On the train heading home from the city a couple of weeks ago, in the company of my friend, I had a peculiar conversation with a young woman named Kelly.
We were chatting away, I can't recall what about, when I heard a loud voice say "Excuse me." It wasn't late enough for the carriage to be empty, nor was it early enough for it to be packed with peak hour commuters, so this 'excuse me' could have been directed at any of the dozen or so people in the close vicinity. It could have been, but it wasn't. My peripheral vision told me that the interrupting voice was trying to get my attention. So I did what anyone confronted with a stranger trying to get their attention while on a semi crowded train would do. I ignored her. I quickly realised this wasn't going to work. This stranger was relentless with her "excuse me's." At least she was polite. On the third "excuse me," young Kelly added a "Love." Well, that was it, this little charmer had me. I turned toward her to find her eyes focused intently at me, a funnel of piercing concentration.
"Are you Italian?" Kelly's voice was more booming than I had first noticed. "No" I said. Right, that would put at an end to all this train carriage nonsense. My abruptness would surely convey my disinterestedness in continuing the conversation. Right? Wrong. "What are you then?" I hate this question when it's asked like that. What are you, like I'm some kind of brand or something. "I'm Australian" I say with a forced smile. "But what are you really?" Oh Brother. Kelly was opening up quite the conversation. I sensed that the other commuters were starting to enjoy the little performance. I became aware of more eyes peering out above crinkled pages of raggedy books and of inconsequential low volume conversations gradually coming to a distracted lull in anticipation of what would play out next. Yeah, what are you really? I felt all their eyes ask me. They were all inviting me to play. "I don't actually know" I said. Ha! They wouldn't have expected that. What would happen now? I hoped that it would perplex Kelly into silence. It served to perplex her, that's for sure, but it peaked her curiosity. Fail.
"I think you're Greek!" Good on ya Kelly! You got it on the second, I thought, somewhat impressed. But then she quickly followed with "Or Czechoslovakian." Way off. A very short pause for reflection gave Kelly new determination and confidence. "Sweetheart, you're Greek!" Bingo. I couldn't help but smile. Kelly then proceeded to tell me that I should look at Ancestry.com to confirm this. I glanced suspiciously around looking for a hidden camera in the carriage. Could this girl be for real? I assured her that I would make the necessary enquiries (not in those exact words), hoping she'd finally be bored enough with me to let me loose. But of course she couldn't - she was on a roll. She was solving the mystery of my lineage all by herself, no Watson required. "You're Greek. Either your Mother or your Father is Greek" she said to me with glimmering eyes. Her insight was incredible; I tried not to laugh. "It's either your Mother's Mother, or your Father's Mother."
The next stop was ours. It was like the rescue helicopter had finally found me after I had lit up all my flares. Relief. We collected our belongings and moved to the carriage door. Guess who joined us? ;D