Hell is other people. Specifically, these people.
The bus acquaintance
You met them at a house party six months ago (or was it a work thing? Or Tom’s birthday?) and have even less to say to them now, on your way to work on a Monday morning, than you did back then, off your tits on rum. You’re going to have to think of something sharpish, though, because you just made eye contact for a hundredth of a second longer than you should have and they’ve just flashed your oh-fuck-it’s-that-guy-from-that-thing smile right back at you. Your tactics are clear: make a series of dull observations about traffic until they reach for their newspaper. That, or hit the emergency door release.
The racist cabbie
Having got you on side with some fairly innocuous bants about the weather and Boris Johnson, the man with the dark green bulldog etched onto his neck senses he’s found a kindred spirit and decides to road-test some rather more niche political opinions. You should obey your principles, immediately end the journey and storm off without paying to find a less xenophobic mode of transport, but instead settle for a series of noncommittal grunts while pretending to send a text and declining to tip. He’d only spend it on swastika wallpaper or something.
The suspiciously cheerful Pret employee
You’re after a low-effort, medium-budget lunch, they’re after a new best friend. You mumble something about rain or sunshine or wind as you frantically jab your PIN into the card reader and make a mental note to start making your lunches at home. No Posh Cheddar baguette is worth this.
The guilt-tripping chugger
‘Heyyyyy! Nice glasses dude! D’you have a minute to talk about starving baby seals in… no? Okay no problemo dude, how about just stopping and sending a quick text to… You’re late for a lunch meeting? Okay well enjoy your sandwich while those seals starve to death dude okay byeeeeee. Heyyyyy! Nice jumper dude!’
The urinal chit-chatter
Quite why some men decide that moments of self-exposure present the ideal opportunity to strike up conversation with a stranger we’ll never know, but they’ll generally follow a set pattern and are easy to deflect. If it’s about football, the answer is ‘well, yeah, overrated, ain’t they?’ If it’s anything else, simple bellow with laughter before initiating an emergency shake-off and exiting post-haste. Ladies, you don’t know how good you’ve got it.
The phone contract negotiator
Having spent a good five minutes in front of the mirror psyching yourself up, you ready your best Gordon Gecko impression and make the annual call to Orange. Half-way through the conversation, you realise you’ve never actually seen ‘Wall Street’ and resort to demanding an obscenely large quantity of free minutes for an absurdly small monthly fee, else you’re switching. Eventually, your bluff is called and your contract terminated, triggering an instant anxiety attack. No birthday text for mum this year.
The disappointing second date
The first encounter was fantastic, and as you knocked back cocktails so expensive you wouldn’t even consider them in the presence of someone you’ve already seen naked, you could barely hear each other speaking above the sound of all the clicking. But at the first real hurdle – a stone-cold sober encounter in a bijou coffee shop – they’ve suddenly gone from George Clooney to George Osborne in the charisma stakes, and a double macchiato certainly isn’t going to put things right. You’ve got two options – feign a sudden caffeine allergy or decamp to the nearest pub. But decide quickly, because he’s just started talking about his gap year.
Here’s our list of the top ten things not to do in London.