Now I don’t think I know what I’m doing as I go through life, and I certainly don’t feel that I give the impression that I know what I’m doing in life. I mean, I’m the kind of person who spills fish and chips on themselves. But clearly some people think, upon seeing me, that I know what I’m doing. And the only possible reason is that I wear a collared shirt all of the time – even in bed – and when I’m out and about I am partial to wearing a jacket. And by jacket I do not mean bomber or leather, no I mean what is called in America a Sports Jacket. And what is called in England – a jacket.
This used to make me look like a toff (and to some it still will) but because people don’t wear those kinds of clothes anymore, and because I’m not over forty people seem to think that this means I work wherever I am standing, or that in some way I am in charge. It’s odd because often when this happens to me, I am actually scouting around quite vigorously* looking for somebody who works there or is in charge.
I’m asked directions a lot. No, I know, you’re asked directions from time to time too. I would say that it’s rare that I go two days without being asked directions. I was once, while lost in Italy, asked directions by an Italian in Italian – that’s how approachable I am.
Approachable used to be what I thought it was. I had that way about me, where people weren’t afraid to walk up and say, “excuse me, what time is the train to Basingstoke”? But there is something else, maybe people think I might know the answer, or maybe, as I’ve come to suspect, people think I might be in charge.
Yes, I think it’s the clothes, the shirt with a collar, the jacket with a collar, they make people think that I probably know what I’m doing. That I have some authority. I suspect this because of an incident that happened to me during a visit to the doctors. I was suffering from a blocked right ear and I decided that I needed my ears syringed. I suppose one is supposed to visit a doctor who refers you to the nurse who does this, but I clearly didn’t have time for such shilly-shalying around. I wanted to get this baby syringed. I phoned the surgery and they booked me in and I turned up. Now this is the first occasion that I have been to the doctors in 5 years*** and we’ve moved and so therefore has the doctor. So I haven’t been to this building before.
I find the place well enough and as I approach I realise that there are no obvious way into the building. Two entrances look viable but there is no sign.**** I approach with caution and then at the last moment make a bold play for the larger set of doors.
Once inside, I realise I have made the wrong choice. I could, of course, walk back through the door, admit defeat and enter the correct way. But that wouldn’t be the manly way to do things. I decide to stride on purposefully. I plan to edge towards the other entrance as well as I can given the internal geography of the building. After a few moments of panic this genuinely seems to have worked. I am now near the doctors surgery. I walk past the receptionists and I see that they are all facing into a room that I can’t see a way into. After a moment or two I realise there is a door but you can’t open it from this side only from the other side. Presumably I have come in the exit. I walk, no stride, back to the receptionists.
The three ladies are sitting in a long thin room with a desk in front of them with telephones, computers, blinking lights and a big glass window at the front of it to presumably stop the diseases from getting to them. But they have thankfully left the door to their room open, presumably because it is blinking hot and their office would essentially otherwise become a greenhouse. I am in the side alley, the side alley onto which their door opens.
I sidled up and said, “Erm, I have come…”, I make a gesture, “Ear Syringe”.
Now, I admit, that I could have used more words. I could have said, “to have my”. But that’s just not the way I speak. I leave out vast swathes of information, it’s my way.
I’m sure you’re well ahead of me, they gave me directions this time, and instead of thinking I was a patient, they clearly thought I was a doctor needing to visit the nurse to discuss her current case. They told me where to go. It sounded feasible that this was a secret way back into the waiting room.
I walked, I turned, I firmly opened the door… And discovered the nurse giving another patient the ear syringe operation.
“Ahh… Doctor…” she said.
“I’m not a Doctor,” I said.
I realised with alarm that she hadn’t stop syringing the poor blokes ear. He looked aghast at the news.
“What,” the nurse quite reasonably asked, “are you doing here then?”
“I think I’m your next patient. I think there might have been some mix up at the desk.”
“Yes there must have been.”
“I’ll…,” I said, “I’ll go.”
“Yes,” she said.
I went back, walked all the way around, back outside and into the reception the proper way and luckily the receptionist who had pointed me in the direction of the room earlier was on the phone. This time everything worked.
What I’m trying to say is, “don’t ask me for directions”.
* With my eyes only I don’t wield binoculars or put my hand above my eyebrows, as though putting your hands above your eyebrows suddenly makes you see further**
** Although I do of course do the hand / eyebrows thing from time to time just to check.
*** The previous time I went was the day after the 7th of July bombings in London. Imagine having your blood pressure taken while a) the 7th of July bombings had happened the day before, b) you have just had 2 pints of coffee, c) you are about to make your way into London, d) your mother is sitting outside in a cafe waiting for you so that we could all go into London, e) to meet some friends who had warned us not to be late for a busy restaurant with wall to wall reservations, and f) there had been a forty five minute delay seeing the doctor. It was a little high.
**** I later found the sign in a hedge.