Thursday 12 October 2017

#279 Bothering strangers in London to ask them questions

I chose a coach on Friday. Having spent nigh-on a month meeting candidates, my shoe leather was wearing thin although I had visited parts of the city I'd not seen before. At 7pm, on a dark evening in Clapham, I finally came away from an appointment having met someone I trusted with the task.

One of the first objectives I had to complete was something called the "Bold Request" exercise, which involved asking a favour of a stranger. "That sounds fine" I'd piped up when first hearing about it. I thought I could simply ask someone for the time. It then dawned on me that the point of the exercise was to do something which felt a bit uncomfortable. This meant that like most things in life, if it seemed easy, I probably wasn't doing it very well.

I decided to start small. After all, why should I ask a stranger anything? To gain confidence? Surely confidence came through noble pursuits, not by blindly participating in requests that had no other meaning or purpose attached to them. What an ill-devised exercise. Still, it was all there was. 

I had to complete the objective because I had to participate in the coaching. I certainly wasn't spending another month trying to find an alternative option. I could try changing the objective but that would be like opening up a CD player and rewiring it because I didn't like the way it sounded. That would only void the warranty, offend the maker and who knew if it would even work afterwards. So I proceeded with the objective. Ill-advised or not.

I wandered around Canary Wharf for a while, looking for someone relatively approachable. A woman in her fifties at a cafe table. I walked over. "Fancy a chat?" I asked her. "No", she said flatly. Well, that was easy. I thought about heading home. Then I remembered, I was supposed to log how I felt. I didn't really feel anything. I hadn't done anything. Dammit. I walked around some more.

I'd been toying with the idea of asking someone to buy me a drink since leaving the house. The rain had displaced most of the drinkers from their usual spots on the patios and I didn't much like the idea of trying to bum one inside, for fear of getting thown out by armed police. Security's tight in the Wharf. 

I eventually found a couple of smokers with lunch break lagers in their hands, outside a bar on an otherwise deserted street. I walked past them once. "Fuck it" I thought and went back to them. "Hello, sorry to bother you, I was wondering, could one of you chaps possibly buy me a pint?" They looked a bit taken aback. Then one burst into laughter. "It's not often I get asked that mate" he chuckled. Great. Now I was ill-advised and apparently gay. "No, sorry" he added. I thanked him anyway and departed.

How did it feel? Well, I'd been more reluctant to approach the men with the second request so I guess I'd felt nervous. During asking it, it wasn't something I'd normally do, so I didn't even feel like myself. That was probably normal. I was following an unusual set of instructions rather than being my usual self. I got a bit of a buzz for a few seconds afterwards. Then I felt content. Not because I'd served any great moral principle or done some good in the world. Just because having completed the wretched objective, I no longer felt the burden of having to do it. At least, until next time.

Next time?

That's right.

It's an ongoing objective.


Running on empty said...

Dan, I'm very proud of you. Keep up the good work.

Profound Familiarity said...

Will try.