Are you talking at me?

I’m currently sat in the waiting room of the physical therapy clinic whilst my wife undergoes another session following her double ACL knee surgery a few weeks back.

Whew, that was a long sentence.

Anyway, I’m sat here reading crap on my phone (as usual) when I felt the prescence of someone sit down three seats to my left.

A miniscule fraction of a nanosecond passed before I heard a southern American drawl aimed in my general direction.

“That’s a lot of tattoos”

I chose to pretend I hadn’t heard her and kept reading whatever bollocks I was reading on my phone, knowing full well she was talking to me.

How do I know?  Well, because:

A) I have two full tattoo sleeves, and

B) I’m the only other person here.

I could feel her looking at me awaiting some sort of response, like a gormless child waiting for a firework display to begin; slack jawed and unblinking.

The act of ignoring someone does not come as easy to me as many would think, so I succumbed to literal peer pressure and looked up at her old, heavily tanned, heavily cheekboned (due to one surgical procedure too many) face.

I gave her a fake smile.

“A lot of tattoos huh?” she pointlessly asked, in case I hadn’t caught the gist of her last unwelcomed comment.

For a second I toyed with the cliché response of “Oh shit, where the fuck did THEY come from??”, but instead I lifted one arm, admired it for a moment and chuckled a friendly(ish) reply:

“Yeah. And a lot of pain too.”

That should be enough to end this unwanted conversation, I thought.

Wrong.

“Wow, gee whizz”, she continued with me now back to my phone, attempting to re-ignore her.

She then paused for a few seconds to, I assume, scan all my artwork.

Then she let out an audible shudder.

Have you ever heard someone audibly shudder?

What kind of reaction is that?

It’s impossible to describe the sound with the written word, but it was like she had spiders suddenly running up and down her sinewy but saggy, slightly hunched, leathery body.

Silent shudder.

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Are you being followed too?

319.

It’s following me.

I know, I know, I sound a bit crazy…but I’m serious, I see it everywhere.

It all started with the awesome song by Prince called….yep, you guessed it…. ‘319’.

I didn’t think anything of it (except for it being a great track) until I starting noticing the numbers popping up from time to time.

I’d say, “Ha, it’s like the Prince song”, but that was it; just a coincidence.  However, over time I noticed it more and more.

  • Often, when I look at the time it just happens to be 3:19pm.
  • A few times I’ve woken up in the night to pee and when I come back to bed my alarm clock says 3:19am.
  • I once took a walk into town during a late lunch break and wandered into a store that sold household furnishings. As I passed the section that sold clocks I noticed they ALL said 3:19pm (I could’ve walked past or looked up at 3:18pm or 3:20pm, but no)
  • Many times I’ve loaded up a video game from my last save and noticed I’ve had 319 coins, or 319 experience points, or 319 health, or 319 bullets left etc.
  • Usually when I visit the supermarket to pick up something specific like, I don’t know, a roast chicken or a cheese grater; the price will be £3.19. And it will be the ONLY item at that price.
  • Last night I was fast forwarding through an American football game (because I was only interested in the final score) and I needed to pee, so I pressed pause and the game clock was at 3:19.

I remember the time I first told my wife about this oddity. At the time she was still living in America (in Nevada to be precise) so the conversation was over Skype.  I was using my phone because the charger for my laptop had died.  There was a problem with the version of Skype on my phone which meant the video didn’t work so we were forced to speak the old fashioned way with just audio.

Just audio! Can you imagine?

What next? Drums and smoke signals?  Maybe we should just grunt and throw our poo at each other.

Anyway, as I was telling her about this number stalking me I could hear her tone of voice becoming that of someone slowly backing towards the door or reaching for pepper spray. I couldn’t blame her; I know how insane it sounds.

During this conversation I was also looking for my laptop because I needed to find out what the required voltage was so I could buy the correct replacement power cable.  It was then that I noticed the serial number on the back of my laptop.

It was something like HP759187564-319.

I was actually mid conversation about this number and there it was, as clear as day. I felt like Hurley in ‘Lost’.

(Oh, and by the way, Nevada is home to State Route 319).

600px-nevada_319_svg

Is it just me or do others have this weird thing with numbers?

Am I seeing it because I want to see it?

I mean, I work in travel, so should I be concerned about this?

a319 plane

Surely others see 319 everywhere too, but they just don’t pay attention to it because, well, they have a life?  I see lots of numbers every day but that doesn’t mean they’re stalking me.

Am I going crazy?

Should I be taking medication?

tramadol-hydrochloride

Earlier this year I decided to have 319 incorporated into an existing tattoo I have on my shoulder.

When I told my tattooist and long term friend about it he was understanding (at least that’s what he said from the doorway whilst holding pepper spray).  I recall going home later that day and then something happened with 319 that made him say “Bloody hell, you’re right!”, but annoyingly I can’t remember what it was!

He was a bit freaked out.

Anyway, here is what it looks like.

319 tattoo arm

I actually had it done on March the 19th (3/19) at 3:19pm exactly.  Of course!

So why am I telling you about this now?

Well, this is my 319th post.

Seemed fitting.

Getting under my skin

Following a tattoo session earlier in the week I’ve been wearing Bepanthen (nappy rash cream) and cling film on my arm for the last few days.

Not the most comfortable of attire.

Well, today is Friday which means the dress code policy at work is relaxed, so I’m in a t-shirt.

cling film arm

As a result, people have noticed my arm is trussed up in cling film. This has led to an exercise in stating the bleeding obvious.

“Your arm is in cling film.”

“You’ve had another tattoo.”

No shit.

But in all honesty, I’m not being fair.  Of course I’m aware my arm resembles a beef joint in the fridge; it’s just a typical way for them to start a conversation about it; one I can’t wait to have, over and over again.

The conversation always starts with:

“What have you had done?  Can I see it?”

Sure, no problem.  Let me cut away the strategically placed tape and peel off all the cling film that took ages to put on this morning with one arm so you can see it and say “Oh, right. Cool”.

Maybe I should reply with “You’re wearing make-up.  Can I see what you look like underneath?”

Maybe not.

I attempt to show them through the layers of cling film which looks like a black and grey Jackson Pollock and I still get the “Oh, right. Cool”, so that’s good.  Then the conversation moves on to include one or more of the following:

“What does it / they mean?”

Unfortunately this is unavoidable.  After all, I have two full sleeves on display.  To me, tattoos are not about how they look or because it’s ‘cool’, they’re very personal and they all have meanings no matter how small.  I choose my tattoos carefully because I’m going to have them for a very long time.

So am I going to disclose everything to just anyone?  No.  I have my life on my sleeve, not my heart.

If it’s a close friend or a family member, I’ll talk them through every line and every detail, but to everyone else I tend to glaze over the question with “Oh all sorts of things”.

This is because I know that, deep down, they’re keen to move onto the next question.

“Did it hurt?”

No, it was like being licked by kittens.

This question is not to be confused with “Do they hurt?”, which is a dead giveaway of a person who doesn’t have tattoos.  These ink virgins then follow up with:

“I don’t like needles.”, and/or “I couldn’t have a tattoo.”.

Well, I don’t like needles either.  It’s not the same thing.  Having a tattoo feels similar to a hot scratch across the skin whereas a needle feels like you’re being punctured right to your very soul.

hate needles tattoo

(shudder)

And, why couldn’t you have a tattoo?  Of course you can.  Just sit in a chair and get one.

I believe you meant to say you WOULDN’T have a tattoo, which is different.  I’m assuming this is because you fear the pain, or is it because you simply don’t like or agree with them?  For your sake I hope it’s the former because, as you may have noticed, I have a few tattoos and you’ll likely offend me (despite the fact I look like I bite the heads off kittens to you).

Then comes the classic “What about when you’re 70 years old?”

What about it?  When I’m 70 years old I’m going to:

  • Be awesome
  • Not give a shit about how I look.
  • Be surrounded by a generation of other 70 year olds also covered in tattoos.

Don’t base your judgement on the elder generation of today with their tweed jackets and flat caps.  When I’m 70 I will be part of a generation of old farts covered in tattoos and all sorts of piercings, punctures, modifications and randomly positioned flesh holes.  If anything it’ll be YOU who will stand out.

“Look dad, that old man over there is a funny pink colour!”

“That’s called skin, son”

old tattoo dudes

Having said all this, a majority of the time I get drawn into a conversation about the tattoo(s) they’re planning to have.

With women it’s usually a flower, or writing, or a butterfly, or their name located either on the wrist, hip, lower back (*cough* tramp stamp *cough*), foot or behind their shoulder.

Oh, and stars.  There’s always room for stars.

With guys it’s ALWAYS the upper arm and usually over the shoulder.  They demonstrate what they mean by running their hand along their upper arm and over their shoulder as they describe it to me, just in case I don’t understand what the upper arm and over the shoulder means, despite BOTH of my sleeves covering my entire arm and going over my shoulder.

On top of this it’s usually tribal, or a dragon, or stars (again), or a Koi fish with Japanese waves, lotus flowers, cherry blossom and clouds.  Fucking clouds.  Fucking mashed potato clouds.

I once saw a guy on the tube with a whole sleeve made up of stars and fucking clouds.

stars-and-clouds

Why?  Was he a meteorologist?

I doubt it.

Even if he was, at least choose something a little more imaginative like rain and meteors and comets and hurricanes and tidal waves.

That would be awesome!

Nope, “clouds and stars please”.

The famous tattooist Kat Von D has this quote on the sleeve of her first book:

“I am a canvas of my experiences, my story is etched in lines and shading, and you can read it on my arms, my legs, my shoulders, and my stomach.”

Or, if you’re just eager to get a sleeve to look cool, have clouds and stars.

What a waste of your body’s real estate.

In addition to all this, I sometimes get asked advice on designs and ideas.  I’m happy to do this, but I usually find that as soon I start showing them where to look online for great ideas and inspiration, they suddenly know better and disagree with and/or reject everything I suggest.

Not enough stars maybe?

Sometimes they insist on showing me the online portfolio of the tattooist they’ve chosen.

Sometimes these tattooists look like they use an Etch-A-Sketch.

But they seem excited, so I play along.  I then show them the portfolio of my tattooist in the hope they’ll see the difference between them.  They don’t.

In fact, they often suggest I try their tattooist instead; a tattooist they haven’t even used themselves rather than the amazing artist I’ve been going to for 10 years.

Yeah, that’ll happen.

After all said and done, tattoos aren’t for everyone.

The one thing that some people (especially tattoo virgins) can’t comprehend is how much it costs to get a tattoo.  These are the people that will have no problem buying an expensive LED 1080p 3D Smart TV which may last them 5 years or so.  My tattoos will be with me forever.

THAT’S value for money.

And when I’m asked “Don’t you ever regret having them?”, I look the person in the eye and say:

“When you die you can’t take your money, your house, your TV, your car or any of your things with you; someone else gets all of that.  My tattoos are mine.  I’m taking those and my memories with me.”

Or…

“Fuck off”

Depends on my mood.

Pardon? Speak up….

As I settle down in my train seat, ready for the five and a half hour journey from Penzance to London, imagine my joy when a chavvy couple with the loudest and whiniest kids in the world sit 3 rows in front of me.

I’m such a fucking lucky bastard, I really am.

He resembles a shaved rat in a bomber jacket and baseball cap, complete with a neck tattoo and an eyebrow piercing. A gold ring of course.

She has lank, greasy hair pulled back so tight she looks like she’s suddenly sat on a upturned plug…all the time.  Her clothing is way too tight for her ‘size’ which means her leggings elastic and struggling bra strap leave her resembling 3 bagels stacked on top of each other…. or are they ring doughnuts?

Probably doughnuts.

And what’s with the decibel levels here? Do they live next to a runway? Are they used to communicating through glass? The kids are very loud (and did I mention whiny?),the dad (debatable) is loud, but the mum…well, she’s talking to ratman at the same volume we reserve for nightclubs, complete with the occasional spit missiles associated with talking at such force.  The windows are actually shaking and I swear I just spotted a crack appear.

The old couple next to me have turned their hearing aids OFF.

I’ve tried to drown them out with my headphones, but they keep slipping out of my bleeding ears.

A-vac-naphobia (geddit?)

Massive spider on the landing ceiling. The type that actually has biceps, gold teeth and tattoos. I think it just winked at me with 4 of its eyes It’s so big that I can’t get a pint glass over it to throw it out, so I’m not gonna.

Jus gave me that “you’re not going to throw it out? If you loved me you’d get rid of it for me, but clearly you don’t value our relationship!” look.

Nope. Still not touching it.

She’s just headed upstairs with the Dyson whilst telling her friend on the phone what a useless man I am….

I’m not emptying the Dyson.