The other day I bumped into someone I know who lives nearby. I know them well enough to stand around chatting to. It turned out we were going in the same direction.
My heart sank. I did not want to spend 20 minutes trying to think of some banal chitchat to pass the time while we walked together. I didn’t say where I was going.
I watched them disappear off, and promptly took a different route. Phew. I dragged my feet – but our paths almost coincided somewhat later when they came into view. I skipped off in yet another different direction. Another narrow escape from forced conversation.
Some months ago, one of my partner’s former workmates spotted me in the high street and started chattering away as though I was his long-lost best friend. FFS. I had only ever said hello to this guy once or twice before!
I expected him to go about his business, but no, he accompanied me all the way up the street until he arrived at his destination. As he was such a chatterbox, it wasn’t too difficult to mutter the appropriate grunts and monosyllabic responses in the right places.
When I mentioned this strange encounter to my partner, he smiled and said; ‘Oh, but he would just be trying to bum a tab.’
I thought back, and indeed, the first topic of conversation after the initial greetings, was whether or not I smoked. Which I don’t. But by then he was committed, and would have lost face to clear off into the crowd. So he tagged along merrily at my side, prattling about this and that.
Five or ten minutes up the high street was just about tolerable. Any longer than that is not.
When I am walking somewhere, I like to be alone. With my own thoughts, and to walk at my own pace, and to look around, and enjoy my surroundings – architecture, landscape, people-watching, noticing any changes happening in my local environment, whatever. I do not want to have to think of what to say next.
I like my own space. And I enjoy walking on my own. Sometimes I think about how to solve problems, sometimes I think about what to cook for the next meal, and sometimes I just look around – appreciating life. A chance encounter is fine, and I’m happy to exchange a few words. And then resume my journey.
Because that’s life in a way. A journey that you make on your own, with, if you are lucky, a few fortunate encounters on the way.