Mechanically Separated Chicken.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Six Metres of Separation.

People I've been six metres (or less) away from recently:

1. Will Smith. Proximity: two metres.

I was walking along Bourke Street a couple of weeks ago, looking for a bank, when I suddenly found myself into the midst of a throng. The tram tracks in front of the Village Cinema were cordoned off and the sidewalk was brimming with a crowd of people all standing on their tip-toes. Remembering that Will Smith was in the country to promote Ali, I decided to hang around on the off-chance; he's never been a real favourite of mine, but on the plus side he does wear good suits, has a certain grandiose, self-lauding charm, and has worked with Donald Sutherland. More than anything else, though, the idea of unexpectedly running into a Movie Star while on my way to the bank was pleasantly surreal.

The crowd was four deep, and when he finally arrived I couldn't see a thing; instead I contented myself with shouting "Six degrees of separation!" and "Jiggy! Gettin' jiggy wit it!". He ran around (or at least I assume he did, since I couldn't see him) yelling "Woo!" and "Aaaaali!" and other Will-isms.

Finally, he seemed to go inside, and the crowd, bored, dispersed.

But. A few minutes later, he came out again, and this time I happened to be standing in front of the velvet rope. He was running around in the middle of Bourke Street flanked by two impassive bodyguards, flinging around a few more "Woo!'s and yelling Ali quotes, and then he started to run towards me along the barricade, slapping hands and dishing out high-fives. I stuck my hand out for some Will-lovin' but he stopped about two metres away from it and swooped back into the cinema foyer.

So I never got me no Will-slappety-high-fivey-love.

I turned around and went to the bank. Later that night, at a friend's birthday party, I responded to the question "So, what did you do today?" with the answer "Nothing, really." The whole incident made a big impact on me, evidently.

2. Mark 'Chopper' Read. Proximity: less than six metres.

Since Chopper moved back to his old stomping ground in Collingwood, he has taken to shopping at the fruit and veggie shop right door to the one I work in. He was there today. I didn't actually see him, but a friend of mine who works at the paint shop around the corner was buying grapes in there and found herself bumping botchily tattooed elbows with him. So, if you measured the distance between the two of us at that moment (ie. through the wall separating us), you'd come to the conclusion that today I was less than six metres away from an (alleged) superstar murderer. Good for me.

3. Anonymous Peeping Tom. Proximity: One and a half metres.

This one's arguably the creepiest.

Some back-story. My previous house (which I moved out of two days ago) had an alleyway running alongside it, which my bedroom window opened up onto. My bed, meanwhile, was positioned right next to said window. Sometimes, on hot days, I even opened the aforementioned window. Not the safest arrangement, I'll grant you, but there you have it.

Anyhow, a couple of nights ago at around two in the morning, I'm sitting on my bed talking to a friend on the phone. With the window open. We're talking, and my eyes are kind of unfocussed, and I'm not really looking at anything in particular. We're talking about my friend's boyfriend, more specifically about his bad sportsmanship: a few days previously, they had indulged in a round of the Chinese board game 'Go,' which she had won. He, apparently, had not taken it well.

Meanwhile, the part of my brain that processes visual information is obviously clicking slowly over in the background, because as I'm talking to my friend, I gradually become aware of some movement in the darkness outside my window. I see a shape, like a large black bowling pin bobbing back and forth in front of the street light.

And then I think, No. That's not a bowling pin.

That's a head.

The head of a man.

Standing outside my window.

Of course, I'm thinking aloud this whole time, so I'm saying to my friend on the phone "Well, y'know, games can bring out some really primal reactions in people, because they put us back in that old childhood mindset about failure and the... hey... what's the... hey hang on a... sec there's a... there's a... I think it's a... MOTHERFUCKINGGUY OUTSIDEMYWINDOW!"

At which point I stick my head out my window and yell "HEY!" at the guy who is now running very quickly towards the street.

Now, you know all those horror films, in which the lone woman goes down into the basement - where the Ominous Scratching and the Putrid Stench of Death are emanating from - calling "Hello? Anyone down there?"

Well, I am that woman, because the first thing I do is say to my friend "Hang on a second," put down the phone, open my front door, walk out of my front door, and go into the alleyway. Luckily for me, he wasn't there; I'm not sure what I would have done if he had been, but I was mightily pissed off, and that may have given me the edge in any mano a mano action that may have resulted. Maybe.

Just to clarify, this guy was standing right outside my window, and I was sitting right inside it, so I'd estimate this one at a metre and a half.


Perhaps even less.


For the past few days, I've been thinking about that guy out there, and speculating about his motivation. My first assumption was that it was purely opportunistic voyeurism; in other words, he just happened to be using the alleyway as a shortcut late at night, suddenly found himself outside the window of a woman engaged in conversation, and stopped to listen, fascinated by the overlap of public and private.

Then I thought, was he casing the joint? To steal stuff?

To do something?

And then I thought, well, was he wanking?

I prefer the first and last options, since they involve him wanting to be out there - and the wanking thing doesn't faze me in itself since I've been exposed to a number of times in my life and (with one notable exception) have never found it to be threatening. At worst, it's sad; at best, entertaining. One day I might even tell you about my numerous 'stranger-spontaneously-decides-to-show-me-his-penis' experiences. The simple fact is, however, that I'll never know what this particular guy was doing out there - and since I couldn't see his face properly, it's even possible that I might run into him at the local milkbar, engage in light banter about the lovely autumn weather we're having, and never realise that it's him.

That would be nice.