Today is one of those days when the water in the shower tray creeps up above my ankles; when the car starts with the kind of bronchial wheeze that almost certainly signals ‘the end’; when, despite checking at least fifty times before I leave home, I still arrive at work with my flies open.
Strange, isn’t it, the way that life seeks to warn you that you are about to have the kind of day in which your socks will not match and your pants will be inside out?
Such a day is not one of great calamity, but of mithering, niggling annoyance. The kind of day when you spend five minutes trying to open the office door with a novelty corkscrew, before realising that you have left your keys, along with your wallet, your phone and your lunch, on the kitchen table at home. The kind of day when you discover the banana you put in your bag – five weeks after you put it there. The kind of day when you drop the entire contents of a Big Mac into your crotch, just before meeting the girl of your dreams.
Don’t worry, she too, may be having one of those days. Maybe the elastic on her ‘comfort pants’ has finally given up the ghost, but not until thirty minutes after she has left home. Maybe she hasn’t yet realised that the strange stain on her office chair is caused by the cream éclair that is squashed against the backside of her favourite cream trousers. Maybe she has not yet received the evidence that the stilton she had on her crackers last night was actually just an old piece of cheddar that had wedged itself under the fridge shelf six months ago.
And we all know that these little signs that are handed down to us by life will lead us somewhere else; that leaving home with holes in our shoes will lead us into a rainstorm; that a broken fly zip will inevitably lead us onto a bus full of nuns; that turning up to work in the wrong glasses will always lead to us into mistakenly sending a ‘private’ email to the managing director.
It is true that every action has a consequence, but on one of those days, it is not necessarily the one that you would have predicted. Take, for instance, the man who left home without a shower in the morning because the drain was blocked, and set off for work early, consequently forgetting his keys, his phone, his wallet and his lunch. Who, having borrowed ten pounds from a colleague at work, went for a McDonald’s lunch, which he deposited all over his unzipped trousers at the precise moment he first met the woman of his dreams, who, unbeknown to him, had assumed that strange stance in the queue because her knickers had started to fall down and who was blissfully unaware of the large chocolate stain on her behind. Imagine if the eventual outcome of that chance encounter was forty years of marriage, two kids and four grandkids.
And before you ask, the answer is no, it wasn’t me – it wasn’t anybody. Shame really, just imagine what an autobiography that would make.
N.B. ‘Pants’ refers to the English undergarment and not the American overgarment, which is not nearly so embarrassing – unless you are Superman.
If at first you don’t succeed, failure might be your style – Quentin Crisp