Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mad, bad and maybe quite nice to know

Why am I a nutter magnet? If there is a nutter in the vicinity they seem to be inexorably drawn to me, like a deranged moth to a flame.

Yesterday I was waiting quietly at a doctor's surgery to see one of my learners. The choice of places to sit was rather limited, involving either sitting next to someone dribbling, grinning inanely, rocking and talking to himself or cheek by jowl with people with alarmingly tubercular sounding coughs.

I found a suitable nook and congratulated myself on avoiding the sanatorium and the asylum. Then in walked a gentleman, who I imagine was once a fine looking man. He had good bone structure and a slender, neat body but a rather sunken face and wild eyes. He sat down near me and started mumbling to himself and staring about indiscriminately.

He managed to catch my eye and made a direct address to me about how he always felt better at the doctors even before he'd seen his GP - at least I think that was the gist of it. I smiled so as not to seem rude and tried to continue my examination of the carpet. However my smile was his cue to tell me all about how his condition would have killed him in the days of the Roman Empire (I didn't like to ask what it was!). I did a bit of polite nodding, inwardly hoped he wouldn't expand on the theme and wondered to myself why it's always me.

I find these situations very difficult. A very big part of me feels that everyone deserves our attention and courtesy and I find I can't just ignore people. However another part of me tells me that being nice gets you into trouble. Like the eccentric old lady I was nice to on the ferry over to the Isle of Wight. There we were engaging in harmless conversation when without warning she stabbed me in the arm with a device she'd produced from her handbag. Turned out it was an item for removing wasp stings but it hurt a bit (I think it was shock and surprise more than anything) and I was a bit concerned she'd punctured me with something more sinister.

On the other hand, being open to people gets you into all sorts of interesting and edifying conversations that enrich your life and expand your understanding of humankind. I would miss out so much if I didn't have an open face (or maybe a gormless and guillible face) and an instinctive interest in people. I'm one of those people who can find out more about a person in half an hour than some people find out in a decade (I think it might also be called 'being nosy').

On balance, I think the benefits of meeting all sorts of people outweigh the risks from meeting nutters. Give me a few years and I might be the nutter in the surgery - perhaps I am already!

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