Yesterday, I began a conversation with a stranger:
Me: “Do you draw?”
Man: “No, not really! But I do kind of scribble drawing with my kids. They find it kind of funny.”
Me: “Scribble drawing?”
Man: “It’s when you scribble randomly and try to make a picture from it.”
Me: “Show me?”
Mum and I were on our way back from London City Airport (love the place). We had spent the day in London for musical purposes. The evening was mainly happy, with the exception of losing my newspaper puzzles and leaving the Marks & Spencers Smoked Salmon, Mixed Nuts and Olive Bread in the hotel room. The worst combination to lose I believe. Not only was I hungry, but I could not finish my Sudokus!
I wailed to Mother about the loss of our treasures and then she bought a glass of crisps. (I can’t believe I just wrote that…) I mean, a glass of juice and some crisps. I tried to match the high quality Chemistry revision I had achieved earlier that day, but sadly failed.
Being a Friday, the plane was full and there was the shrieking baby who was yanked from his plane-chair climbing. Me, being an absolute pig, asked for a savoury as well as a sweet snack along with my juice. I decided to make the most of my time; I didn’t have anything apart from my pens and my paper. I ‘revised’ by method of scribbling-anything-you-can-remember-from-your-classes. Reflecting on what I was able to write down – not very much – I really need to revise more. I followed this by listening to my Mum’s light-hearted instructions or prompts: drawing really great pictures of little friends and animals. (I warn in advance that the Maths formulae may contain errors, but I refuse to check them.)
I don’t think I’ve ever been bored on a 55 minute flight, but on this occasion I was. As a result of this, I tried to subtly analyse who I was sitting next to. Tall, grey-haired male, in business suit with nice knitting in his white shirt, iPad, classy silver and black cufflinks, very nice nails(!) and I did not detect one, but I assumed that he might have been wearing expensive cologne of some brand. His actions revealed boredom: he switched on his iPad momentarily and then put it away, he looked around frequently, he flicked through the in-flight magazines at an astonishing speed.
I felt like saying something to him. Mum and I ended up having 2 savoury snacks and 2 sweet snacks between us, so I said to him,
“Would you like some more?”
“You’re very kind! [didn’t take any]”
Then there was an interval of plane-engine.
The following probably wouldn’t have happened without my Mum. We talk in Mandarin in public places. She suggested that I ask the gentleman beside me whether or not he could draw. I waited for suitable moment before asking and the conversation began as shown at the top of this post.
The man was very polite, quite possibly the loveliest man I have ever met at a first encounter. He chose the black pen from my (best stationary purchase ever) coloured felt-tip pen set and flicked to the back page of my Puka-pad notebook. He scribbled fluidly. He observed what he had created. He viewed the scribble from different angles by rotating the notebook. He re-instated lines in which he visualized an image. He shaded a few areas and then presented this as the final piece:
At first, I couldn’t make out the image because of the other ‘distracting’ parts of the scribble. But then, I saw it. I never thought I’d be so impressed or amazed by that kind of thing, but it was wonderful. Everyone in the world is artistic even if they appear to be a stereotypical serious, business affairs sort of man. He drew another two:
As he was analysing a scribble, I silently picked out shapes that I would create as my image. They were never the same as his.
For the rest of the journey, I talked to this charming gentleman.
I told him about what I did as a student; I learned about what he did. He said he enjoyed the “peoples side” to his job but found a lot of the meeting content rather boring. I related that to some of my opinions on being at school – without the meetings and conferences of course.
He asked me about what I wanted to do in the future and I told him “not music”.
I said to him that I was going to be playing in this concert in the BBC Proms. He admitted his only exposure to classical music was “ten minutes of BBC Radio 3 on my way to work each morning”.
(…That was probably the blandest way to type out a conversation.)
The man had never been asked to draw in the course of his entire business flying history. He seemed rather happy and grateful that I made one of his plane London journeys a little bit different from the rest. He definitely made mine a journey to remember.
I never even found out his name.
Have you ever had a unique encounter with a stranger? Was it someone you wouldn’t normally socialise with?