Sunday, 10 May 2009

A Worried Man

Writing Adventure Group Activity

"WAG #110: Scaredy-Cat” Another people-watching exercise! Choose a stranger and observe him/her for a little while. Now give them a phobia. A full-on, jump on the chair, scream like a little girl, unreasonable fear. (Or however you imagine them to respond.) Try to choose something that fits the person you’re watching, and let us know what it is about them that clued you in to their secret fear. The object is not just to describe the fear, but to make us understand why it fits with this particular person.

The man with the spectacles sat in the cafe, drinking his capucino and idly looking out of the window. Suddenly he became tense, barely perceptibly, but the change of mood was there. Had he seen something outside that disturbed him? I looked but there was just the usual ebb and flow of people up the pedestrian walk-way outside. No-one had even stopped to read the menu stuck on the window. Yet still the man looked anxious, as if he'd rather be somewhere else. It was as if something in here was worrying him. I looked around. The cafe wasn't exactly full. Two elderly ladies were chatting over tea and scones; a young mum was trying to persuade a reluctant toddler to eat a bit of her jacket potato; and I was pretending to read my newspaper while watching the comings and goings around me.

The ladies and the mother and child had all been in the cafe when I had come in; if the man was upset by them he would have shown it before. The only change that had occurred was my arrival, and why should he be upset by me? Was he anxious that, as a woman on my own, I might make a pass at him? I felt suddenly irritated! He wasn't bad looking, and about my age, but why do men always assume that every woman finds them irresistible? But no, that didn't fit either. He had looked perfectly relaxed as I had walked past him, sat down and and ordered my coffee. The only other thing that I had done was taken the paper out of my bag and unfolded it. That was it! He was upset by the newspaper.

Feeling suddenly excited, I looked at the front page. Was this one of those situations like on the old films, where the wanted man suddenly sees his face on the paper the person nearby is obliviously reading? What should I do if he turned out to be a terrorist? But no, the only pictures on the front page of my paper were the Prime Minister and the winner of "I'm a Celebrity.." Perhaps I was imagining the whole thing. I looked at the man as I refolded the paper, and he seemed more unhappy than ever. He had finished his coffee, but made no move to go, almost as if glued to the chair in fright. He was looking straight at me as if I was pointing a gun. Suddenly an idea struck me.

I went to the counter and paid, and as I walked back past the man towards the door, I held the paper out to him and said "I've finished with this, would you like it?" I thought that he was going to faint. Whoever heard of someone who was terrified of newspapers?