An unidentified man has left a trail of confusion and fear after having spent much of the day smiling at total strangers, say officials.
On Wednesday, a 20-something male was reported to have smiled at no fewer than 10 people, many of them employed in the service industry. In some cases, he went on to ask how their day was going.
Bakery employee Valérie Marchais says that she was accosted by the man, who was dressed in an ill-fitting suit and wore a backpack, at around 7:15 in the morning.
“When I said ‘bonjour monsieur’ to him, he replied with, ‘Hi, how is it going this morning?’” she said. “I didn’t know what to do, so I pretended to have injured my elbow, and I ran away.”
According to a police timeline of events, three hours later the same individual boarded a bus on Avenue Monterrey. He smiled at the driver before asking for directions to Kirchberg.
Not wanting the deranged man to frighten other passengers, the driver ordered him to exit the bus.
Nearly two hours later, a server at a Latin-themed restaurant near Kinepolis reported that the same man sat at a table and when she arrived to take his order, he smiled and said, “Hi, how are you?”
“At first I thought he wanted to know about my health, that maybe I appeared ill, but then I realized he was inquiring about my thoughts and feelings, which is a very private matter,” she said. “My level of social discomfort shot up to dangerous levels, so I curled up into a little ball and my colleagues rolled me to a quiet storage room where I eventually recovered.”
Police spokesperson Capt. Marco Trausch is urging the public to remain calm, saying that officials believe the man is only in town for a convention and will be gone in a day or two.
“If this individual approaches you and asks how you are doing, don’t panic,” he said. “We believe he is from a distant land where such disturbing behavior is socially acceptable.”
Trausch says that anyone who feels threatened should follow the example of one quick-thinking newspaper kiosk employee who managed to deter the man with three simple words.
“Apparently, if the man asks how you are doing and you say ‘fine, thank you,’ he will leave you alone and look for another victim,” Trausch said.