COLUMN: May 5, 2016


I AM poor at multi-tasking. To put this in context I have been trying to write this column for the past two hours, in which time I have done a bit of admin, put some laundry on, and made two cups of tea, and this paragraph is all I have to show for it.

I am a nightmare in the kitchen. Because I am incapable of doing two things at once it takes me so long to make a meal that ingredients have actually gone off while I’ve been cooking. I once did a Jamie Oliver 15-minute meal, and it took me four and a half hours, which is a full half hour longer than most people.

As I write, however, I have a decent excuse for being not as sharp as other people. Several months ago, I accepted an invitation to see my dentist this morning, at 8am. Even when the appointment was made Past Me thought that was a little steep. But Past Me did not care, because it was months away and Past Me is a malevolent idiot. Virtually all of my problems have been caused by Past Me.

But this was particularly idiotic. Owing to the vagaries of newspaper production, I often work late shifts. Last night, I did not return home until 11pm. I am as capable of then going to sleep at 11.05pm as a nine-to-five worker would be of coming home at 6pm and going to sleep at 6.05pm.

And so it was long past 1am when I let the cares of the day slip away. Sensibly, I had set my alarm for 6.30am. Inevitably, when the alarm rang this morning, I ignored it. “What sort of buffoon sets an alarm for 6.30?” I wondered, as I drifted – plummeted heavily – back to sleep.

I woke in a panic at 7.02am. “Argh!” I thought, accurately summing up my predicament. I tore out of bed, knowing that I had roughly 20 minutes to get ready. I was a whirlwind of activity, brushing my teeth, while ironing my shoes and polishing my cereal and whatever.

It was all very confusing and I was not sure entirely where I was or how I was doing it, but somehow I managed to dress myself and have matching shoes and deposit myself at a bus stop in time to reach my appointment. I sat on the bus and felt pretty good about myself, or perhaps I was just delirious. I do not know, I was very tired.

In any case, I arrived at the dental surgery. My dentist – a handsome, intelligent, and charming man who is allowed to put drills and other sharp objects in my mouth and, consequently, is not somebody I wish to anger or displease in any way – engaged me in some small talk and showed me to my seat.

I sat and felt the seat recline and pretended, as I always do, that I was Dr David Banner just before an accidental overdose of gamma radiation. The dental assistant placed a bib on my chest and goggles on my face, and just as my dentist shoved a mirror in my mouth I realised something very important about myself. In the kerfuffle and panic of my morning

I had neglected to zip up my trousers.

My hands were gripping the arm rests of the chair and I had two people standing over me, one of whom had a whining plaque-removing tool a millimetre away from my gums. There was no way that I could adjust my sartorial maladministration discreetly. They would see exactly what I was doing.

And even if I chanced it, what then? There was absolutely no guarantee that the zip would not get stuck. Face it, it was me. Of course the zip would get stuck.

So I stretched my body as far as I could, in an attempt to make the zip taut and not obviously open. This made my dentist assume he was hurting me far more than he was. “O, o, I’n ine,” I explained.

Somehow I got through the ordeal without either the dentist or his assistant drawing attention to my clothing discrepancy. I opened the door, thanked him for his efforts, and, with my back to them, pulled up my zip.

And so I apologise in public to the man I did not know was sitting in the waiting area, who saw me thanking my dentist, and then pulling up my zip. In my defence, I was very tired.

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