April 6, 2008

Free-Spirited Acts #15-20; Strange day indeed

This has been a strange, strange day. It started with the Olympic torch relay, which as noted in my previous post, was very strange. What I didn't mention was on the way home from the relay I was crossing the street (J-walking I admit but that's not illegal here in London) and there was a car backing up in the street. I made eye contact with the driver and thought that she realized that I was going to walk in front of her car . That would work in San Francisco where pedestrians have the right of way, but not in London where pedestrians are unfortunate bumps in the road. She drove forward. I was furious and smacked the passenger window. Not very British of me. (free-spirited?) The driver's boyfriend got out and started yelling profanities at me, so, I said that I had made eye contact and yet she almost drove over my foot. "But she f$%#*ing didn't did she!" was his response. I just walked away.

Later in the day I was heading home from taking a London Walks tour. It was a fantastic tour of Little Venice which is one of the canals I love so much. As I smiled to myself thinking about how good the tour had been, I passed four children who seemed to be between the ages of 8 and 10. As we passed each other they screamed at me at the top of their lungs. Yes, screamed at me. I was so shocked (and a bit caffeinated from a Venti Chai Latte) that I said, "F-off! That was not OK." to them. This made them laugh and then say that I was a f-ing bitch and that everyone else thought it was funny. I looked into their eyes, which were covered with metallic green eyeliner and said again that that was not OK. As they walked away I said that some day that would happen to them and they wouldn't think it was funny. They kept pretending that they couldn't hear me as they giggled and inched forward - holding their ears like I was making no sense. Finally we were face to face. I looked at them good and hard and said it again. Of course they laughed and called me a c-nt. The whole experience left me shaky. Was this harassment? Bullying? Are these kids the future? (Read my recent post on bullying on my other blog Career Goals: Take the Lead).

I share these two scenarios because I have to wonder - is there some kind of different vibe I'm giving off lately? To balance these situations out I've also had many pleasant interactions today, more talking with strangers and making eye contact than my entire stay in London thus far. Perhaps I'm making myself more accessible? Maybe I'm preparing for my return to the States in May and am becoming more American in my behavior? Is it that I'm starting to become extremely free-spirited? Probably a combination of all.

Free-spirited acts 15-20

15. Danced around the flat when I saw the snow this morning.
16. Went to the Olympic torch relay and took photos.
17. Smiled and chatted to people at the event (again, not-British behavior).
18. Waved at the relay participants despite the overwhelming police presence and the fact that everyone else was waving protest banners.
19. Spontaneously participated in a walking tour of Little Venice canal.
20. Chatted with the tour guide and other participants and even learned some people's names (un-British to the extreme).

What I've realized in doing these 20 free-spirited acts is that I am already a very free-spirited person and everything I've done since Thursday are things that I would normally do anyway. However, I've become more aware of them and at times even a bit uncomfortable with my free-spiritedness. I'm certain this discomfort is magnified being here in Britain. In San Francisco I would just blend in with the street furniture.