Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The lunatics are in the hall

I don't want to make light of mental illness, as I'm no stranger to the seriousness of such conditions - my first girlfriend had a tragic history of depression and other mental issues... which probably explains why she was interested in me in the first place (oh hang on, I thought I wasn't going to make light of it). But some of the people I've talked to or done my best to avoid in hostels over the last 10 months have been bona fide screwballs.

I realise it's been a while since I wrote a misanthropic blog post about dickheads and other assorted freaks I've met while travelling, so hopefully this gallery of oddballs will make up for it.

I've avoided mentioning peoples' races, as that's irrelevant and would just be unfair... you know; rather than the bastion of morality and good taste that this post otherwise is.

Taipei tpsychos

Somehow, this guy isn't the weirdest person in Taipei

I met a couple of Persons of Dubious Sanity while I was in Taiwan, one of whom I stupidly 'hung out with' for a while (the way you sometimes do when you're travelling and lonely), until it became clear just how much of a maniac she was.

The other person wasn't a native, but a fellow traveller, and her alternative perspective on life seemed pretty interesting. At first. That was until we swapped links to each other's blogs and websites, and I experienced garbled and confusing content that made my brain and eyes hurt. Obviously, the stuff she read on my website will have been of Dickensian quality!

Krabi krackpot

Pointless Flintstonery in Krabi Town

I could only stay a few days in Krabi at the end of my already-extended Thailand entry visa, but my experiences in those three days were all very potent and memorable. This includes the mad, shrieking woman who broke into my dorm, and is perhaps the only person in this list who genuinely and quite frighteningly had something seriously wrong with them.

I first became aware of this lunatic through whispers and frantic conversations among some gap year students, who had spotted 'the crazy woman' in the bathroom and were saying things like 'oh my god, oh my god, she's back,' which piqued my interest somewhat.

It turned out this woman had tried to stay in the dorm the previous night but been rejected (for some reason), after which she'd still managed to gain entry and tried to open peoples' lockers. She'd then been spotted screaming hysterically in the high street for no apparent reason, and according to the comments of the hostel owner (when she arrived with police officers to escort the woman out of my room and off the premises), she'd also been spotted 'hitting a kid.'

There was a long and excruciating argument where the woman refused to budge from the bed she hadn't paid for, but ultimately the good cop/bad cop approach won through and she was finally taken away to 'help her find other accommodation.' From the sounds of struggle and screaming coming from the street soon afterwards, this accommodation was either the loony bin or the slammer.

Johor Bahru barmy bastard

JB doesn't deserve any photos.
So to illustrate this section, here's an irrelevant view from the Singapore Flyer

Johor Bahru is the arsehole of Malaysia in several senses, defecating the detritus of humanity onto the clean porcelain of Singapore. I didn't have a particularly good time there, which wasn't helped by the TOTAL FREAK who was staying there at the same time as me, and whose offensive presence made my nights into living 'mares.

At first I just thought he was pathologically rude - sitting out on the porch chain-smoking and spitting onto the path where everybody walks, because he was too important to turn his head or use some sort of tissue. But after a while, I realised that the murmuring sound I'd taken to be tuneless humming was actually him talking, quietly. To no one, or himself.

After the sun went down, I'd hear him still sitting outside the (open) window of my dorm, spending far too long tuning an old-style radio (too long for normal human patience) and finally settling on static. He'd then listen to this (i.e. nothing) for about an hour, chuckling away as he did so.

I'm not talking about the sort of slight, accidental laugh you might spontaneously let slip when watching The Larry Sanders Show with headphones at breakfast time, and make the Indian family sitting across from you look up in surprise. I'm talking full-on maniacal laughter, the sort of thing Pink Floyd went out and recorded especially to open their insanity opus Dark Side of the Moon.

But who's having the last laugh now? He is, undoubtedly. It's approaching midnight as I write this - he's probably still out there, finding delight in white noise. Maybe he's onto something and we're the ones who are crazy? No, that is not the case.

Singapore screwball

Screwy shit in Singapore

I've been switching hostels during my time in Singapore, because my childish attention span means I get bored after more than five days in the same environment. For the last five days, I've been sleeping in the bed above an over-friendly girl, and been forced to move around the place to avoid--

OH FUCK, she just sat down next to me as I was typing this. I think I switched to Word quickly enough, and pretended to do the work I should be doing instead of this anyway. She's gone again. For now.

I've got nothing against people being friendly and talking to me (okay, that's a lie), but this girl is the definition of Too Much. I reply 'hello' to her twice daily on average and that is the extent of her relationship, but today she expressed how much she'd really missed me while I'd been out. When I told her I'd been at the zoo with my girlfriend (being sure to mention this detail, just in case), she got angry that I hadn't asked her to come along.

I apologised for my audacity at not consulting her before going about my day. Then I grabbed my laptop and ran off downstairs, to be free for 10 minutes until she decided to join me. Luckily (for me, at least), her attention span is even shorter than mine, and she soon left. This over-familiar behaviour evidently isn't restricted to me, either - I've heard her attempting similarly stitled conversations with other reluctant co-habiters.

If this was all there was to it, I'd leave the poor, clinically extroverted girl alone. But as with the Johor guy, the freakiest stuff happens when the lights go out. Last night she kept me awake (out of slight fear, rather than the noise) by verrrry slooooowly turning the handle of what sounded like a traditional music box, quietly playing a lullaby in an uneven and creepy rhythm over and over and over again.

Who takes that backpacking with them? And then plays it at needlessly creepy speed? It was like being trapped in a straight-to-VHS 1980s horror film.

More rude stuff about freaks coming later rather than sooner, I hope. Keep it mental!

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