“Do you want me to guide you to your house?” “No thank you. I don’t know you.”

The heading is a brief conversation between me and a woman in my street after I realised I lost my key and my fob that might have fallen off my lanyard when I tripped over. I told the woman about my loss after she and some people she was with helped me up. When she offered to guide me home I felt anxious because I was worried my house support staff would ask me who she was if they saw her. Two similar scenarios happened on earlier occasions. The first was when I was living in the care home next door and the psychologist asked me if I knew a couple of guys I walked past in the street. I said no and I felt annoyed when she asked me because I felt there was no need for her to do that, as if having her invade my privacy last summer wasn’t bad enough already! It turned out the men were admiring the home. The second was when I was walking down my street with my hands full of shopping and a woman asked me if I knew where Lady Sarah Cohen was. I tried giving her directions but she followed me and kept asking, “here?” whenever I stopped. Eventually she followed me onto my property where one of my support staff saw us and she ended up giving the woman directions herself. Luckily the staff didn’t ask me about the woman thereafter. As part of my Asperger syndrome I sometimes get nervous when a stranger approaches me or sits beside me in a public place (with the exception of public transport at rush hour depending on who the person is) because I never know what they’re going to say or do. Below are some examples:

In the summer of 2007 I was in Tally Ho Wetherspoon in North Finchley and a woman asked if anyone was sitting on a spare chair at my table. I said no and unexpectedly she sat there, which made me a bit uncomfortable. Moments later her phone rang, she answered it quite loudly and she asked me to watch her drink as she popped outside. Soon some of her friends arrived and one of them asked if I was her friend. That’s partly why I don’t like strangers sitting next to me in pubs and restaurants. Last summer I was at a food festival in Clapham when I was sitting at a table waiting for my food and a man sat at the table. He said hi and I told him I preferred to sit alone but he didn’t seem to hear because he was looking at his phone. As soon as my food was ready I grabbed it and moved tables where thankfully nobody else joined me.

I have had several occasions where other people approached me in public when I least expected. In January 2010 I was sitting on a bench in Leicester Square and eating my lunch when a man with a book sat beside me. He asked if I was okay and I said yes. He then asked me other questions such as where I lived and if I had a boyfriend. It soon dawned on him that I no longer wanted to speak to him and he continued reading. When I told my psychologist about this situation she put it down to the man finding me attractive and trying to be friendly but he wasn’t really my type probably because he looked older. The psychologist suggested I tell the person I’m not interested if it happens again. A couple of years later I told a member of staff about the same situation and she told me I did the right thing when I refused to tell him which street I lived in.

Some people who approached me or called me over were beyond strange. In October 2012 I was on my way back to university on my lunch break and a woman who came up to me asked if I could help her because she was hurt. I panicked and froze because I didn’t know what else to do and I didn’t know if she was in legitimate danger or not. She admitted she wasn’t homeless or a beggar and pointed out her “nice” shoes to prove it. She then asked me if I had any money for her to get home and asked for my address so she could pay me back. I took out my purse (which I shouldn’t have done in case she’d steal it) and checked but I told her I didn’t have enough money and I also refused to give her my address. She walked away. I didn’t see her approach anyone else so I saw myself as an easy target for her approaching me. In January 2014 I left a sandwich shop on my uni lunch break when I noticed the same woman standing outside. She again asked me for help but having remembered the first incident involving her I told her I was in a rush and began to run off. I looked back and she appeared to be following me but she didn’t go as far as I did. Two months later I went for a walk in my local park before my dance class because I was worried about something upsetting me at home. Just before I left the park a woman with a young child in a pushchair called me over. She told me she noticed me looking scared when another young child appeared to be walking towards me and asked me if I wanted to pray with her to which I did. After the first prayer she asked if I had a phone number to give her but I said no when really I did. She then asked if I ever got disoriented and I told her I did when I heard voices in my head that weren’t there. She proceeded with saying another prayer but she handled my ears roughly during the prayer because she was trying to block the voices out, which I didn’t like, thus causing her child to cry since she was not paying any attention to him whatsoever at this point. Afterwards I phoned my parents and my support staff about the incident but I felt I should have called the police as well. These two incidents have made me be more vigilant in the future as I tried to do in the last two incidents in this blog post.

The first of these last two incidents was when I was staying with my parents in Newport last September and I boarded the bus to their house from town. As I sat down towards the back of the bus a woman touched my backpack I only got the day before and I asked her why she did it. She told me I’d lose things if I didn’t zip it up. I told her to leave me alone and moved seats because I was anxious she’d steal my bag. I texted my dad explaining what had happened and I also posted the situation on Facebook. Some of my friends assumed the woman was trying to help when she touched my backpack. In the run-up to Christmas 2015 I was waiting for my second bus home after bingo quite late at night when, surprise surprise, another woman approached me (it seems as if most of the people I mentioned in this post are women). She asked if she could use my phone because she had no credit on hers and she tried some nearby pay phones but none of them worked. I told her I had no credit on mine either, which was admittedly a little white lie, because I was worried she’d steal my phone but when I observed her using another person’s phone she didn’t steal it. Even though I pretended I had no credit on my phone I felt I deserved a pat on the back for being so cautious.

If someone approaches you in public be careful. They may not be who they say they are, for example the woman who approached me in my uni lunch break and claimed to live in Middlesex could easily have been a homeless person in Middlesex Street even though she said she wasn’t homeless herself.

What would you do if you find yourself in the aforementioned scenarios in this lengthy post? Please comment directly on this post in WordPress or comment on Facebook. Thank you.

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