How many times have we avoided those people who on the outside seem different to us, only to find that when we do meet them, there is no difference on the inside?
I had the pleasure of experiencing one such event recently.
I am on the train reading, sitting with a woman to my right and two men across the aisle. At the next station, he gets on, and I recognise him, even without seeing him yet. I can tell by the noise he makes, all a little dramatic, who it is (he is that one person that most people wish to avoid), and he sits diagonally across from me.
I have seen him a few times before, and he dresses in large amounts of pink. Pink t-shirt, jumper, trainer laces, etc., he has a pink pen, brolly, scarf and hat, in his bag, even his folders are pink. Anyways he sits down, looks at me, in my pink shirt, the lady next to me who is also wearing a pink blouse, and then he declares, “Hey we are all wearing pink”, so I look up at him and smile, so does the woman, well sort of, and we all continue doing what we were doing before.
He then says, “How about we make this section for only those who are wearing pink?”. So we laugh again and get back to what we are doing. At which point the guy across the aisle from me, says, “I have pink in my scarf, which again gets a smile going, then the guy opposite him says, “I have pink in my tie”. More mirth and we declare the whole of our area just for those wearing pink.
At the next stop, this young lady gets on, mid-20s I think, and sits down in OUR area. The man in pink starts looking at her, and when he has caught her attention, he asks her if she is wearing any pink. It is so funny, I am starting to laugh inside, still not quite as inhibited as he is yet. She says no and looks at me with THAT look, the one that says, “OMG who is he?” and he is sitting next to me….I just smile at her.
She says, No I don’t”, at which point he explains the situation and starts to offer her a pink scarf from his bag, bless him! To which she kindly refuses and gets back to her reading. She then says she thinks that pink is for girls, not boys, to which he lifts his pink jumper to reveal his pink t-shirt which has “Real Men Wear Pink” written on it! Brilliant and just priceless.
A few minutes later, she gets out her phone and starts to write a text. At this point, the guy next to me says, “Look, she has a pink phone”, which gets all of our attention and we all smile. I say, “Aha, maybe she is a closet pink, and only now does she feel safe to reveal it.” Everyone starts to laugh, it breaks the ice a bit more, and there is the odd comment or two afterwards, and all very funny.
He explains that he wears pink every day except Monday, when he wears blue, because it’s Blue Monday, of course, what else J
Nearing Paddington, the man in pink gets up and walks down the aisle. I get up and follow him, standing just behind him. Throughout the journey, he is busy, always moving, can’t sit still, he wants to talk, but with our being British, it is not the done thing on the train in the morning, or in fact at any time. I have pretty much changed my opinion of him since he first got on and I am convinced he is not who I was earlier judging him to be.
So I say to him, “You have so much energy, you can’t seem to sit still.” (not in a critical way, but said as more of an observation) He said he does have a lot of pent-up energy, and then tells me it is 9 years, 7 months, 5 hours and 20 minutes since his last drink! I express my admiration for what he has achieved, and ask if he works in the creative field, to which he replies, “Sort of”. So I offer, “Maybe music?”, to which he replies that he is. Turns out that I am talking to Mark Jones, who started his career as a reasonable successful musician, and was the founder of record label www.wallofsound.net which comes up 8 years next year. Mark also created BBC Radio 6’s programme Back to the Phuture in 2009 www.backtothephuture.net
We continue to chat down the platform and end up talking all the way to Charing Cross, where we exchange cards (which after looking at mine he decides to colour my blue shirt in the picture, pink!) and parted company. What a really nice guy.
As I surfaced in Trafalgar Square I was just shaking my head and laughing out loud, it was both funny and lovely. I knew I had learned a lesson.
It just goes to show, appearances and the judgements we make are all pretty rubbish. So who is normal, the person who wants to talk, wants to make people smile, connects, creates community, or the rest of us, who sit quietly, pompously, separate and alone, too frightened or conditioned to open our mouths?
Makes you think eh!