It’s the height of tourist season in London, and rarely a day goes by that I don’t assist a lost traveller.
I thought my experience with the Japanese kid I directed to a Bureau de Change last year would be hard to top. After I’d shown him the way, he told me I was ‘Very Handsome Man’, and asked if he could take my picture. Flattered, I submitted to an impromptu photo session which was conducted with a surreal amount of seriousness and lasted an awkwardly long time.
This morning, walking up Whitehall on my way to work for perhaps the 500th fucking time I was stopped by a rotund Indian man who asked ‘Where is the Big Ben?’
I pointed at the famous landmark in plain view, reflections of the sun glistening from its magnificent golden form and said, ‘It’s right there’.
‘It’s not very big, Big Ben!’, he said.
‘Well, we’re about a kilometre away from it. It’ll look bigger when you get there.’
‘Why do things look smaller when they’re far away?’
I thought about it for awhile. Beads of sweat began to form at the base of my spine as I realised I was unable to articulate a satisfactory response. I’ve got an A-level in Physics, for fuck’s sake. Why is this so difficult?
‘Well, um, it’s the angles, isn’t it? Think of, um, imaginary triangles…’
Matey smiles, shrugs and wanders off in the direction of the famous clock tower. And yes, I know Big Ben is not the building but the bell itself, I just didn’t feel like punishing a tourist with pedantry.
This illustrates one of the many reasons I’m never having kids – I couldn’t handle relentless questions beginning with the word ‘why’. I’d muddle through for a while, but the day would inevitably come that I’d drop to my knees, screaming ‘All I know is that I don’t know!’ over and over again until paramedics were compelled to inject a sedative into my neck and wrestle me into the back of an ambulance, never to return to the land of sanity.