*suddenly becomes self-conscious*

Hey there,

I was in the communal bit of the library today – for those of you non-UCL people, or scientists who’ve never actually been to the main library – which is a small circular area with benches and chairs that people can chat and eat in, safe from the crushing obligation to do work of the library proper.

I was originally going to write a Local Celebrities post about a woman with a bizarre way of using her laptop, as she placed the computer on a chair then sat cross-legged in front of it on the floor, but have decided against such a thing.

Instead of highlighting the quirks of another, I’m going to write about my own quirks; I have gone from the online documenter, to the online documented.

Because I realised, oh too late, that for a good few people there I would be that guy; that person with a particular quirk or trait you see in public, and go home to tell your friends about in a vaguely smug and sneering manner. It doesn’t matter if you’ve cured cancer or fought crime, if you trip over a kerb and squeal reflexively you’ll be The Guy Who Tripped And Sounded Like A Pig to some idiot and their friends for the next hour.

And today, I fell into that category.

I ate some crisps in an otherwise silent room.

Now, I must stress that I wasn’t breaking any rules. Food is allowed in this space, and most of the people around me were eating, or chatting away happily. But then they stopped eating. And the conversations trickled away. Then the footfall of passers-by stopped, depriving me of the cover of even simple footsteps. It was suddenly silent.

*munch*

*munch*

*munch*

*munchmunchmunchmunchmunch*

Frak. I’d so become that guy. I could feel their looks, their quickly-averted gazes as I worked my way through my lunch with increasing hurriedness, that only served to make my chewing louder and more frantic, disruption born out of the ironic fear of being disruptive. One of them probably runs a blog with their middle name plastered all over the URL for no good reason, and they’re gonna write about me on their sardonic, black-backgrounded online canvas.

Perhaps not, but the idea still works; I’ve been more aware of what people think of me in the last few months, and now that self-awareness is seeping into my (albeit limited) interactions with strangers. I’m not cripplingly self-aware – it’s not like I abandoned the crisps as soon as I realised people might be looking at me – but it’s something that’s registering on my mind, whereas in the past I’d have imagined myself in a bubble where there are no other people and I can act as I please.

Because I can’t act as if I’m the most important person in the world; I’m simply not. It didn’t take a packet of crisps to tell me this, but it’s a nice metaphor.

Casey

The Nisa Supermodel

I’ve seen her,

It was a Tuesday night, the cold air drawing itself into puffed columns around my lips and nostrils as I walked into that chilly Nisa, the oh-too-convenient convenience store where I buy bread at a two-minute walk from my house instead of proper ingredients. My purple dodgeball hoodie was pulled over my head like a fabulous, yet serious and athletic cowl, clashing with my dark grey waterproof in what could be a bold fashion statement, or a hangover from my old ambivalence towards clothes that has left me with one too few coats, and one too many garishly-coloured hoodies.

Then she was there, strutting her proverbial, and indeed literal, stuff around the sleepy shelves of that local purveyor of pasta. Dressed in a colourful, panelled onesie, or a jumpsuit, or a body glove, whatever the term is for such a garment of artistry, she was confident, yet carried a skulky, shuffly air about her. Her hood was pulled over her head, her feet wrapped up in white Vans.

Back at it again?

Almost certainly. With her was a pair of onlookers, plainly-dressed, slightly-built men with large spectacles and an expensive camera; they pointed it at her as she crept around the store, a tall woman dwarfing yet not overwhelming the aisles of Super Noodles and OK! Magazines.

They took a photo. She stopped. They looked at each other. She walked back to the entrance to the aisle she had just walked out of, and the scene replayed again, her accomplices bending immediately back into their hunched, camera-toting attentiveness. This repeated another two times.

Then I stumbled into the scene, almost walking in front of the camera as this hoodied celebrity graced the Nisa floors with her presence. Yet the camera’s wielders were unfazed by my aspect, and continued to gaze upon their model, not allowing themselves to be distracted from such an artistic individual by one so base and fraught with wardrobe malfunctions as I.

They took another photo.

As the scene reset itself for a seventh or eighth time, I took my chance. I scarpered across the polished floor, struggling to hold in my arms my precious cargo: two Ribenas, a four-pack of vegan chocolate yoghurts, and a pack of those chocolate-filled Oreos that look like they should be sold only in the event of a national holiday, yet are strangely more plentiful, and far more satisfying, than their white-creamed companions.

I reached the counter, loot in tow, and quickly bought it, and the quiet, stoic man behind the Nisa counter narrowed his eyes and handed my a carrier bag. He was aware of the scene unfolding around us – he possessed greater mental wherewithal than the two camera-cronies – yet was unable to stop it, or breach the barricade of his counter and escape from a backdrop of concealed tobacco and those signs that are all passive-aggressive when they say ‘Don’t be offended if we ask for your ID’; I’ll choose when I’ll be offended, while this poor clerk cannot even choose where he stands.

I, however, had such freedom, and scampered out of the Nisa and back into the cold March night. I shot a glance over my shoulder, and saw the supermodel begin yet another stride down her catwalk, the two photographers stare at her with a strictly professional admiration, and the clerk roll his eyes, evidently weighing up the social benefits of letting a bunch of student photographers shoot in his store, versus the economic drawbacks of forever being known as the owner of ‘that place where the girl in the onesie posed for photos’.

In many ways, such a dilemma is beyond the cognitive mastery of one such as myself.

In many other ways, I kinda don’t give a shit.

Casey