Bitter Betty And The Importance Of Business Cards

Erm ... At least Betty got a number! Original Photo: TheTim/Flickr, moderated under CC license

I discovered the downside to business cards soon after I got my first one. Handing your card to someone, while seen by most people as a networking gesture, comes across to some as an invitation to swamp your phone or email inbox with flirty messages. Nevertheless, the guy I met last Saturday could really have done with a business card.

I was at one of the trendy pubs near Primrose Hill with my friend Patricia. She had dragged me out with a promise that she wouldn’t try to set me up with anybody, which was a welcome change after a week of failed set-ups, which my girlfriends had subjected me to after the unexpected breakup with Gustavo. So I got slightly suspicious when Patricia’s phone rang and she told the person at the other end which pub we were in. Her boyfriend, Pete, was in the neighbourhood with a friend, she said. What a “coincidence”.

It immediately became clear that Pete’s friend was somewhat of a character. He walked straight to our table, sat down next to Patricia and introduced himself as Shaun, while Pete was gone to the bar to get drinks. Shaun’s eyes were fixed on Patricia – he didn’t seem to notice me. He wore an unbuttoned yellow-and-red Hawaii shirt, with a blue UCL T-shirt underneath. His hair had been bleached a while ago, and the roots had grown out to make his hairdo just a little too long to look put together, but a little too short to be long in the sexy way. He turned his upper body 90 degrees to face Patricia as he leaned forwards and asked her what her name was. “I’m Patricia, and I’m Pete’s girlfriend!” she said and leaned backwards away from him.

He then did a reverse 90 degree turn and faced me across the table. His eyes looked at mine with such an intensity that I had to look away. He put his arm across the table, not quite far enough to touch me, but in a way that made me feel that he gave me all of his attention. “What’s your name?” He asked.

I felt uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure why. He was still staring. His eyes were brownish-green and half covered by his half-long, half-bleached hair, which he kept throwing back with a sudden sway of his head, only to look back at me with even more intensity. He asked me what I did for a living, how I knew Patricia, where I lived and a couple of other questions. At every answer I gave he nodded attentively and looked at me as if I was telling him the real location of the Holy Grail.

Creeped out by his gaze, and furious with Patricia for setting this up, I took my bag, excused myself and walked across the room to a table where a lone man was sitting. “Please play along with this,” I told him and gave him a hug and a cheek kiss. He looked startled and didn’t say anything. I sat down, made myself comfortable and started talking about my day. At the corner of my eyes I could see Shaun get up from his chair. He got closer, but stopped at one of the pillars in the middle of the room and stood still. I tried to concentrate on the guy in front of me, who was actually rather handsome and seemed to find my monologue funny.

Suddenly, my new, involuntary companion looked up behind me with an uncertain expression and a frown, almost like he was trying to apologise and look tough at the same time. Rather cute. Then I felt something land on my lap. A postcard. When I looked behind me, Shaun was on his way back to Patricia and Pete. The card was one of those free postcards you can help yourself to in pubs, with different designs on the front and some advertising at the back.

On the back of the postcard, he had scrawled some big, clumsy letters: “Betty, I think you look nice. I‘d like to get to know you better”. Underneath it he had written a phone number and signed it “Shaun”.

But the front of the postcard is what’s been keeping me awake at night. It was greenish black with a big, gothic-looking tombstone in the foreground, and the letters R.I.P on the stone. Readers, if you have experienced anything creepier than that, I’d really like to hear from you!

I’ve quite possibly just met my first axe-murderer! Or strangler. Or basement monster. I’ve spent a couple of nights imagining what kind of killer he is, but for sake of my own sanity I have decided to believe that he just didn’t think about the front of the card he chose. If he had thought that far, surely he would have picked the card right next to it with two vintage bikes on the front, or, perhaps the one in the bottom row with red hearts – just a thought.

So I haven’t exactly been resting in peace lately. I’m toying with the idea of calling the police. But Patricia says Pete has assured her that Shaun is alright – he is just “a bit different”. I told her to tell Pete to give Shaun proper business cards for his birthday.

Speaking of business cards, I made sure to leave one for the handsome stranger in the pub. It has no references to death, so hopefully he’ll drop me a line.