Do Not Approach This Man

I had a day off today. How do you like them apples?

In truth, there wasn’t much of the day left after all the scheduled tasks had been polished off. In the morning, I put down a little patio in the front garden. This involved taking six square slabs, and placing them end to end on the ground. Job’s a good ‘un.

And then there were two further missions. To retrieve my bus card from the Lothian Buses office on Waverley Bridge, and to get a haircut (yes, another one).

I quite like traveling down Princes Street on the bus. It’s a bit like going on a cheap safari. There’s plenty to look at, but you wouldn’t want to get out and walk about for fear of being devoured. This truth was brought home to me as I prepared myself to run the gauntlet of Princes Street on foot.

In the relatively short distance between the Waterstones bus stop and Waverley Bridge, I was accosted four times. I was exhorted to buy the Big Issue. I managed to deflect that one with a swift ‘no thanks’, but immediately found myself stumbling into the path of clipboard-wielding chugger.

chug-it.jpgVoluntary Service Overseas, this one. These scenarios call for a little more guile. You might try the old ‘Can I take some information to read over at home?’ line, at which point they tend to lose interest in you. It’s almost as if they suspect (correctly) that any information they give you will end up in the bin the moment you’re in the door.

Further exhortations awaited. ‘Can you spare 20p, mate?’ On this occasion, the truthful answer was no, as I’d used up the last of my cash paying for the bus. Whenever I try to explain to someone that I don’t have any money to give them, I have an annoying reflex of slapping my pockets to indicate that they are empty. On this occasion, the slap was accompanied by a hearty jingle, which I think undermined the message of poverty I was trying to communicate. I forgot my keys were in there, you see.

The final impediment was courtesy of a pleasant-enough-looking lady in flowing robes, to whom I explained that no, I wished to be sent neither a book nor CD about the Hare Krishna movement. Unperturbed, she asked that if I couldn’t bring myself to accept her wares, could I at least say ‘Gouranga’ for her?

‘What does it mean?’ I enquired.

‘Oh, just “be happy,”‘ said she.

‘Fine. Be happy’. I responded.

‘Go on, say Gouranga,’ she urged. ‘Look, I’ll say it: Gouranga’.

‘Thanks for that,’ said I, ‘but I’m already happy’.

And so it went on. I finally managed to extricate myself from this morass of unwarranted attention and arrived at Lothian Buses, where a kindly lady was able to hand me back my bus card. As I thought about the unlimited bus-related delights in store for me, I fought the urge to kiss it. Perhaps she saw the look on my face. As I got ready to leave, she gave me a smile.

‘There you go. You’re back in business.’

Lady, you said it.

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