I had one of the most interesting experiences of my life the other day. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I had just finished touring the beautiful Wallace Collection, which is a short walk from the always busy Oxford Street.
I stopped to grab a sandwich before making my way back for school pick up. At the cafe, I asked a woman if I could sit in the empty chair at her table. She appeared to be almost finished, so I wouldn't cramp her space for long. She picked up on my accent and asked where I was from in her heavy European accent. When I shared that Chicago was home, she correctly mentioned that there are a lot of Polish people in Chicago. She was absolutely correct that Chicago has one of the largest concentration of Polish people outside of Kraków (at least the last time I checked it was true).
Then things got weird.
Her small talk turned into a puzzling rant about the images that are burned into her retinas. Apparently she was also tested by the doctor, and the results indicated that she emits some amount of megahertz. And she knows that there are people on the street that are paid £100/hr to watch her. They pinch her and put tags on her arms.
I had no idea what to say. It was clear that engaging in further conversation would only prolong the awkwardness. My best bet was to get out the situation as quickly as possible. I was so very thankful that I had my earbuds with me, and I told her I needed to make a phone call. As I plugged in the earbuds she asked that if I talked to her doctor I could tell him that she's ready to sign the contracts. Then she took her belongings and was out on the street.
This whole scene lasted approximately three minutes. The statements she made were something that I've only seen on TV, and even some time after the encounter I am still shaking my head about it. The thing that struck me is that from the outset nothing appeared odd when I sat down. I've seen my share of lets say, interesting folks in London, and I've got a pretty good radar for when to steer clear. This lady didn't fit the mold at all. At the end of the day, I hope the woman finds peace in her days and the help she needs to stay safe.