“You must get really fed up…” A very, very, very popular strategy used by the approacher is to cast themselves in the role of the non-typical fan. This of course is the most popular method and casts them therefore as utterly typical. They will say something like ‘I expect you get really annoyed by people coming up to you…’ as if they are not doing exactly that. A very, very well known friend of mine once actually called the bluff of this social pretence, which was excessively naughty of him. It went like this.
Fan: You must get really annoyed by people coming up to you all the time. Fameboy: Not at all. The only thing that really annoys me is people coming up to me and telling me that they expect I get really annoyed… Fan: Well, fuck you then! (exit huffily)
Fan became ex-fan and my friend spent the rest of the decade kicking himself, for he is not usually rude or mean.
It is obvious and wholly understandable that when people approach you they want to present themselves as separate from the herd: they are not aware that the more they attempt to be different the more they are in fact identical. When I had a crush on Donny Osmond I was convinced that if he could only get to know me he would discover that I was so different from everyone else around him that he would understand how we were meant for each other. This is Stance A, the Standard Defining Fan Feeling, and covers the beliefs of all fans from obsessive to faint admirer.
Unique Opening Line As far as I’m concerned, I really don’t expect people to be original, and if they were all to say ‘I expect you get really annoyed…’ (which they just about do) I honestly wouldn’t mind. Better that than cudgel their brains for some unique opening line. It’s common for the Unique Opening Line to be something surreal about biscuits if it’s a teenage boy or a comment about the shoes/tie one’s wearing if it’s a girl. I don’t know why, but there we are. I report as I find. What I dread most, however, is the Arcane Factoid.
The Arcane Factoid Now that does happen from time to time. Because of QI I’m very often asked a trivia question along the lines of ‘what’s the name of the plastic thingy at the end of a shoe-lace?’ in fact I must have been asked that particular question at least 20 times. I’m not exaggerating. It’s one of the class of facts that people believe they are the only people in possession of. Aglet, by the way, is the answer, though as we geeks know, aglet has another meaning too. As if you didn’t know. Naturally there are plenty of questions that I don’t know the answer to, and this allows people to go off happy in the knowledge they have bested me and that I am not the font of all wisdom that I never said I was. ‘I bumped into that Stephen Fry in Waitrose and he never even knew the name of the dog who found the stolen World Cup’ or whatever… If not a factoid a muddle-headed origin. ‘Did you know that the V-sign comes from the archers at Agincourt?’ I have given up replying, ‘no I didn’t know that, and the reason I didn’t know it is because it isn’t true.’ People like to believe their derivations and origins, no matter how wrong they are.
Sample dialogue Now this is all beginning to sound as if I’m contemptuous of the people who come up to me in the street. I’m not. I’m genuinely not. The huge, vast, enormous, colossal, gigantic majority are kind, sweet-natured, friendly, unobtrusive, understanding and delightful. I’m merely sharing the experience with you as best I can. The fact that people say the same kinds of thing does not make them predictable, dull, foolish or uninteresting. Those who try and come up with something completely original or who fish for some connection (‘my father knew your doctor’s accountant’s sister-in-law’) are more tiring and more of an intrusion into one’s day, certainly. It would be dishonest of me to deny that and you wouldn’t trust me if I pretended that I thought all people were equally good company. You’d think I was a dick. Charm should be rewarded. In the end I it works best when both sides recognise that it’s a social dance and want to get it over with as quickly as possible.