COLUMN: July 13, 2017

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An amount of ice cream
I HAD accidentally worked for seven days in a row because I am both unlucky and stupid. I understand that that does not sound like a very long time, and that many workers in the NHS can work for 10 days at a time, but what you do not appreciate is that I am very lazy.

I am so lazy that sloths use me as a metaphor. “Hurry up,” they say to each other, “Sloth Tesco is going to close in four hours, you total Bainbridge.”

The point is that I was really looking forward to my single day off in 12. I was going to have a lie-in, maybe have a cup of tea in bed, take a walk to buy an ice cream. The sky really was the limit.

And, best of all, I was going to have a bus-free day. I do not get a lot of buses – maybe two a day tops, to and from work – but I do feel that I spend most of my life as a bus passenger. So this was going to be a proper day off – a busman’s holiday, if you will, which I very much hope you won’t.

I settled in bed with my cup of tea, half delighted to be drinking it, half annoyed that I had had to get out of bed to make it, and decided that this was the perfect time to catch up with my correspondence. I insulted a couple of people on Twitter, half-heartedly “liked” some posts on Facebook, and checked my email.

This column contains two lessons. This is the first: never check your email on a Sunday. I did it and immediately regretted it. For there was a reminder that two books I had borrowed were due back at the library the following day.

This would not normally be a problem, but I am working on a project at the moment, the hours of which mirror precisely the opening hours of the library, which meant that I would not be able to take the book back until the following weekend, which meant that the fine would start racking up, for both books…

“Argh!” I said, out loud, to nobody, save a pigeon that was perched outside my bedroom window. “I’ve got to get a flipping bus.”

Enraged, I got out of bed, did the things necessary for me to pass in the outside world, picked up the stupid books, and stormed out of the house.

It was rather sunny, and the rage soon passed. I reached the bus stop. My bus was not due for another five minutes. It was too sunny to stand at a bus stop, so I decided to walk to the next stop, about two minutes down the road.

Halfway between the stops, I was passed by my bus. You can do the mathematics. This was definitely not my fault even though my actions brought it about. My next bus was not for ages, so I trudged off to a stop half a mile away, where I would be able to get a bus which would come sooner.

I sat at the stop, and could see my new – and better – bus in the distance. “This is the bus life,” I thought. It was going to take a while to reach me because of traffic lights and physics.

I opened one of the books I was taking back, and began reading it. It was a book on Italian grammar. I am trying to learn a few foreign languages in time for Brexit, when I won’t be able to use them.

“Ah! Now I get it”, I thought, about a simple bit of grammar that I had not previously been able to grasp. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my bus bearing down on me. I leapt to my feet and flung my arm out.

But it was too late. A second bus in 10 minutes flew past me. And this one was definitely my fault. I was too engrossed in Italian verbs – that old story.

And by the time the next bus came, and I got to the library, and came home again, the ice cream shop I was planning to visit was closed.

And so that is the second lesson I have to pass on to you: never try to improve yourself in any way – you will miss out on some ice cream.
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