I don't know why but I seem to have a lot of encounters with the mentally unsound, ranging from the dotty to the stark, raving mad ones. They just gravitate towards me like moths to a flame as if I'm wearing some billboard sign declaring in bold print "Come Talk to Me if you're MAD." Probably cause deep down, you're a little mad yourself, Anthony declared when I asked him this question. Right, very insightful.
I know, they're really ill and they can't help their actions or what they do. We shouldn't blame or overtly ostracise them. But it's always easy to analyse it dispassionately from a distance but when you're actually caught up in the situation or worse still, the focus of their attention, all you're thinking at that moment is "OHSHITOHSHITOHSHIT, MAD PERSON XIAAAAAM! SHOO!" while desperately looking for potential avenues of escape should he/she go berserk and in the absence of any object on hand to clobber the person should he/she go ballistic.
I've had tons of experience but the 'oh shit' feeling never goes away, especially if their attention is focused on me. I've never been very emphatic as a person and when in such a situation, the welfare of the said mentally unstable person who is addressing me isn't my top priority, mine is. So I've experienced a lot (thankfully none that ended up in physical violence of some sort being inflicted), from the usual ramblings and incoherent but insistent mumbles directed at me by the _____(insert rough age and sex) on/at the ______( place: train, bus stop, etc) to violent yet comical outbursts against inanimate objects by the mentally unstable to the threat of real damage to personal property by a mad woman.
The most memorable and sustained display of insanity was a very very public one by a young indian man way back in Secondary 3 ( I remember cause I was doing my homework for Chemistry on the MRT when the noise roused me from my reverie). This chap suddenly started raising his voice like one would in a heated quarrel. Annoyed (because I could hear it over my enya), I looked up only to see other gawking passengers and an otherwise perfectly normal indian man yelling and shouting, wagging his finger at.... the metal post. You know the vertical metal pole in your average train, this guy was yelling at it and cursing it with great gusto.
Getting over my shock, I rapidly settled into Spectator mode (cause thankfully this was one of those 'Free Show' kind of displays where you are (very thankfully) not the protagonist) and picked up what he was yelling. Because his english wasn't too terok, it was quite easy. The cursing basically amounted to a fight over telling the 'Pole' to stop staring at him and that if it was not happy it (the pole) should get 'the motherfucking hole' out of the train and 'never to let me see your motherfucking face' again. Whereupon he started kicking the pole quite viciously.
I'm sure someone (perhaps) was quite ready to call the train driver (but then again maybe not, it was pre-911 then and that chap was obviously a looney, and being Singaporeans we just think 'Oh free show, watch lo.' and we do.) Then the guy suddenly stopped and lowered his voice while bending close to the pole as if listening attentively. 'Huh, what did you say? No money to go home?' He growled. Before bellowing, "I don't care, don't give me this kind of fucking excuse. You think I'm stupid!!?" Vicious kick to the pole. "Stop crying!" Kick. "You better stop crying!" Kick.
Pausing he continued smoothly. "I don't care! Next stop you're getting off and getting the fuck out of here!" "No Money? I have!" Fishing about in his pocket, he digged out twenty cents which he whacked the pole with a resounding thunk. "Here! Twenty Cents! Go take Taxi home! Go GO!!!" That loony yelled whacking the pole even harder. It was just at this time that the train pulled into Toa Payoh station and the doors opened. The guy stomped to the entrance of the door and waving his twenty cents menacingly out of the train, yelled," And don't you ever come back again you mother fucker cheebye. I see you I will whack you!" A lady who had been waiting outside the very same door turned green and scooted away faster than you can say xiam. Not that I blamed her. The mad guy got off at the next stop ( and everyone in that carriage studiously avoided looking at him during the remainder of his journey) and that was that.
But the worst by far, probably because on hindsight there was a very real chance that the mad lady would have smashed my laptop, was the relatively recent incident at Funan Delifrance. I was waiting for Sean for dinner, so since I was a little peckish I figured Delifrance would be a cheaper even if less pleasant alternative than TCC. Which proved to be a bad choice. So I ordered my crossiant, sat down and since I had the laptop with me, made good use of the free wireless internet.
Shortly after, this fat puffy bleary eyed woman, her hair grey and dishevelled came up to me and said, "Can I have $2.50?". I barely spared her a glance, took it all in one look and uttered the standard, "No, sorry." and went back to surfing, imagining she would obediently disappear like all the unwanted hawkers usually do. She didn't. "Can, I have $2.50 please ?" She asked again, rigid and immobile, the particular emphasis on please like it was some magic password. " No, sorry" I replied, emphasis on the word sorry just to show her 'please' had been considered and rejected within the space of 1 nanosecond. She didn't react, but only repeated the question with the exact same emphasis.
Which bothered me somewhat, this didn't seem to be the average harmless dotty potty. I didn't bother replying this time and studiously avoided making any form of eye contact. "But I already said PLEASE, why won't you give me?" that mad fat woman raised her voice and slammed her hands down on the table giving the laptop (and me) a jolt. Annoyed and aware that silence didn't seem to have the usual deterrence effect, I looked firmly into those flashing twin orbs and said NO in the firmest voice I could muster, all the whole looking out from the corner of my eyes, wondering why the hell the Delifrance staff was blissfully ignorant to this unfolding drama.
"But I said please already and you still say no. How can you be so bad!" She continued angrily while muttering some incomprehensible mumbo jumbo under her breath. At this point, I decided that firmly ignoring her was the best option because switching tables didn't sound so good as I hadn't finished my crossiant yet and god knows what she would have done had I stood up and turned my back if even for a while. So I did, focusing hard on my yahoo mail while she hovered menacingly over my laptop screen. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she muttered what sounded like dialect profanities and moved away to harass other people.
On hindsight, there was the very real possibility that she might have gone berserk or simply just smacked the laptop screen with the same force she slammed the table. Which would mean $2k plus down the drain. I guess I should be thankful that she didn't, though if she really whacked my laptop, I would have gone berserk and probably bitch slapped that woman to the high heavens, mad, mentally unstable or not. No one messes with my laptop.
So yes, sad to say mad people seem to have some particular affinity for me, either that or I'm just unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time too many times. From the harmless: the shrunken middle aged guy pointing to the milo offer in the bill board outside Shop n Save and laughing uncontrollably in a wheezy asthmatic kind of way, to the bizarre: this fat (yes another one or possibly just pregnant) lady in white bursting into church during the worship session and shouting Devil be gone! Demons be gone! as she advanced to the pulpit before being subdued by panicky ushers and pronounced to be 'possessed' by the pastor, to the comical: that indian chap and the pole on the train, to the scary: being the focus of attention of a mad fat lady who thinks please is a magic word and with the potential to go berserk.
Hmmm with all this exposure, maybe 50 years down the road, you'll see a blabbering idiot seated in the park, drawing signs in the air who offers imaginary coffee to you and that could be me. Choy! Hammers wooden table violently.