Jane and I were headed to a metro station that we had not been to before. As we waited across the street, I studied the area. There did not appear to be the usual large multi-escalator entrance. Instead there was a small elevator door tucked away in a bit of an obscured corner. I watched as small crowds waited for the elevator. Around the corner of the elevator, facing the street, was a young heavily tattooed man sweating and lounging on the ground. He was not wearing a shirt and was stretched out on his side with his head propped up on his hand. Above him was a cardboard sign like street beggars might have. Hand lettered on the sign were these words: “A good lay for too little pay.”
Surely that doesn’t mean what it sounds to me like it means. I wondered about the man but he didn’t appear to be bothering the people waiting for the elevator. By the time we crossed the street, however, everyone else had made it down to the station. I pushed the button to request the elevator and waited. A few feet away, there was a painted panda statue. I told Jane to stay put and walked over to take its picture.
As I walked back, the man looked up at me. “How many pictures of that did you take?” he asked.
“Three,” I replied. “It’s a big enough memory card that I’m not too worried about it.”
He looked at my camera bag and I began to get a bit nervous. I returned to Jane and pushed the button again. Surely there’s too many people about for him to try anything… then again, this corner is a little bit hidden. About then, I saw him stand up. I glanced at Jane and wondered what I should do. He leaned against the corner of the elevator and looked me over.
“Excuse me,” he said, “I find myself attracted to you. Are you attracted to me?”
My mind descended into a cold calm as I considered my options. Ignoring him did not seem like an option. A gentle demur did not seem likely to end the discussion. A polite affirmative would undoubtedly bring on further advances. I felt that a negative response, no matter how politely put, might anger him.
“I’m married,” I said in a firm voice, looking him in the eye, “I don’t make it a habit to discuss who I am or am not attracted to.”
Silence hung between us as he parsed what I said. He finally asked, “Did you just tell me to f**k off?”
The possibility of danger was still present in my mind but I did not feel particularly afraid. “I suppose so,” I answered, “but in a nicer way.”
With that, he returned to his lounging location. I pushed the elevator button a couple more times. Jane turned to me with her eyes as wide as saucers. I began to consider whether we should leave the area. But the nearest metro station was a mile away, uphill. Soon an older gentleman approached. Finally, we had company.
“Does this go to the museum?” he asked.
“This is an elevator to the metro station. Where are you trying to go?”
“Oh. I was told the zoo was this way.”
“Ahh,” I said, “You want to go on up the road. It’s that way.” And with that, our sane, likely safe companion thanked me and headed in the direction I pointed, leaving me alone with my twelve-year-old daughter and a mildly threatening man.
Before I could decide how much attention to pay to my concerns, a large, strong-looking man arrived. What I wanted to say was, “Hello! You look big and strong. Will you be my protector? That guy over there is making me nervous.” Instead, I struck up the conversation with, “I’m starting to doubt the elevator is ever going to come.”
With that, we began to discuss the elevator and the weather and we enjoyed each other’s company until the elevator took us down to the metro and we parted ways. Jane and I sat down on a bench, looked at each other, and laughed.