I have been traveling cross country in my singular person for both work and play. I am equally at ease with the idyllic calm of a vacation paradise, the murky pollution of the metros to the confounding obnoxiousness of our small towns. There is absolutely nothing that will change my unperturbed state. Not the horribly delayed fights, cheating cabbies with no sense of direction, check-in assistant who gives you window when you specifically ask for aisle seat, security lady who feels you up with glee, hostess who despite your explicit request wakes you up to ask if you would have vegetarian or non vegetarian meal, pesky co passengers who unapologetically ask for your refused share of airline food, hi-tech bath fixtures of hotel rooms that leave you dumbstruck, TV remotes that compete with a missile launcher in complexity, Nothing bothers me. Except the men.
If you are a woman who travels solo, then you are already aware of the perils this species pose. So far no antidote has worked. Trust me I have tried. I don my abandoned wedding band whenever I leave for the airport. I have tried to look dour and dreary. I have buried myself in a book to escape. It hasn’t worked. Usually it begins innocuously enough. ‘Traveling to Bangalore?’ ‘Is the flight on time?’ ’I heard there is an airport strike from midnight.’ ‘How is this book?’ Then comes the obvious ‘You are traveling alone?’ ‘Where are you staying?’ followed by the unmistakable offer for coffee. No thank you. I don’t want to share my book, coffee or space with you.
There’s the on-your face-type, who wouldn’t think twice before asking a completely strange woman ‘Join for coffee?’ ‘Can I drop you home?’ And then there are smooth operators that probe with stealth. ‘I like your choice of book’ Like Hell! For all I know you have a lifetime subscription of Penthouse. Anyway do I look like I care? These subtle types are the most dangerous. Before you realize it they would not only know your birth chart and family tree but your vital stats as well.
Now, the tragedy of this whole thing is that I am not the glam-doll-Page3-wannabe type that one would feel an uncontrollable urge to talk to nor the attractive young things that are ubiquitous at airports these days or the dashingly smart woman executives who are out to prove a point. More often than not I am lugging my monstrously heavy laptop and wearing a grimace for an expression. Unless you are telling me that men of all ages like to chat up scowling members of the opposite sex, please enlighten me on what’s going on.