It is lunchtime, I am at work and myself and two colleagues are sitting in the comfy chairs away from our desks.
It’s nice to sit in the comfy chairs away from our desks because we can drop our job titles for 45 minutes and the real people behind our corporate masks can come out.
Jane is telling a story about how she took her daughter swimming last night and that she enjoyed it. Andrew is relaying a tale of his own about the time he first took his young lad to play football on a Saturday morning.
Both anecdotes, though delightful in their own way, are of no use nor interest to me. I don’t have children therefore I have absolutely zero interest in the offspring other people – particularly work colleagues.
Luckily, I know what to do in such situations.
“Oh, so is your boy any good then? Where does he play?”, I ask and then hope I didn’t sound too enthusiastic in case Andrew thinks I’m being sarcastic.
I then sit back, nodding, head tilted, interest feigned. I’m also quite proud because my second question could refer to the position on the football pitch his son occupies or the location of the club for whom he plays.
I smile, satisfied that I am a great conversationalist, and plunge my spoon into my strawberry yoghurt ready for another mouthful.
I am tuned out until I hear, “Are you going away this year?”
Oh no. This is a disaster. They want to talk about holidays. They want to talk about going abroad. They want to talk about how they spend two alcohol-sodden, sun-scorched, British-ridden weeks in some two star tin pot hell hole on the Costa Del Sol every summer.
“Maybe, hadn’t really thought about it”, I say waving away Jane’s questioning.
I heave a sigh of relief. Which I then realise is a little too pronounced and so try and turn it into a cough. It doesn’t work and I can tell they think I’m a little odd.
But now they think I’m the sort of person that sighs at the avoidance of conversations. I don’t want them to think I’m the sort of person that sighs at the avoidance of conversations. So I decide I will partake.
If they want to talk about travel, I’m going to give them everything I’ve got.
I listen as Jane finishes talking about riding a donkey on Blackpool beach last summer. Or she thinks it might have been the summer before, she’s not sure and she laughs as she ponders the concept of time flying.
My turn. Get ready.
“Yes, riding animals is great isn’t it? Such good fun! I remember the time I rode on the back of an elephant with some tribes in the hills of northern Thailand, and the elephant kept wandering off the path to get food! We were getting thrown into branches and all sorts!”
I chuckle at the memory and then quickly stop as I see the blank faces staring back at me. Andrew fakes clears his throat and they both try to smile.
And suddenly I’m that guy. Through no fault of my own, I make myself a hate figure in the eyes of my workmates.
I’m a bragger, a boaster, an out-doer whose sole purpose in life is one upmanship. I’m someone who thinks riding donkeys on Blackpool beach is beneath me. So much so, that just to prove a point, I have to go all the way to Southeast Asia to find an animal that’s worthy of me sitting on.
This is a disaster. How can I rescue this? Think! Think!
Quick, what other animals have I ridden?! Camels in the Australian outback?? Oh, this is hopeless.
I decide I am left with no alternative.
“So… do you think you’ll take your daughter swimming again?”