Column: November 16, 2011

I AM a pessimist, and not what you would call a summer person. Summer to me means getting stung, being made to wear shorts, saying the word “phew” a lot, people going about the place wearing flip-flops, and not knowing how late it is.

Instead, I am a glass half-empty sort of person, which is probably why I did not get a second interview at Wetherspoon’s. And it is why I am more comfortable in autumn and winter, when people are covered up, wasps go into hiding, and I can wear my extensive collection of brown, grey and black things without people assuming I am a half-hearted Goth or in mourning about something.

So I should be cock-a-hoop at the moment. I stare out of the window in the morning, note how the 8B pencil sky has turned into a 3B, and think: “Excellent, time to crack out Big Coat.”

Big Coat is a big coat. When I wear it, I am about 90% coat. It has a lot of pockets, mostly filled with black sheathy things from defunct umbrellas, and is so warm I can only wear it on very wintry days, or risk shrivelling like an old crisp packet under the grill.

This week, Big Coat has made its seasonal debut, and I have been running for the bus in the morning with the navy blue coat billowing in the wind, making me look like a slow-moving Batman, when normally the only thing I have in common with Batman is that we both tend to wear dark grey suits.

And so this was my state on Monday – Big Coat, grey suit. Unremarkable, if evidently stylish. It was cold in Liverpool city centre, obviously, but not so cold that I would button up Big Coat and look like a chess piece on the Sex Offenders Register.

Nevertheless, there was a chill on my chest, so I decided to fasten up my suit jacket. Just the middle button, no need to go mad.

There was no button there. “Oh, no,” I thought at first. “My excessively rigorous motion in running for the bus has caused my button to fall off. This must happen to Batman all the time.”

But further investigation revealed there was no corresponding button hole. My three-buttoned jacket only had two buttons. No excessively rigorous motion could account for this. I looked down and realised that I was wearing either the wrong jacket or the wrong trousers, depending on one’s viewpoint.

It was the worst of all worlds, because the colours of the two garments were too close to make my error look like a two-tone style experiment, and too far apart to be undetectable by the naked eye. I would not look eccentric, just incompetent.

“At least with Big Coat,” I thought, “nobody will be able to see my jacket en route to the office. I will worry about the office when I arrive.”

When I arrived, I removed Big Coat and my jacket unseen by others, then hung up my jacket far enough away from my desk that people would, if they noted the colour of either my trousers or jacket, have forgotten the exact shade by the time they saw the other garment.

But this left me with a knotty problem when leaving the building at lunchtime. Wear my jacket and be immediately detected, or wear Big Coat and make people think, “Hmm, that is an incredibly big coat. Why is he not wearing his jacket?” prompting further investigations.

I decided to wear neither, and ventured out into the bitter winds of Old Hall Street, my teeth chattering, my torso protected only by a thin white shirt. And I caught a chill.

If only I had not been wearing Big Coat, I would have seen that I was wearing the wrong jacket in time to change. And I would not have got through an entire packet of Kleenex 3-ply before 2pm today. I hate Big Coat.
I realise that, in telling you this story, I have rendered all my efforts worthless. But, as I am a self-defeating idiot, the pessimist in me knows you would have found out anyway.

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