Fine, I'll Tell Him

Some people don't use the underpass on the way to work. They don't save any time by doing this. It's large and arena-like, with indirect paths, but on the roads above they have to wait for a gap in 40mph traffic, and get through it without the help of stop signs or pedestrian pomp. There's a story going round I haven't heard.

A man rapped his head off right in front of us. It tumbled to the front of the stage and was picked up and passed, rhyming the whole time, between three hundred pairs of hands raised high in disbelief. His body stayed onstage in a floor-length black gown, shimmying and jerking with a microphone held to its neck.


I requested and paid for a piping hot sandwich and the man said I'll bring it to you and I sat down. I read the paper given away on raining morning corners by the evangelical ponchos who've lately begun unzipping my coat and tucking it under my armpit while saying paper, paper, paper, you will not live without this news. And you get it indoors and it's three-quarter page adverts for slightly larger phones and pictures of professional disgraces with incomprehensible teeth.
The sandwich didn't appear. I put the paper back on the shelf and tilted my head at the man. He asked if I was the man with the sandwich and I wanted to say no, I'm the man without the sandwich, my popping up here with an angled head ought to make that fairly clear, wouldn't you say, but I just said yes. He said he looked everywhere for me. I told him I was starving to death, and he threw four pound coins one by one at my face, screaming well here's your bastard money back you filthy haddock. I couldn't help thinking his response was disproportionate, and was reassured by the next day's free paper, which contained news of his protracted and gloopy end-of-shift kidnapping, opposite a full-page advert for a better kind of water.


I get emails from Honda. They're glad I bought one, and eager to know if I'm also glad I didn't spend the money on something else, like a degree I might actually use, or a small holiday on an unmapped island, or enough sardines and gas masks to last through what's coming. I haven't read any of these emails, only guessed what they want from their titles and first lines. I don't need to get any more involved in the life of the person they're intended for, who isn't me, who lives a few thousand miles away under a similar name and nearly identical email address. I've been sent his friend or business associate's vacation snaps, featuring a baseball stadium in China with directions and a let me know what you think when you get there. I responded saying I keep telling you people I'm not him, though Google has a little pop-up flag that insists I'm in the intended recipient. I've been invited to urgent-sounding seminars and asked what I thought of the synagogue last week. Now it's a needy car dealer and a Chinese baseball nerd. And I don't want to tell Google it's lying when it says all my messages are for me, in case this either triggers a global knowledge crisis or it says it just doesn't care, try telling someone and see if they believe we could ever make a mistake. I wonder what deluge of astonishing treats intended for me the other guy might be enjoying, while he remarks to his rabbi that his recent Honda purchase has been remarkably hassle-free.