The Most Unpopular Person I Have Met

It turns out that not everybody likes to be popular. I don’t understand it and yet I know one person who I believe is the most unpopular man I have ever met. I’ll tell you about him.

His name is Wayne and we went to school together. In those day he didn’t seem interested in, well, anything really, especially other people. However, he did manage to get through his exams although not with good grades. He certainly was a loner even then, mainly because he never smiled and he always saw the worst in everything and said it! However, of course, one person loved him unconditionally, his Mother. Every year upon her birthday he used to leave school and go home a different way so that he could, “Pick up some flowers for Mum”. I always used to wonder at how thrilled she must have been on that special day to receive a sign of her son’s devotion. I also marvelled at how he could, once a year, suddenly show such emotion.

Unfortunately for Wayne, when he was sixteen years old and had just given his Mum yet another quite exceptionally beautiful bouquet for her birthday, there was a knock at the door. It was a group of young children who told his Mum they had seen him stealing the flowers from the local graveyard. One very tearful child explained, “That’s where my Nan has just been buried”.

I do not know what happened that night in his house but I do know that he never gave his Mother flowers again. I also know he came to school the next day saying, “I know what I want to be when I’m older. A primary school teacher, so I can make all the young kids I meet miserable. I want revenge”.

This didn’t really make sense to me but from that moment his hatred of younger children never changed and 3 years later he did indeed start training to be a teacher. On the odd occasions we met and talked I gathered it did not go well. He once told me about the pleasure he gained whilst on Teaching Practice in a London school. OFSTED were visiting and everybody was nervous. There was an assembly that morning and five, six-year-old children had been picked to start it off by each carrying on to stage a letter that spelled out the message H – E – L – L – O. As they were about to go on stage Wayne found himself in the perfect position (for him). As they started to walk on he quickly told the last child in line that she was in the wrong position and moved her. The result was a clear message to the inspectors of O – H-E-L-L.

When I next met Wayne, about a year after that, he had not surprisingly been removed from his teacher training course. However, he couldn’t wait to tell me that he had an even better job for upsetting young children and he loved it. He proudly announced that he was in charge of the fresh fish counter at the local supermarket, as if I could suddenly put this together so it made sense. In the end I said I would visit him at work the next day.

The next morning I walked into the huge store and made my way to the fresh fish counter. There was a large glass front behind which was a huge pile of crushed ice. Lying on top of that was the day’s catch. It consisting of a wide variety of fish and in the very front were large crabs and even two lobsters. It was certainly an impressive display. Standing proudly behind this display with his arms folded, stood Wayne. He had a huge, smug smile on his face and looked like he was “King of the Castle”. I walked up to the counter and he spoke first saying, “It’s a bit of a pain having to get up really early and lay out all the ice but the rewards are fantastic. It’s amazing what you can do with a straightened out coat hanger”.
Once again I was confused so he said, “Just wait. Go and stand over there and pretend to look at the frozen meat section.

It seemed an age as people came and went; each being served without mishap. Then, after about 20 minutes, it all changed. Two young mothers came to the counter each with two pre-school children. The toddlers were of course fascinated by the creatures lying in front of them and they pressed their noses to the glass. As the two families stood there, behind them another young Mum passed by whilst shopping and called out to say hello. Both Mothers at the fish counter turned to speak and at that moment I saw Wayne quickly bend down with both hands grab something behind the ice and suddenly a huge lobster and very large crab leapt at the front glass, right into the faces of the young toddlers. He then immediately stood up straight with a quizzical look of surprise on his face, as the terrified toddlers jumped a mile and then proceeded to scream the place down. I must congratulate him on his acting skills with the two Mothers as, over the next few minutes, he acted the part of the perfect gentleman who fully shared the surprise of the Mums at the children’s reaction.

After the two families had gone he broke down in fits of laughter and, as I approached, managed to wheeze out, “It’s so hard to keep a straight face! Two bits of wire through the ice are all it takes. Isn’t it great?” Whilst I could see the whole thing served his purpose in life of hating all children, I could not imagine any other person in the whole world taking the trouble of attaching wire coat hangers to crabs and lobsters to achieve this outcome.
After talking for a short time I told him that I had to move away to work and so it was likely we would not meet for some time and took my leave. He was still grinning and laughing as I walked away.

In fact it was six years before I met Wayne again. I was back in town visiting my parents and he rushed across the street to see me. I sometimes wonder if I was the only person in the world he considered to be a friend. Certainly, since leaving school, I had never seen him talking to anyone else. He immediately announced that he had been married for 18 months and invited me round for a meal the next night. Rather shocked at the idea of Wayne finding a girl who could love him, I found myself accepting. He also told me that he still loved his job of running the fresh sea food counter.
The next night I turned up at a pleasant house not far from the town centre and immediately met a most pleasant young lady called Deborah who was his wife. I was very impressed. Deborah had a sense of calm that seemed infectious and we talked before the meal with the only curiosity being the amount of times Deborah brought up the subject of Fairy washing up liquid. At every possible opening I was pleasantly urged to go out and buy some because, “The adverts are right, it lasts a long time but better still, if you buy it from Wayne’s supermarket, it’s even better than normal”. It seems that the same bottle had lasted her 6 months and it was still only half empty. Whilst I found this almost impossible to believe, Deborah was so sincere that I began to consider that perhaps there was something badly wrong with the way I used my own washing up liquid.

Sometime later, at the end of the meal, Deborah said to Wayne, “Don’t worry about helping with the washing up dear, I will do it. We so rarely have anybody round. Why don’t you two go up into your den in the attic? I’ll go and use my magic Fairy Liquid.” Off we went and on arrival I was pleasantly surprised. On trestles Wayne had built the most complex and detailed toy train set layout. It had many tracks, two stations, a sprawling countryside and a hillside with a large tunnel. That’s how I finally discovered he had an interest.
I also noticed that fast asleep on a chair in the corner was a very large ginger tom cat.
Wayne started to show me the layout and how different trains were timed so they didn’t run into each other. His pride and joy was The Flying Scotsman, which he said could go very fast. Then, he suddenly said, “Oh! That reminds me, I haven’t fed the cat. You’ll like this”. He lifted up the cloth that covered the trestles and hung down the sides, to reveal a large box of tinned cat food. As soon as he started to lift the cloth the ginger tom appeared. This was obviously his cue to eat. Wayne opened a tin and put the meat in in a dish which he then held up in the air until, rather surprisingly, the cat jumped up onto the train layout. Wayne then held the dish in front of the cat and led him to the tunnel where he put the dish as far as he could inside the tunnel and then picked up a ruler and pushed it in further still.
The cat crept into the tunnel managing to squeeze its bulky frame into the tight space until only the back legs, bottom and tail stuck out. Wayne then went to The Flying Scotsman train, patted it and said, “Time for your moment of glory my little beauty”. He then set the engine plus its five carriages rushing round the track in the direction of the uncomfortably eating cat. Suddenly I understood why the longest straight in the layout was leading up to the tunnel. The train gathered speed and seemed to be going far too fast for a toy, when it finally reached its target and slammed into the cat’s bottom. There was a screech and a yowl. The whole hillside seemed to lift off the table before settling back into place. Then to my amazement and with the train and its carriages laying in its side the cat made no more fuss and was clearly continuing to eat. I realised this poor animal must go through this awful routine every night. I was horrified and shocked and yet there was an even bigger question burning in my mind, which now burst forth.

I looked at Wayne and asked, “Can we have a look under the trestles again?”
He obliged by lifting up the cloth. My initial glimpse was confirmed. Just behind the carton of tinned cat food I had glimpsed another cardboard box, this one half full of bottles of Fairy Liquid. I could not help but wonder if this had a link to his wife’s infatuation and so asked the obvious question. He replied, in the most casual manner, “Of course. The daft old bat; I’ve been topping up that bottle three times a week for over five months now. I’m going to keep it going until this carton runs out in about another four months’ time. When she finally buys the next bottle I’ll squeeze a tiny bit out three times a week so it only lasts a short while. She’ll think she’s going mad”. Another broad grin spread across his face. I stood back in horror. Was there no end to the twisted humour of this man? I now decided that I must indeed be his only “friend” in the entire world.

Within half an hour I was on my way but I made sure I gave the lovely Deborah a special hug before I left. I walked home wondering how his anger at children had spread over the intervening years to his cat and wife.
I am afraid I can truly say that I have not seen Wayne since. However, on subsequent visits to my parents I did find out three things.

Firstly, his marriage had broken down after two years and Deborah was now very happily remarried to a wonderful chap.
Secondly, the introduction of CCTV into Wayne’s supermarket had finally led to him being caught causing distress to very young children. It seems there had simply been too many instances of terrified and screaming, pre-school toddlers.
Thirdly, I was told he had lost his house and was waiting to appear in court, although I am not sure why.

I’m sorry to end this so abruptly but true stories are like that. I’m quite sure I don’t have to talk about morals or lessons to be learnt concerning kindness. I will leave that to you to conclude in the privacy of your own thoughts.