You Cannot Predict The Past From Future Events

I went somewhere one day and did something and met someone. This may seem a little specific, but I assure you it was not – I have rarely had a vaguer experience.

In our city I have often advised people to have a ready response for sudden meetings – because we are bound to encounter people in the street that we neither expect nor want to meet. Faced with them at a corner, knife fight, or funeral, we must say something for the sake of society, and we need to be able to do it straight off.

The first problem is recognition – now the really vile ones – the ones who have been seared into our psyche will be instantly familiar – we need not fear forgetting their names. It is the second-tier types that are the problem – the friends and acquaintances of a decade or more ago that are just becoming a little fuzzy around the edges. Combine that passage of time with a senior’s moment and you can be in real social trouble. You expose yourself for either a fool or a knave, and this can be inconvenient if you have been trying to hide the fact.

I have been known to resort to the Canadian Gambit. Saying things like ” Well, I’ll be darned! Wherever did you get to? ” in hopes that it will distract them. Or if they ask the question first I just tell them I was having treatment in the asylum. And I do it with a straight face and add nothing else to the information. You’d be surprised how people can sweat in cold weather.

Of course there is a corollary to the unexpected appearance and it is the unexpected absence. The person above all persons who you would have expected to be at the graduation, funeral, or arraignment…and isn’t. You have to be careful with this one and make a complete search of the crowd to make sure that you have not missed them inadvertently. But if they’re really not there, you can start a fox and get an enquiry going  amongst the ones who are. Where is X? Why have they not come? Is there something they do not want us to know.? Is it time to search the court and clinical records? Or under the railway viaducts?

In the end, whoever shows up, shows up, and generally the affair does not dissolve into a fist fight. If you are wise you will be closer to the door than most of the troublemakers and can light out at the first sign of knives.

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