Wednesday, 17 August 2011

One of those people

Two separate encounters today reminded me that I am one of those people.  It is noteworthy because today I was one of those people in my own city.  Usually I am one of those people when I'm somewhere else and can't help.  No matter where I am, I am one of those people other people approach for directions and advice in the street.  I'm also the person in a queue where a thoroughfare for passing traffic will form no matter where I'm standing - but that's another story.

Within minutes of arriving in a country or a city someone will approach me and ask me "how to get to..." or "where to go for...".  Today, it happened in my own city and the end of the discussion was really interesting.

I was on the tram in the middle of the day having finished a business meeting and as I boarded I overheard two young women talking about whether they should "ask someone".  I smiled at the one wearing the fur coat.  She looked a bit freaked out and then asked "how to get to..."  AND "where to go for..." in the one question.  They were visiting from Sydney and looking for the best non-generic, uniquely Melbourne shopping experiences.  They didn't want outlets, they had money to spend.

I gave them a few ideas including details of which trams to take and where to catch them.  They said they wanted Italian food for dinner - I explained Lygon Street to them.  Nothing extraordinary so far.

Then one of the women asked me if I was available over the next 3 days to be their paid shopping guide!  They were expensively dressed and looked like they would be able to pay.  I checked my diary, but have an acting job tomorrow and a couple of other pieces of freelance work over the next couple of days.  If I had been able, I would have said YES.  Instead, I gave them my card.  Who knows who they are and what they might need but I liked their entrepreneurial spirit.

Having done my errands I was heading to Flinders Street station to catch the train home when a young Asian woman came straight up to me at the traffic lights and asked where Victoria University was.  I knew this one too.  Once on the train, another person asked me to confirm whether this was the right train to catch for a particular station.

But one day in Melbourne I was mystified by the request made of me.  Two girls approached me holding hands and said something in what I can only imagine was a thick Icelandic accent.  When I said I didn't understand in a voice that made it clear I had English as my first language they looked at me as though I came from another planet.  They kept repeating this one word and then just gave up as I frowned and stared and tried to comprehend their question.  They left.  I kept thinking about it.  We met again at the traffic lights.  The penny dropped:

"Backpackers?" I said.  (In retrospect I  imagined the word they said to be spelled something like "byikpyikar".)

They nodded, relieved.

I directed them.

On my Sydney trip a couple of weeks ago I was asked for advice on which train to catch (I had no idea) and also where to find a toy shop (I had no idea).  I was friendly and apologetic and directed them to other places/people whom I hoped would be able to help.

I wonder what makes me one of those people?  I like to think it's because I look friendly and have an air of authority that inspires confidence!  Or am I deluded and we're all one of those people?  It's just a matter of who is nearby.  I've tried to notice and be aware of what the people I approach for help are like, but the truth is, I don't do it often.

Are there other people out there?  Meanwhile, I'm waiting for a call so I can start my work as a personalised shopping guide for visitors to Melbourne.


  1. Ha, that's amazing! Perhaps you just seem very open and warm. And perhaps you're easy to approach because you are a curious person, alive to what's around you, rather than locked down, so people can readily make eye contact. You probably also look pretty fun (hence, the shopping gig - if only that could be a full-time job!).
    I'm not approached regularly on the street, but I am one of those people others seem to wind up telling their life story to soon after we meet.
    They're nice roles to have!

  2. I hope that all the observations you make are true Rachel. I like them a lot. How lucky you are to be the receiver of people's life stories! These are indeed great roles to have.
    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Hey Tanya - I seem to be one of those people too. I don't know why. I try to help, but am often left feeling that I just directed a nice grandma into the woods with the wolf.
    I am also one of those people to whom kids want to talk. That used to be fine when I was younger, and the world was a kinder place - now mothers frown at me and scuttle their kids away, as if to protect them from the stranger.
    And strange people tell me their stories. All. The. Time. Sometimes I love it, particularly when I am travelling, but often I have to consciously block my energy, so that I am not one of those people. Sometimes it is just toooo draining.

    Love your writing Tanya!

  4. Sheryl, I'm sure you wouldn't deliberately send Grandma towards the wolf....although I wonder what directions you gave the wolf?! (I wish we had the interrobang punctuation mark - I would use it there.)
    If we both have "the power" imagine what would happen if we concentrated it? No one would be lost. Ever again. Or else they'd all end up in the same place.
    Glad you're enjoying my work. Thanks for reading.