My day began, as all my days begin, in the shower and it was not until after I had dressed that it became in any way different. You see, it was then, as I loaded my various pockets with pens, keys and loose change, that I realised that I had not rinsed the shampoo from my hair. A brief look in the mirror told me that much. My hair was sleek and shiny, like it had been steeped in a litre of cooking oil, with white lather gathering ahead of the comb like morons at the front of a bigot’s funeral. Anyway, at that point, I had three options as I saw it. Option one was the obvious one: ignore it – pretend that I had not noticed and simply get on with my day. The obvious choice, but rapidly dismissed. I cannot ignore stuff: stuff nags away at me until it is resolved. It becomes an obsession. The knowledge that a situation exists, deflects me from any other possible train of thought. Besides, nobody wants to spend the day with a sticky head. I could have rinsed my hair under the tap (option two) except that past experience has taught me that such an action would be fraught with possibilities. Would I belt my head on the tap again? Would I do something to my back that would require an elite squad of para-chiropractors to correct? Would I somehow misdirect the entire jet of lukewarm water onto my trouser crotch forcing me into an unplanned change of underwear and trousers or a fevered few minutes with a hairdryer, attempting to dry my groin without branding a metal zip pattern onto my wherewithal? Again… Option three became the only practical solution: undress, leap back into the shower, re-dress – a course of action I undertook with some degree of reluctance, in the certain knowledge that doing so would put me ten minutes behind schedule; a situation that I knew would persist all day.
Now, I have to stress at this point that I was never physically late for anything. I am always early, sometimes obscenely so, so although I was less early today, I was at no stage actually late. For me, however, those ten minutes are locked for the day. Mentally I am running ten minutes behind and I cannot make them up. Gaining ten minutes here or there does not compensate: I may have gained that time anyway, even if I had not started off late, in which case I remain ten minutes in arrears of what I would otherwise have been. Achieving a PB in a marathon when you started ten minutes after everybody else, does not cancel out the initial deficit to the other runners; particularly if you ran the race dressed as a fluorescent cockle or somesuch.
So, what it means, this failure to rinse the Head and Shoulders from my bonce whilst in the perfect position to do so (eg the first time I was in the shower), is a day of stress. The unrelenting pressure of continually being late – even if that is, in truth, actually just a little less early than normal. I am a martyr to my blood pressure. I have one of those little electronic gadgets so that I can monitor it at all times, although I choose not to because that just stresses me out and I am plagued by stress. When things are going badly, I am stressed. When things are going well, I am stressed in case they suddenly start to go badly. I have a pressure cooker between my ears that can whip up a full scale stew from the tiniest of worries in seconds.
I always believed that I would worry less as I got older: that, outside of the one big, major inevitability, I would have less to worry about. Wrong! I worry more. I worry more often and I worry with greater vigour. I worry about things that I should never worry about: e.g. running ten minutes behind my normal thirty minutes ahead of schedule. Of course, if you run a half hour ahead of schedule for long enough, then that itself becomes the schedule and you are no longer ahead of it. So what happens to those thirty minutes? Where do they go? I read somewhere that time itself is slowed down by a black hole. Does that mean that if I ran past one of those I might be able to get my lost time back? Perhaps I would end up turning up for things before they were even arranged. Perhaps I would be even later than when I started off the day with a soapy head – I’m not sure. It’s like trying to work out what happens to time when the clocks go back. I’ve found that the only way I can cope with the anxiety of the event is to alter all of my clocks the night before and then ignore them for a week. Of course, that means that I have to get everywhere an additional sixty minutes early, just in case I’ve got it all the wrong way round and, as I am ignoring my own timepieces, I have to rely on the radio news – and nobody should have to start the day that way.
Anyhow… having now been caught in this manner, I will respond by setting my alarm ten minutes earlier, in case it should happen again and that way I will always be ahead of the game. Except, of course, I will not. Life always fills the allotted time and if I lose ten minutes in the future to some other detergent-related incident, I will still be ten minutes behind all day and, if I’m ten minutes ahead when that occurs, well, that will be another ten minutes that I’ve lost and, sooner or later, I’m going to have lost more than I’ve got left and the stress of keeping ahead of myself will, no doubt, get me in the end. Until then, on a good day I will remember to rinse my hair in the shower and on a bad day I will scurry around like the Reverend Dodgson’s white rabbit, hoping above hope that I can manage to avoid the hole in the ground…
One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall – ‘White Rabbit’ Jefferson Airplane (Grace Slick)