COLUMN: February 28, 2013

CABIN fever had taken a hold and I decided I had been in isolation far too long.

I have been working mostly on my own for the past few months. Even my imaginary friend has abandoned me and gone to live in a newly-restored castle in the air.

I am considerably freer with my burping than I have ever been, and was a playing card’s breadth away from sitting in work in just my pants. It was time to venture outdoors.

I needed a drink – and I have sworn off vending machines after last week’s debacle – so I went to the nearby Tesco to see if it had any.

This Tesco has what I can only describe as curmudgeonly automatic doors. They open only when the customer is right on top of them – requiring a leap of faith far in excess of that demonstrated by a buyer of one of the retailer’s Value meals.

And then they open at the speed of a surly teenager doing the washing up. Perhaps it is a way of weeding out the riff-raff, those people who are not sufficiently committed to going to Tesco. After all, these days the firm can afford to be choosy.

There was a massive queue, so I decided this trip wasn’t for me, and I left the store, openly mocking the curmudgomatic door system. I thought I would go further in search of refreshment and headed for the premises of a newsagent chain located in an office building a couple of hundred yards away.

I jumped backwards as a skateboarder tore past me. He was about my age and I thought, among other unprintable things, that a man in his mid-20s seemed far too old to be tearing about on skateboards. Then I realised that I haven’t been in my mid-20s for about 15 years.

I am middle-aged, but my brain has not yet caught up with that fact. I still expect a pat on the back, maybe a little applause, when I do a grown-up thing like travel on the train to a different town, or put the bins out, or do my job without setting fire to the building.

And even if I did set fire to the building, I’d feel they should be easy on me because I’m only 41. This is not a recent development. I am told that when I was three, I was placed in a playpen with my baby brother, who then, like most people forced to exist in close quarters with me, started to assault me. Reluctant to hit the infant back, I said: “Please don’t hit me, I’m only three.”

I rather assumed that I would feel like an adult at this age, but I do not. I am merely behaving like an adult and hoping that nobody notices long enough for me to get away with it.

I walked past a street-level conference room in the office building and noticed a meeting taking place. Ten people were sitting around a table and I would be amazed if fewer than eight of them felt the same way as me – that they were the odd one out in a room full of grown-ups. It was an oddly reassuring thought.

And so I reached the newsagent, which also has automatic doors, though nippier than Tesco’s. I launched myself towards them, confident that I was not uniquely rubbish at being an adult. And bounced straight off them.

I tried again. The doors were closed, but there were people in the shop, so I forced my fingers into the crack and tried to pull the doors open. The assistant glared at me. “They’re broke. Yer’ve got to go round,” she said, and pointed at an alternative entrance accessible only from within the office building.

So I walked around, and discovered I had to enter the office building through turnstiles, operated by a magnetic pass, which I did not have because I don’t have passes to every building in the world as I am not Batman.

I walked back to the shop entrance. “I can’t get in because I don’t work here,” I said. The assistant looked at me with an expression combining both helplessness and disdain. It would have been easier for me to get into Fort Knox, or Hollister.

And so I shuffled off back to the queue in Tesco.

The only way I was getting into that newsagent shop was if I gave up my job, changed career, and got a position in one of the firms in that office building.

I didn’t want a drink that much. Besides, I’m too old for that.

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