I caused a bit of a kerfuffle amongst my friends yesterday. It was quite unintentional.... well maybe not entirely but it was an interesting and thought provoking experience nonetheless.
Early in the day, I announced on facebook that I was going to meet a stranger and would be needing the identifying cliches of a flower in my lapel and a copy of The Times under my arm. My friends laughed at me. 'How exciting!' a couple of them quipped.
Then I pointed out that had one of my teenage daughters agreed to meet a stranger that they had 'met' on the internet, on their own, in a relatively remote place we wouldn't call it exciting.
At this point the mood changed a little as my friends began to think through the possible outcomes. Within a few posts, the discomfort that they felt with my proposed course of action became palpable. I said I would post every hour so they knew I was safe. Someone suggested a safeword so they could be sure that it was me on the other end. It was a joke, I thought.
I met the lady in question and had a thoroughly pleasant time wandering around RHS Harlow Carr and taking lunch in Betty's tearoom. My cyberfriend was not a sinister stalker but a member of my University tutorial group who had not been able to make it to face to face tutorials. But my friends did not know this.
By the time I returned to the car and checked my phone, I had texts from two friends and a string of facebook messages, each sounding more worried than the last. I laughed out loud at their highly entertaining concern and quickly typed the safeword so that they knew that I had not been abducted.
On the drive home I began to think. I knew who I was meeting. No, we had not met in person but I had enough points of contact to be pretty certain that she was who she said she was. This is the wisdom of age. I would not have arranged to meet there with someone who had just turned up as a reader of my blog for example. But perhaps my daughters might?
But what struck me more was the concern that my friends showed. Yes, for most of them it was as much a game as it was to me. Yet there was that kernel of doubt, just nagging at the back of their minds, that I might be walking into danger and would need protection.
Generally, this is not the kind of situation that looms large in my world. I am an adult, I am intelligent and experienced and very rarely either need help or ask for it. But if the chips were down, like they might have been yesterday, it's great to know that I have friends out there who care enough to look out for me if I need looking out for. I like that x