You know, I really should go back to Geneva one day, because I feel like I just had weird luck while I was there. First I got really lost and found myself almost completely unable to communicate with anyone.
Then I feel like I almost got kidnapped by a giant chess player.
Yeah, that’s totally the reaction I wanted.
Okay, so I was wandering around Geneva during my visit, taking photos and getting a feel for the city, when I came across this cool park:
It was near the main theatre/opera house, and when I saw it, it reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, so I hurried to see what was going on.
It was totally enchanting. And don’t even get me started on the gorgeous colours. I got lost in the moment and started taking tons of photos.
“Hey – adkjdhaskgdajhdwjugfeyvfbbkajbakxzzhUKGEVASHGhbkbqwudbakjda.”
That was French, spoken too quickly for me to catch any of it. But I could glean from tone and hand gestures that the Giant Chess Player speaking to me was curious as to why I was taking photos. I tried to mime to him that I was just photographing the game pieces, and not their faces or anything.
“Uh, no, it’s – the game – je ne parle pas Français – pardon…er – ” I started to walk away.
“No, no!” shouted the Giant Chess Player, “You can – eh – watch? The game? You watch, that’s fine.”
And then I felt obligated to stay and watch the whole thing. Now, as I’ve said before, I can understand quite a bit of French (when it’s being spoken at a reasonable pace), so while I stood there, I listened to the Giant Chess Player’s friends egg him on about a girl watching his game. They started calling me ‘Oiseau’ because of the bird tattoo on my neck, and then there was some word play I didn’t catch, but it sounded saucy. It made me a little nervous.
When the game ended, I smiled and waved and started to leave the park.
“Hey – wait! Wait!” The Giant Chess Player was after me again.
I stopped to look at him. His friends laughed and made comments. I felt nervous again. The Giant Chess Player straightened his tweed blazer and reached out to touch my arm.
“Eh – I would like to take you for a walk maybe? Around the park – if you like?”
(My internal thoughts: STRANGER DANGER!)
“Oh, I have to get going – my friend is waiting for me!”
(For the record, my “friend” was my BFF Margaret – and at the time, she was in Morocco with her boyfriend, Tim.)
“Please, come – we will – eh – walk? Together? I would very much like to – er – spend time with you?”
“That’s very nice of you, but I can’t. I’m sorry! My friend, she’s waiting. I have to go now.”
“Can I take your number? I would very much like to take you out – er – later? Maybe this evening?”
The Giant Chess Player was getting pushy. But he was very kind.
I assessed the situation.
I was in Geneva – a city I wasn’t having much luck in – and I was by myself. I considered the logistics of telling Margaret that I was going on a date and making her call me later to check in. I considered telling her to call the police if she didn’t hear back from me by a set time tonight.
Then I realized I was thinking about what my friend would have to do if I were kidnapped and/or murdered in a foreign country and I thought, “Hmm, better not.”
What followed was an extremely long conversation, in which I tried to convince the Giant Chess Player that my phone didn’t work in Geneva, so I had no number to give him, and that I really had to go because my friend was waiting for me, and we were leaving Geneva the following day for our next trip. He asked where I was headed, and when I told him (WHY DID I TELL HIM?!) he suggested we meet up in Portugal in a couple weeks. He said he could come find me, and maybe meet my family.
That’s weird, right? I don’t think it’s just me. I think that’s weird.
The Giant Chess Player was getting very pushy, and I was getting very uncomfortable. I finally got him to leave me alone by accepting his phone number and promising – PROMISING – to call him that night.
When I left, he followed me down the street for a while. Then someone he knew called his name and he reluctantly took off in the other direction down the street.
I never called.
That was the day I learned that maybe my paranoia is the reason I don’t tend to meet many people while I’m travelling, but with my track record, it’s best to trust my instincts.
P.S. Maybe the Giant Chess Player was a really nice guy, but he wanted to meet my family after knowing me for less than an hour. That’s way too much for me.