Porridge and mean spirits

Goodness me, that was the single most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s two hours ago but I am still shaking and feeling some weird mixture of sickness, fear and violation. I don’t even know if I want to type it as I don’t want it to stick to my brain but I also need to get it out.

So, this morning in Richmond… I hopped off the bus there as I often do on my way to work in the mornings, and despite our healthy LCHF approach lately I decided to have porridge. Walked into Pret – FYI the makers of the Best Porridge in the World – but when I got to the heated shelves there was nothing there. Not to be deterred I queued up, as surely they can’t stop serving their super yummy porridge as early as 9.15am? As I was nearing the front of the queue, a girl behind the counter called me forward. However, just ahead of me to my right there was a woman (I can’t type ‘lady’ here for reasons I shall go on to explain) so I went “excuse me” as she was obviously there before me. She didn’t appear to react so I tried again “excuse me“. Nothing. So I tapped her shoulder and she turned around like I’d hit her. The look she gave me was one of disgust. I gestured to the counter and the free spot “I think you were before me“. Perfectly polite, just as you would behave in a situation like that.

And that’s when it started to get very weird.

She kept looking at me in this really strange and intense way. When she slowly walked up to the counter, her head was almost the whole time turned back to me, staring that awful stare, her eyes really boring into me. I mean – she was really STARING, this full on glare that was full of hostility and something else I can’t quite define but whatever it was, it was something dark, ugly and mean spirited.

I first just thought it was odd but ignored it and then went up to ask for my precious porridge. Yep, there was more coming, so I paid and stood to the side to wait. Then, in the corner of my eye I can see her so I looked up. She was now stood at the opposite end of the counter from me, still STARING. She had a hot drink in her hand so I don’t think she was waiting for anything like I was, then again, perhaps she was after some porridge too. No idea, but this was when I went from feeling uncomfortable to quite unsettled. The guy who had served me apologised for the wait, told me it’d be a couple of minutes and how about I take a seat and he’d bring it over. So I walked across first to grab a spoon and then get a table. Crazy woman has got her unpleasant stare fixed on me the whole way, turning as I walk past her first to the spoons and then to the tables.

Now I wasn’t just unsettled anymore – this was when I started to feel very, very frightened and threatened. This wasn’t a “friendly” stare, if such a thing even exists, this was hostile, mean, dark. I went to sit down but of course I was by then physically shaking. I tried my best not to look at her but when I did glance back she was – you guessed it – still staring and as we got eye contact she tilted her head in this really scary way. And I made a very swift exit, not waiting for that porridge I’d already paid for. I was shaking so much that it was actually difficult to walk, heart thumping like crazy.

You could kind of tell that this person perhaps wasn’t all there, it wasn’t normal behaviour. Over two hours later I’m still feeling shaken up and want to call B to pick me up as I don’t even want to leave my desk now to go to the loo, even here in this house that’s surrounded by tall brick walls and sturdy gates, six bus stops from Pret in Richmond. I swear I thought she’d come after me and I wouldn’t be surprised if later today on the news there are reports of a mentally ill individual going berserk in Richmond town centre. Seriously.

Easily the most unpleasant experience ever and I feel tearful and scared still. Want to go home, but don’t want to be on my own. OK, so this woman doesn’t know who I am, where I live or where I work, but she somehow managed to terrify me to the point where my heart rate is still off the scale. Oh, and I’m not just making that up, and looking at my Jawbone app you can see the exact time I had the encounter with crazy woman – at 9.30 my heart rate hit 112 beats per minute. My heart rate when I’m running is lower than that. I’ve been sitting here since I got in, and currently my heart rate is 74 bpm. My normal resting heart rate is 55-60 bpm.

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Perhaps those porridge carbs just weren’t meant to be.

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