Okay people, it's official, I attract freaks. I am a weirdo magnet. A perv vaccum, if you will.
Yesterday morning, as I made my way from the train station to my office, making the usual shortcut through one of the many buildings at my work, I nodded hello to the man I cross paths with almost every day at the same time at the same place. Nothing out of the ordinary there, except that today I was alone and it seemed to be just what he had been waiting for.
This man, who I will name and shame as Manuel, is undoubtedly over 45 years old, a couple of inches shorter than myself (and I'm 5ft4, so any man shorter than me is...well, very small), balding, fat and has these vile saggy bags under his eyes that are so big that they seem to shake when he talks. Gak!
Normally he and I will exchange polite 'bonjour's and 'bonsoir's when we pass one another, or rather, I smile and greet him politely and he leers at me with his big eye bags wobbling about, his eyes taking in my entire body before they meet my own. But on this day, as he saw I was not with my friends as I usually am, he pounced.
"Bonjour," I called as I walked by him. He looked at me from head to toe and back again before finally meeting my eyes and replying in a slow, pervy manner, "Bonjour, jeune fille".
Gak! I thought to myself.
As I walked on, I heard footsteps behind me and realised with terrifying clarity that he was, in fact, following me. I turned my head and yes, there he was with his little legs and his big round stomach having trouble keeping up with me. He grinned at me. "I don't even know your first name," he called.
I paused for a moment, threw him a forced, tight smile and told him.
"Leensieee?" He pronounced slowly. "Comme l'institut*?"
"Uh...sure." An awkward pause and then, with a slight wave of the hand and a nod of the head, I turned to walk away.
" Wait! Come and have a coffee with me."
"Oh..." I hesitated. "I can't, I'm, um, late." And I was late, it wasn't a lie. But even if I hadn't been late I would have lied because there was no way I was putting myself in any situation where there could be a risk of funny business with this numpty. But all of a sudden the wee man had his arm around my waist (I'm sure had he been taller it would be around my shoulders but evidently he couldn't reach that high) and before I knew it he had dragged me towards the coffee machine and had shoved a cappucino in my hands.
I sighed, what else could I do but drink from the cup? I resolved to drink very, very fast, not even flinching when I burnt my tongue.
"My name's Manuel," he said, not realising that I hadn't asked to know his name, nor did I want to know it. I nodded in response, gulping the cappucino, feeling the hot liquid scold my throat as it made it's way for my stomach.
Manuel decided to make small talk. He asked me where I lived and how I came to work. And then, when the conversation came to a screeching halt he said, "ahh it's such a pleasure to drink a coffee with a young, beautiful lady."
At this point I scrunched up the plastic coffee cup and threw it in the bin. "Well, I better be going now," I said. "Thanks very much for the coff -"
"Do I have the right to get four bises every morning to say hello now?" He asked, his voice hopeful. Four kisses on the cheek every day? Was he serious? My stomach flipped, my cheeks turned hot and I had no idea how to say no without coming across as a total bitch. I mean we didn't even know each other, had never even had a proper conversation until five minutes ago. And as I was humming and hawing, giving off signals that I definitely did not want to have to greet him with kisses, he lunged in and planted four revolting kisses on my cheeks, very close to my mouth. He smelled of coffee and cigarettes and pervy old man. Gak. Gak gak gak!
My stomach lurched and I pulled away. He grinned at me with his lecherous mouth and I turned and left, feeling violated and revolted by what had just happened.
In the evening, I found myself walking from the office, through the site on my way to the train station alone again and decided that in order to not bump into Manuel I would take a detour, which meant coming out of the site, going through the tournequets, crossing the train line and walking along a quiet road leading to the other side of the train station. Despite it being a lot more hassle, I decided that I would rather walk 100 miles out of my way just to avoid Manuel and his forceful, pervy pervyness.
As I walked along the road, all of a sudden a white van slowed down to a crawl beside me. He began speaking in fast French, I couldn't understand what he was saying, and assumed he was asking for directions. I began to explain that I was new around here and that I couldn't help him and then it clicked. He was coming onto me!
He winked, and said "je peux avoir ton numero de telephone?"
I could not believe this! Two in one day? What was going on? Full moon?!
I shook my head, said "non" as firmly as I could and began to walk on. The guy in the van inched forward to catch up with me and said,
And then, all of a sudden, as if out of nowhere, a Gendarmerie (police) car pulled up in front of him and three policemen got out! Oh my God, the shame! Suddenly I felt like a prostitute. I felt as though I was some sleezy hooker hanging about and the van man (who I'm also naming and shaming as Mohammed) was a client! I was mortified!
I hung around for a moment because I didn't want to run off in case it looked suspicious. The three gendarmerie looked at me and greeted me with a nod.
"Bonjour mademoiselle." One said.
"Bonjour." I replied, my heart beating a billion beats per minute. I surveilled the three policemen as they walked past me and opened the door of the van. With a silent sigh of relief, I understood that I was not going to be needed, and began walking quickly to the train station where I would meet my friends. But not before I overheard one of the gendarmerie men asking the van man why he had stopped and what did he think he was doing hassling a young girl.
So yes, it really is official. I am one of thse unfortunate people who attracts weirdos and freaks and pervs. And there is nothing I can do about it except become someone who doesn't feel guilty if she simply ignores someone. I must fight the very British urge to be polite at all times.
Well, either that or find a new route to and from work.
*In France there is a very well known institute called L'insee. Or, in it's full glory, L'institute National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques. It just happens that in French my name is pronounced the same way, which means I get many a French person making a pun about my name, thinking that it's amusing when IT'S NOT.