One repetitive lesson at school during the 80s became condensed into the catchy as ‘stranger danger.’ The advice was ‘don’t talk to strangers.’ I remember seeing (either a short film at school or an advert) in which a man pulls up at school and tells a young girl he has been sent by her mother to collect her; even though she recognises him she won’t go with him, so the advice went beyond accepting lifts from strangers. Even those you know might be deranged lunatics.
There is some humour to be had with this. There’s the old joke about a young boy, wearing an old pair of welder’s goggles, arms out-stretched playing Biggles: a car pulls up and the man asks the boy some sexually suggestive questions. The boy apologises and confesses he’s not a real welder. The other one has the car pull up and the man asks the boy ‘If I give you some sweets will you come in my car?’ The boy replies ‘If you give me the packet I’ll come in your mouth.’ The only defence for such jokes is that joking about serious things can be the sign of a serious mind.
When the David Bowie movie, Labirynth, was released, I went to the cinema to see it with a friend.
The auditorium was near empty, as I remember, and there was a woman sitting by herself waiting for the movie to start. She offered to buy us both an ice-cream. We knew – as 11 or 12 year old boys did – that you shouldn’t accept things from strangers and we had seen plenty of posters and short films advising us what to do if approached by a stranger. She asked if our parents were around. We replied no, we were by ourselves, and she changed seats to come a little closer. The offer of ice-cream was repeated and we both – being clued-up and educated – duly accepted her gratis cornettos and stuffed our faces. I think the offer then moved to some other kind of sweets or drinks, but we declined at this point, I think. Perhaps the mood shifted in the wrong direction?
I don’t want to make more out of this than was actually there, though who knows? She was probably harmless.
I did have an encounter with a male human round about the same time in one of my town’s amusement arcades. The encounter started with the same approach – the offer of a gift. This time the offer was money to put into the game machines. Again, being smart enough to not be too dumb, I accepted several goes on this or that machine, but the last game he paid for was when more than the mood shifted. I decided I actually needed to get away from this person because he was far too friendly and tactile for my taste. Arms round the shoulders might be bearable for a freebie, but leg-rubbing, quite high in the thigh, is probably pushing it. I made my excuses and left and caught sight of him as I left the area, wandering up and down the street looking into the arcades for who knows what.