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Task A disturbing event … The Haircut

It was not really disturbing or dramatic: just puzzling.I study in the library and have my favourite seats. Sometimes, by moving from one task to another I occupy more than one. We,those of us who use the library as a workplace, are an unintroduced community: we know each other but not as individuals, just as one of the people who sit in History or Literature.. If we met outside I doubt we would recognise each other.

That Friday I put my blue bag on a chair in History and went to Religion to check something ; it was lunchtime before I returned. It had gone. We do not steal each other’s bags in the library,so I looked under the chair,under the table and at another table in case I had mistaken my seat.. A woman I recognised,and who apparently thought she recognised me, said,’You came for it.’ Now that was the puzzle. Had another man looking like me taken it? Or had I taken it and simply forgotten? I don’t know which I found most worrying. Did someone pretending to be me steal the bag (which by the way contained a birthday card and a copy of The Times …..not much by way of loot), for how could I have forgotten; and anyway if it was me what had I done with it? I went for lunch.

On my return, a librarian approached and to my surprise produced my bag.What surprised me most was that she knew it was mine ie made a connection between me, one of dozens in the library, and the bag.
“A man handed it in,”she explained.
“Did he look like me?”
She looked me up and down.
“I suppose he was dressed a bit like you.”
I knew my blue M and S jumper and jeans were not very distinctive.

I put my bag on the seat from where it had been removed,noting the woman was no longer there. But was that her at the next table? She showed no sign of knowing me,so perhaps not,although an elderly man there smiled at me.
That,however is not the end of my story. How many people are there that I should recognise and don’t, and also how many look like me?
As if to follow my train of thought a young man stopped by my table in Costa to say, “Hi! Did you enjoy the lecture?”

Sudden doubts! Did I know this man? Had I been to a lecture? No. I said he must be mistaken,and with a smile and a wave he passed on.

Then further down the coffee shop I spotted another man looking at me.Was he about to reveal I had been on the same holiday as he or borrowed his newspaper? I looked away. A second glance ...and he was still looking my way.

I stood up to leave,and only then realised the man in the blue jumper and with untidy hair was me.

I tried glancing unexpectedly at myself in the bathroom mirror.Was that really me:
that middle aged man with untidy hair? I resolved to have a haircut,so at least I might recognise myself and buy a new jumper so I could be distinguished from other people who looked like me.

On Monday,as I put my bag on a favourite seat,a girl,who I could have sworn I had never seen before,said You do look smart! You’ve had your hair cut.!”
“Thanks,” I replied. “I’m Julian”.
“Sophie.” she said,and smiled.