First of all, I should immediately get this out of the way: No one, at any point, approached me to ask for a quest. Short of suspending a yellow exclamation mark above my head, I'm not sure what more I could have done to attract the attention of any passing adventurers braving the cold thoroughfare through the centre of the town. If anything, people did their very best to avoid me, refusing eye contact, moving far away from my pleading face. It was already concerning.
I should explain the scenario. I, the brave wizard, had transferred through a portal into this dimension, but could not leave the spot on which I stood. It was imperative to the survival of the universe that the magic spell I held (a rolled up scroll of paper, engagingly tied with a purple ribbon) be given to the girl in the red cloak and hood, waiting outside what you humans call "the shoe shop," 300 yards down the road. Upon completion of this vital task, a bag of gold coins would be given as a reward. In my dimension, chocolate coins are of the very highest worth. Would anyone go out of their way for me, in order to be the savior of all mankind, for the prize of a bag of candy?
Things started off well. Almost immediately, a pair of teenage girls stopped to help a stranded magician. Laughing - mostly with confusion - they found it in their hearts to help out ... once they glanced upon the potential reward. Taking the scroll, they immediately set off on their quest, my calls of good luck barely reaching them. By the time they had met my companion, known as Chrissy, she was engaged in conversation with a friend who had happened to pass by. With surprise, she met the outthrust hands of the two girls, ready for the expected coins. Not quite the courageous attitude I might have hoped for, but the few coins were a paltry sum, just for the look of confusion on Chrissy-Red-Riding- Hood's friend's face when she nonchalantly turned to two strangers and exchanged gilded chocolate for a magic spell.
And then, things went a bit downhill.
Perhaps some blame for any disappointment should be laid at the feet of the innumerous others who attempt to garner money from innocent passers by. Whether the sideways-dancing collectors for charities, trained in trapping the innocent in conversation, or those wishing to sell anything from the Big Issue to car insurance, we have become quite adept at the entirely non-engaging "No, thank you" accompanied by a sharply quickened pace. Rarely was I able to get through, "Would you be so kind as to help me with a quest?" before my targets were disappearing toward the horizon.
In this time of rejection, I did learn a few useful things, however.
- Older people are much less likely to see the funny side of something, even when the safety of the universe is in the balance.
- Couples are far better at avoiding the magically hindered than individuals.
- Men with grey beards really don't like to be called, "fellow wizard." (Although, their wives are likely to find it funny.)