Image Source: Dionysius Burton, Flickr
As far as dubious honours go, being asked what part of The States I am from in Union Square has to come near the top of my list; not least because it is unclear what prompted the fairly ancient gentleman to tap my arm and initiate the conversation in the first place. On reflection, my friend A., or more correctly her hair, must have had some input, if his eyes which never left her face had anything to do with it.
I had been standing, back to the milling crowd, eyes focused on my A’s face, whilst wrapping up our late Sunday afternoon conversation, and wrestling with the decision I knew I would have to make soon about departing – side hug, full hug or the relative safety of a firm handshake – when I felt him touch my shoulder.
Spinning round, I found myself face to face with a somewhat dapper old man, albeit dressed a bit too much for a casual Union Square afternoon; three piece suit with a gold brooch to match and very well polished brogues. He must have seen the look of puzzlement on my face, because the next thing he did was to stretch out his hand for a handshake, a broad smile plastered on his face. I took the proffered hand, noting the firm grip, as he proceeded to talk about the weather, which was warm and dry, a bonus at this time of the year. We must have spoken for a further six or seven minutes; an all over the place ramble about everything the point of which I am still not entirely sure. Somewhere amongst all that talking, he complemented A about her hair and then asked what part of the states I was from.
A. does have a thing for wild, all over the place hair – in the last year she has gone the full gamut from having it all out, an assortment of weaves, locs and now twists of various descriptions – which is why she wasn’t particularly surprised by the conversation, somehow assuming it was someone I knew from work. There might have been good reason for him to assume I was American I guess – my English isn’t the worst, and does have twangs and inflections picked up from years of watching American sitcoms in my youth, but still even to me that was a wild stretch.
The silver lining to all that? My agonising over what constituted an appropriate final greeting turned out to be much ado about nothing. In the end we were only too happy to escape the gentleman’s clutches and go our separate ways. Saved by the geezer, I guess.