History Lesson in Washington Square Park

New York is full of characters. That’s one of the most delightful – although at times alarming – aspects of it.

Most of my friends have already heard the quaint little tale about the subway man who offered to “send me some music” last summer (if you haven’t, ask me sometime. It’s pretty funny.), but I’m proud to say that I have a new story to add to the lexicon of bizarre New York interfaces. Here goes:

So a couple of days ago I was meeting a friend in Washington Square Park. Those of you familiar with the park know that it really isn’t too surprising that one should have a run-in with a less than savory character, but since this was the first time I’d ever spent a lengthy amount of time there, I had no idea what I was about to meet.

So there I was, sitting on a bench by the fountain, reading, minding my own business, etc. I didn’t really notice the gentleman to my right because he was engaged in conversation with a girl on his other side, when all of a sudden he gestures at me and says, “Like her, she’s from Atlantis.”

Naturally, my first thought was not that he was referring to the lost, underwater city of Atlantis. Seeing as how, you know, it’s not exactly what you would call…real. I thought maybe he meant “Atlanta” or some other existing city that should happened to share the moniker of the fabled city.

Without thinking it through, I immediately responded, “I’m not from Atlantis.”

This sent the man in a diatribe about the “arrogance of youth” and how I was “only in grade school” but I was “telling him what was what.”

Of course, this just isn’t true. He was literally wrong about everything. I wasn’t arrogant, I just wasn’t a mermaid. And I wasn’t in grade school. But, not really wanting to engage him further, I decided not to respond. At this time, the other girl chose to make her escape. We shared a brief look that very clearly said, “Dear lord, this guy is totally crazy.” Then she bolted. I thought about leaving, but seeing as how I had to meet my friend here and would just have to sit somewhere else within eyeshot of this guy, and he didn’t seem dangerous per se, I decided to just tough it out. Heck, I thought, maybe I’ll get a good story out of this!

The man started to tell me how he was alive in the time of King Tutankhamen (yes, like King Tut. The Egyptian pharaoh. This guy said he was in Tut’s family.), and how he owned a recording studio, and that was his legacy. And how I should look him up on Facebook or MySpace, and his MySpace had four of his hit songs on it. I should listen. He also kept telling me I was special. It wasn’t as creepy as it sounds, but the way he said it implied he wasn’t really referring to me, Justine, sitting on this bench in 2009.

Not wanting to upset him, I laughed at his jokes and tried not to let my demeanor reveal that I thought he was absolutely nuts. Eventually he got up to leave (after leaving me with his email, full name, and MySpace URL). He asked me my name, I smiled calmly and made something up. He reiterated that I was special, then started to walk away.

I thought I was in the clear, when he suddenly stops, turns back and says, “You sunk Atlantis.”

Mildly stunned by this news, I laughed awkwardly, and he turned and finally left.

Nothing like finding out you’re responsible for the destruction of a mythical city to brighten your day.