It is 1990. I am in London, having just arrived from Paris at Victoria Station. I am tired and carry a pack full of dirty clothes.
Across the street is a laundrette. I make my way there and throw a load or two in the machines. Two women enter with their laundry.
Their reaction when I greet them is an obvious glance at each other and supressed smiles – no – grins. I’m wearing my hair long, have a Van Dyke beard and moustache, and a gold hoop in my left earlobe. I don’t know what they’re going on about.
We chat a bit, then I get my wash and fold it. I can hear them whispering, and can see them glancing up at me. As I get ready to leave, they spill it.
“Has anyone told you that you look just like Richard Branson?”
I have no idea who Richard Branson is.
“He’s the president of Virgin – everything!”
They tell me he’s a millionaire. They tell me I should walk onto a Virgin flight and pretend to be him, since he’s known to drop in on flights like that.
I arrive in Cornwall that evening and after a restful night, join the other guests of my B&B. I chat with the British couple at the next table and tell them about my encounter in the laundrette. When I say the women told me I looked like Richard Branson, the woman at the other table minces no words.
“You look NOTHING like Richard Branson.”
So forceful is her statement that I am taken aback. She is offended at the thought.
“Those women were having you on.”
I take a deep breath. I’m finished anyway, so I get up and say goodbye. As I reach the door I turn and smile.
“I hope you have a wonderful day.”
The woman looks stunned. “I see it now. They were right.”
I look at her, puzzled.
“When you smile, you look just like Richard Branson.”