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1:21pm on Saturday, 7th January, 2006:



I saw Louise in the shop today.

My wife commutes to London, and I pick her up from the station and take her home. Nowadays I just sit in the car, but when our kids were younger we used to go and wait inside the station building. My wife always seemed to contrive to sit somewhere on the train that meant she was among the last people to reach the exit. I thus got to see every other passenger on her train as they emerged, and got to recognise the regulars. One of these was Louise.

I know her name is Louise because someone shouted it out to her once. After finding it out, I picked up a lot more information about her through observation. I discovered her surname, her address, her profession, ...

I stopped waiting in the station some years ago, but I still occasionally see Louise around in Colchester and I go into Sherlock Holmes mode to update my information. I know she has a cat, isn't married but has had a succession of bad-choice relationships that have gone sour, that she has elderly relatives still alive, ...

Yes, it's creepy isn't it? This is all from seeing the same person around Colchester once every year or so and my curiosity. It's easy to see how stalkers can fill notebooks with detailed observations regarding the victim of their attentions.

Louise isn't the only person I know things about when they have no idea I even exist. There's a man who worked in a shop that sold celebrity autographs and offered a high-quality colour copying service (guess what he went to prison for?), a bank teller who used to work on the foreign exchange counter, a couple who used to be on my wife's train who got married and now have children (two boys), and another commuter who works in the IT industry.

As to why I know about them and not other people, well, the answer is pure chance. Of the thousands of people I encounter, I'm bound to come across a few in out-of-context situations. It could have been anybody, but it happened to be them. It's not just people, either: I know more than I ought to about places like Lake of the Woods and music like Respighi's Ancient Airs and Graces number 8.

I wonder if there's anyone who knows unusual stuff about me whom I don't know exists?

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).