MY office recently moved premises to a swish new building, and it has meant I have had seriously to raise my suaveness game.
I can’t turn up to work looking as if I lost at strip poker on my way in and had to steal items from a washing line, like David Banner. Not any more.
No, this glamorous new building requires that I look as debonair as, say, the late Sir David Frost or Rihanna. It requires highly-polished Chelsea boots and pressed shirts and a deck tan. It requires that I greet the security person on reception as I would the concierge at the Waldorf, as I glide past, still wearing my sunglasses.
Luckily, I can manage all of that, apart from the deck tan. Despite the long hot summer, I still look as if I have been carved from ivory by a sculptor who died before he finished.
In the old building I used an escalator to access and leave my office, which was fine apart from when it was switched off. Nothing is more disconcerting than walking down a paused escalator in the semi-darkness. Every step is a new adventure.
But in the swanky new offices, it’s lifts all the way. I am a big fan of lifts. They’re marvellous. I have often wondered how the pitch meeting went when the inventor – let’s call him Otis – addressed his bosses. I can only imagine. And here, I am imagining it…
OTIS: “OK, so, It’s a little box, and you go into it and stand with some other people, and the door closes, and you wait for a bit, and when the door opens you’re somewhere else.”
BOSSES: “You mean you’ve invented the TARDIS?”
OTIS: “No, this just goes up and down floors in a building. And it’s very cramped, so you’re standing way too close to people you don’t know.”
BOSSES: “That sounds a bit intimate. Can you make it so that everybody faces the door, so there’s no eye contact?”
OTIS: “Of course. Only a sociopath would face INTO the box.”
BOSSES: “OK, but we’re worried that people will be spooked when the doors open on different floors. Can you make it so that when the doors open, every floor looks exactly the same? You know, just to reassure them?”
OTIS: “Not a problem.”
BOSSES: “And what are you going to call your invention?”
OTIS: “I was thinking I’d call it a lift in the UK, and an elevator in the States, because things always have to have different names in the States.”
BOSSES: “So this thing doesn’t go down? It only lifts and elevates?”
BOSSES: “Oh, whatever.”
OTIS: “Hang on. How do you know about the TARDIS? Doctor Who isn’t going to be invented for another 110 years.”
BOSSES: “It’s a time machine, innit?”
All this is to explain how what happened was not my fault.
I glided through reception last week in my sunglasses to see the doors of one of the lifts starting to close and I dashed forward to press the button so they would open again, just in case, I don’t know, they abolished lifts.
The doors opened and I stepped inside a lift full of mildly-inconvenienced people, noting that my floor had already been selected. Then I turned to face the door, and went through the tedious process of swapping sunglasses for normal glasses.
The doors opened again on my floor, and I stepped out into the lobby, turned to face the office door, and realised I had got out at the wrong floor. They all look the same, dammit, Otis.
“Still”, I thought, “style it out. Walk towards whichever office is on this floor and let the lift close. They don’t need to know. You can just take the stairs after they’ve gone.”
The trouble was, for the doors to have opened, somebody must have pressed the button for that floor. And so she emerged, also walking towards the office door, fumbling in her handbag for her pass card.
So I did what I always do in these situations. I dropped to the floor and pretended to fasten my shoelace until she had gained access to her office…
And, as she rooted through her bag, I realised that this was really not the day to have worn highly-polished Chelsea boots, as I genuflected before her for no apparent reason.
I really must raise my suaveness game.