Stopped by a Stranger on Campus

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I didn’t intend to make another post so soon, but something happened earlier this afternoon that I have to process, and I thought it could be worth sharing.

Today (May Day in Ireland) is a bank holiday, meaning there wouldn’t be any classes at the university even if they hadn’t already finished for the semester. This also meant that the campus would be pretty empty except for the few students finishing up finals.

I was heading to campus to meet up with a couple friends I had made plans with, and I had already passed a couple of campus buildings when I was randomly stopped by a guy walking in the opposite direction as I was.

He came up to me and asked, “What are we doing?”

This was not someone who I knew or someone who knew me, and I was confused.

He repeated the question a few times, and I finally responded by asking, “Are you asking what I’m doing?”

He then said something along the lines of “No, my beard, what do you think?”

I think I responded by saying something like, “It’s okay,” because I was not in a position where I could form an actual opinion on this guy’s beard, and I wasn’t sure what he was looking for.

But he started stroking his beard and persisted with “What do you think? Do you like it? Should I cut it off?”

And once again I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I just said, “I don’t know.”

I guess he wasn’t satisfied by that answer, because he started asking, “You don’t know? What do you like?”

At this point, I was quite anxious to leave. Not only because I didn’t want to keep my friends waiting, but also because I didn’t feel comfortable in the situation. However, I didn’t want to just walk away, because I would feel a bit rude and I was afraid this guy might just follow me if I did. So I tried to stay polite, hoping the conversation would end that way, and kept responding with, “I don’t know.”

He was getting more insistent, saying, “You don’t know what you like? You know what you like.”

So I tried again, saying, “No, sorry, I don’t know.”

After that he sort of steps closer, almost like he wanted to start whispering, and he says, “I think I know what you would like. I bet you’re into like, did you ever see any of those vampire movies?”

I was getting more creeped out, but I answered truthfully, telling him, “No, not really, I’m not into those.”

But he wasn’t really listening anymore and insisted again, “No no, you are. I think you are.”

I really wasn’t sure what to say anymore, so I just stopped responding. I was still a bit hesitant to walk away because I didn’t want to be followed, though I was only about a minute away from where I needed to be.

The guy didn’t seem to notice and sort of started to ramble, saying stuff along the lines of, “Yeah, everyone likes those vampires in the movies, the ones who go around and suck blood and stuff.”

He repeats more of the same a few more times, particularly the part about the vampires who suck blood, and he keeps trying to get closer like he wants to reveal a secret. At this point, I could definitely smell alcohol on his breath.

His rambling suddenly switches course to something more like, “Oh, but we all do it, we all suck blood like the vampires.”

That switch made me very uncomfortable and I decided that I should try to leave if I could, so I took a couple of steps in the direction I was heading in. I was worried at first, but the guy seemed satisfied after he got that last confession out. He said something close to goodbye and continued in the direction he had been going in.

I’m honestly still not sure what to make of it, and the more I think about the situation the more confused I get.

The direction this guy was coming from could not be mistaken for anything other than the campus, but he didn’t seem like a student. He was also seemingly intoxicated and might’ve been coming from the student pub, but I’m not sure if it was open, or if it lets anyone other than students in.

I also can’t understand why he would stop me, or what the point of the conversation was. A friend suggested that it might’ve been a weird attempt at flirting, but I was wearing a baggy hoodie with the hood up, covering my face, and I don’t think that he could’ve seen me very well before stopping me.

Which leaves the possibility that he was looking to stop any random stranger that he passed, and then ask about his beard? And somehow switch the conversation to vampires?

Unfortunately, I likely won’t ever have any answers, and I’ll just have to accept that there are people whose behavior can’t be explained.

I think the experience is also particularly striking because I’m not used to existing in a space where so many also live. For perspective, Galway, with 80,000 people, is a relatively small city by most people’s standards. It still has twice the population size as Burlington, the largest city in Vermont. A few of my friends responded to the story by simply commenting on how that’s how it can be in cities sometimes. The sheer range of people you might encounter is shockingly different.

The image included is a picture I happened to take earlier in the semester of roughly the place I was stopped, with the building in front being my destination.