Etiquette and Meeting A Lone Lady On A Towpath

Here I was, or there, or even here and there.  Well, OK. On a towpath, walking back quite early in the morning after sampling the local brand of fresh air, lightly seasoned with diesel fumes and a sprinkling of cement dust from some roadworks when I spot a lone lady walking towards me at a current range of approximately two-hundred yards,

I do not like this happening. In the country life is simple. As you pass her you would say, “Vegetables failing again Doris” or “Hi there, how’s your Mum” and with complete strangers a simple, “Bit chilly eh?”  and onwards you would go with, in my case, my mind firmly fixed on a plate of scrambled eggs and some decent conversation with my much loved goldfish, Jacinta. In London things are more complex.

A claxon sounds on the bridge and all senses and instincts go to action stations. “Keep it light, Keeeeep it Light, no panicking among the nerve-endings paleeeese” says our noble leader, who speaks from somewhere in the centre of the brain. Now the range is only 150 yards and you can see she is wearing a nice blue dress, tucked in at the waist with a matching belt. Some reckless molecules from the waist region suggests you say, “Lovely dress if I many say so, and worth discussing over breakfast,”  while remaining out of slapping distance in case your invitation is declined.

Ninety yards and time for sensible suggestions only if we may. Heart rate rising slightly, and a sense of unease evident in thickening neck symptoms.  “Eye contact and a brisk but courteous nod” suggests someone from the earlobes, while other canny folk say, notice something interesting on the other side of  the river and walk past without comment.

Almost too late for strategy meeting now as we approach the twenty-five yard mark. No more suggestions seem forthcoming and a glassy grin, rich in unease and discomfort floods across your face and you open and close your mouth weakly in the manner learned from Jacinta,  who has no wardrobe to speak of, the shameless hussy.

The lady looks at you and is clearly alarmed by evidence of palpitations and mouth flapping, together with some head-nodding to show that, strangers we may be, but we are all companions in the world village apart from some rough-necks on the Ukraine border, a number of folk in the middle east, and other places where head nodding may result in execution.

Still for better or worse, apart from her moving as near to the fence as possible to maximise distance, the moment is over, and a pleasing absence of humans is evident between you and the gate you are seeking. Now all that matters are the eggs and the prayer that you hope to never meet her again.Botched first meetings are always made worse by the clumsy efforts to explain them on re- meeting.

For example. You meet her three days later, and she is getting as near the fence as possible, and quickening the pace. You serve towards her and raise your arm to demonstrate there is nothing to worry about. “I say” you gush, “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you the other day, I was………” Sliding sideways she just manages to get past you and scuttles on at speed. You have managed to create an “incident” from poor planning and your clumsy efforts to put her at her ease.   There is no manual for what to do on the third meeting.

About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
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23 Responses to Etiquette and Meeting A Lone Lady On A Towpath

  1. mikesteeden says:

    Your writing still – unlike many who write – is entirely your own thus making for a good read every time I enter this blog. Great stuff. By the way I see your team have spent big of late – best of luck.


  2. Yes, I really enjoy your style. And you’ve captured here a very intimate human moment. Really nice.


  3. I wonder how many of us have had a similar experience to mirror this story? I’m betting almost everyone and as usual you have captured it in a style that finds me smiling and cringing simultaneously 😉


  4. Brilliantly observed, especially the subtle under-current of mistrust that exists between city dwellers. Your unique style, as ever, shines through, Peter.


  5. Ina says:

    🙂 Thank you for making me smile. I think the best way to say something on first, second or third meetings is to mean it. And then see what happens. ( On my walks I have had lovely conversations with strangers, starting very unoriginally with the weather 🙂 )


  6. “Lovely dress if I many say so, and worth discussing over breakfast,”

    Superb Line! xxx


  7. Scarlet says:

    I don’t think there will be a another meeting… after the arm raising palaver she’ll probably never walk the towpath route ever again!


  8. Lace Winter says:

    Oh, this is hilarious! I really enjoy the way the different parts of the brain and body are communicating, like a ship at sea, and how the attempts to explain the awkwardness only make things worse.


  9. Let’s talk about it …the situation life throws once in a while and you depicted it splendidly


  10. renxkyoko says:

    Very nice. You really have a way with words.


  11. den169 says:

    Just simply very, very good!!!!


  12. genusrosa says:

    So well done….’a pleasing absence of humans is evident between you and the gate you are seeking.’ What an exquisite phrase, and one many of us understand all too well, for better or for worse. Nothing quite as awkward as a solitary walk being inadvertently bisected by someone else on a solitary walk. (btw, has your loyal goldfish named Jacinta ever had her story told? It is clear she has one!)


  13. No thought to ducking the head and pretending you didn’t see her? Aren’t you the eternal optimist.


  14. LOL … brought a smile to my face, which I badly needed today.


  15. Just say hello and have done with it! Easier and less emotional energy wasted. I have thought long and hard about this……


  16. CCKoepp says:

    Oh, yes, first random meetings in strange places are definitely about that awkward. Nicely done!


  17. In these situations, it’s always good to have ear buds. Any awkward head movements and lip flapping can be attributed to real or imaginary music you are listening to. Might be a good third meeting strategy…. Peter, you are such an adept observer of the human (aka awkward) condition! 🙂


  18. gotham girl says:

    You my friend are one very unique writer! Well done!


  19. r e douville says:

    Perhaps turn in walk in the same direction, at a faster speed. 😉


  20. 50djohnson says:

    This was my first encounter with your writing. I came by it as a result of your visit to read mine. Should I go to the other side of the street to reply?


  21. jjspina says:

    Delightful and funny read! Thank you for stopping by my blog and the like. I like yours too!


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