FOLLOWING a trip away, I visited a couple of youngsters of my acquaintance. Traditionally I would have brought back a gift, but circumstances of the sort regular readers of this column would understand had mitigated against this.
And so I promised that I would bring one on my next visit. I have to point out that the youngsters concerned are uncommonly well brought-up, and had not demanded a gift. Nevertheless, a promise is a promise…
I had a day off the day before my next visit. It was a Friday and I had spent most of that day in the company of a much-loved TV celebrity, and then on an unfamiliar bus in an unfamiliar area.
There is little worse than an enforced trip on an unfamiliar bus in an unfamiliar area. It combines the tedium of being on a bus with the low-level anxiety of a) not being entirely sure the bus is going in the right direction; and b) not being entirely sure where you have to get off. If I wanted to feel like that I would just think about my own life.
I arrived back in town at about 4pm. Although I was off work, I was meeting workmates for a colleague’s leaving drinks at 5pm. It was at that point I remembered my gift promise.
It was no problem. I knew what I wanted to buy, and at 4.30pm I had both items in my relieved hands. But then I realised that I was going out for a drink with people from work, and these things usually wander, and I was going to have to remember the bag of gifts when I left each place.
It was a recipe for disaster, so I took the bag to my office, even though it would clearly mean the massive inconvenience of having to explain to everybody why I was in the office on a day off. I would pick it up afterwards before getting the bus home.
I dropped the bag at my desk. Nobody asked why I was in on my day off. They must have just thought I had been quiet.
Eventually a group of us went to the bar, where I had a couple of drinks. There was talk of going on to somewhere else. But I remembered I was visiting the youngsters early the next day, and really this was where I had to bow out. Luckily, the editor of this column, who is only just finding out about this as she reads it, was also leaving, and she offered me a lift home.
I explained to my leaving colleague why I was leaving before him, made a big deal of my regret at not being able to go on to the next place, and we shook hands, then I left with my editor. No bus for me – I was delighted.
Normally I work on Friday nights. I took advantage of being at home at 8pm by buying fish and chips, eating them, and then flopping onto the sofa. This was indeed the life. This was what normal people with lives and a knowledge of what is happening in Coronation Street did, and it was great.
I kicked off my shoes and settled back. I was going to have an early night and be fresh for the youngsters in the morning. But first a spot of telly…
And then I remembered that the bag of gifts was still sitting on my office desk.
A promise is a promise… I said a rude word, put my shoes back on, and blasted out. Rarely have I been so disappointed to be on a bus on a Friday night.
I disembarked and walked quickly towards my office. If I timed it right, I would return to get the bus home without having to wait half an hour.
But as I closed in on the office I saw a gang walking towards me. They were my workmates, including the leaving colleague. How could I explain why, two hours after leaving them to “go home”, I was now 50 feet in front of them, AND get my bus home in time?
I could not. It has taken me 700 words to explain it to you.
Which is how, on a Friday night, I found myself in circumstances of the sort regular readers of this column would understand, i.e. crouched behind a car outside my office, hiding from 20 people I see every day as they walked past.