bob” – is normally always standing outside the shop. Naturally I at first assumed he was doing some sort of building work inside although there was never actually any evidence of this. Aside from the shiny white construction safety hat that is constantly perched upon his head, that is. Occasionally he’ll have what I assume is a walkie-talkie in his hand but I suspect it is nothing more than a child’s toy, a chunky mobile phone or even an empty box though he’ll occasionally raise it to his lips at a jaunty 45 degree angle as if talking to someone (I can only assume it’s Lofty).
Lately though he’s taken to carrying a new looking black briefcase around with him. The way he swings it about would suggest it’s empty but it’s quite possible it contains his packed lunch.
Whenever I see him he is either pacing around outside the shop or walking back to it as if he’s just come from the shop on the opposite side of the road. Possibly he’s been checking out the competition or just plain scaring them with his intense building site demeanour and the packet of prawn cocktail crisps he keeps stashed in his case.
When I went into the shop the other day he followed me in.
I mean literally followed me in – like we were doing a parachute jump together and he was the instructor guy attached to my back. Thankfully he detached himself once we were inside and swept his hand grandly across the serving counter just in case I’d failed to observe it. He then gave the Asian girl behind the counter a quick nod as if giving her permission to serve me. She seemed totally OK with this and it was at this point I surmised that possibly this guy owns the shop and is the girl’s boss and/or father.
I got on with selecting a Yorkie bar – one that hadn’t been snapped in half – and removing the small change from my wallet.
“I’ve had a very good day today...” issued from behind me in a tone so gravelly and with such a heavy Anglo-Indian accent it took me several attempts to decipher what it was he was saying. Luckily he did actually repeat himself several times in order for me to do this.
Now I didn’t ignore him deliberately. I genuinely thought he was talking to the girl behind the counter so I didn’t answer. I merely handed my Yorkie over and let the girl ring the price up on the till.
“Do you want a bag?” came from behind me.
Suddenly I twigged that he was definitely talking to me and that possibly all his past proclamations had also been meant for my ears. Shoot. I turned round and, staring into the strangely feral gleam of his builder’s hard hat, told him as jocularly as I could that no, I didn’t need a bag as I doubted the chocolate would last that long once I’d got it outside.
He nodded officiously and clapped his briefcase smartly to the side of his leg. Kind of like Bob The Builder doing a Hitler salute. It was an incongruous combination to say the least.
The girl then handed me my change. Very deliberately counting it out in my hand and giving me way too much. I’d virtually got the Yorkie for free. I opened my mouth to protest but she held up her hand and said, “No, it’s alright”.
I think I managed a nonplussed nod of acknowledgement and then walked out into the relatively sanity of the afternoon sunshine.
Although nothing actually happened I nevertheless found the whole incident incredibly bizarre. I feel like I completely missed something; something that would make his behaviour and the deliberate mistake with the change both connected and logical. I came out of the shop wandering if Bob had somehow slipped me some Rohipnol and erased a couple of hours of my life but no... time seemed to have elapsed normally. I’d plainly just entered The Twilight Zone.
I’ll be watching Bob carefully from now on. He’s either snapped mentally like Michael Douglas’ character in Falling Down and will be arriving armed and intense at a fast food joint near you very soon or he’s working his way through a fixation with the Village People and next week will be performing a rain dance outside the shop resplendent in fake Native American headdress picked up dirt cheap on eBay.
Either way I think I’ll be acquiring my Yorkies elsewhere from now on – despite the generous compensation offered by the girl behind the counter.
Leamington, eh? It’s full of the strangest people.
(This is possibly the first in an absurdly long running series but don’t hold your breath.)