Awkward London Moments: An Unwanted Conversation

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 15 months ago
Awkward London Moments: An Unwanted Conversation
Photo Megan Trace

Imagine this: You've just left a meeting and are on your way back to the office. You glance at your phone — 20 unread emails. Better get cracking on those while you’re waiting for the bus.

A voice pipes up. It belongs to the only other person at the bus stop.

"What bus are you waiting for?"

Slightly surprised by this unprompted conversation, you reply, "55".

"Me too."

You give a vague smile and get back to your emails, enjoying the rare treat of a fellow Londoner having a quick and pleasant exchange with you.

But as you're firing off email replies, you can see over the top of your phone that she's still looking at you. She wants more.

Photo Mani Babbar

Sensing the awkwardness, you look up. Big mistake. She seizes the opportunity, and proudly declares "I’ve been shopping!"

What are you supposed to do with that? It’s not a question, so it doesn't warrant a reply... does it?

Sensing this conversation could become a tedious exchange of shopping tips you try to sound as uninterested as possible, offering up a minimal: "Great."

But your lack of interest hasn't registered and she proceeds to rattle off everything she's bought — half of Oxford Street it turns out. She speaks with an enthusiasm that suggests this is the most fascinating list you'll ever hear. She knows this is her moment on Speaker's Corner, and she's not letting it pass her by.

You know you should just interrupt her. But you’re a Londoner and it's in your nature to prefer an hour of awkwardness over even the slightest hint of confrontation. And so you let her continue, as you mentally scroll through your options.

You could pretend to realise you're needed elsewhere and slink off, but the bus is only a minute away, and besides, she knows what bus you're waiting for.

Finally the bus arrives. Photo: Matt Buck

You hope she'll stop soon, but a quick glance downwards reveals she has seven shopping bags stuffed to the brim — and she's going to tell you about every one of them. There's no escape. Your heart sinks. What you wouldn't give to be looking at a spreadsheet right now. Or a nice wall with slow drying paint.

The bus arrives after a very long minute — it seems like an eternity — and you couldn't be more grateful. All those phantom buses of the past that have appeared on the digital countdown screens, yet never shown up, are forgiven.

As you move to board, you notice that our chatty fellow bus traveller could use some help with her many shopping bags. As you consider offering to help, you have a vision of being invited to sit next to her as she breaks out her phone and shares her entire online purchase history with you too.

Better to just keep your eyes focused on the bus and board quickly. You feel ashamed, but then, serves her right for trying to engage in a conversation on the streets of London.

For another awkward situation see the missed pregnancy incident.

Last Updated 05 May 2017