I've had a very strange night. Earlier this evening, I went out to do my usual Starbucks and Somerfield run, and got chatted up on the way by a guy who works at Somerfield. That, in fact, was the main gist of his chat-up - that he'd seen me in there. He triggered my internal weirdo meter, but I hoped that was just cultural differences (I'm guessing he's Asian) and he was only being friendly. In any case, I managed to shake him off when I went into the station to check the cost of going to Brighton on Saturday.
I went to Starbucks for chocolate milk and a cake, and then into Somerfield as I needed to do some shopping. I saw that the aforementioned guy was on the check-out as I walked in. Later, he was arranging jars of pasta sauce as I walked past the, er, pasta sauce department. He said hello, and that was innocuous enough. But then he decided to follow me around the store, asking questions as he did so. Previously he'd asked where I lived (a reasonable question - perhaps the people in Somerfield were wondering whether their regular customers were local people or people coming through on the train), which I answered with a vague "just round the corner", whether I worked (again, a reasonable question) and where I worked (I said "London"). This time, he wanted to know what I was studying, which I replied to with "Physics", and then if I was doing A-levels! It was that last bit that totally threw me, and I was so shaken by it that I left the shop without buying half of the things I'd gone in to get.
I realise that some of the people who read this might be in the position of wanting to chat someone up, so I thought I should go into some detail about why this freaked me out so much.
Firstly, all this guy did was ask me questions of a reasonably personal nature. Where I lived, whether I worked, where I studied and what I was studying. (Thank God he didn't ask the awful "Where are you from?" meaning "You don't look English".) I intensely dislike people who either do nothing but ask me questions, or nothing but talk about themselves. Both are creepy. If you want to get to know someone, it's much better to talk about neutral topics. For example, this guy could have asked me about my food preferences (eg. noticing that I was buying vegetarian things), and it wouldn't have felt half as invasive.
Secondly, I find it weird to be chatted up by someone I don't know. I usually end up in a friendly relationship with the staff of shops that I go into all the time, sometimes with mild flirting, even. But these relationships take time to build up. The guaranteed best way to give me the creeps is if I've never spoken to you before and you give me the Spanish Inquisition.
Thirdly, chat-ups based on false information are the worst of all. I've mentioned lots of times how much I hate people assuming I'm Spanish or Italian, and asking me 20 questions based on that assumption. This time, the thing that freaked me out was the reference to A-levels. I was 17 when I did my A-levels! Most people do them by the time they're 18, unless they go back to college as mature students. Here was a man who was signficantly over 30 chatting up a young woman that he had assumed to be 17 or 18. Ugh. I know people who are happy in age-gap relationships, but those will almost certainly have been based on introductions through mutual friends. The concept of a that-much-older guy chatting up a teenager made me feel cold inside.
I hope that helps - I feel too creeped out to think about it any more. I wonder how long he's been watching me? I never really notice the staff on the check-outs in supermarkets. Surely if he keeps seeing me in there, he must have seen me with Richard? I don't know. Ugh.