THE ART OF COARSE COURSING
In a hurry, have train to catch, but need to purchase some books as a present on the way. And where better to do that than in a book store, I hear you ask. (Should have just thought it if you were concerned about data protection. Don’t say I didn’t warn you for next time).
I arrive at specially selected book store. Specially selected because it’s in right front of me, but let’s not quibble so early into this post, OK? Gaze up at floor plan of floors (don’t start), searching desperately for Comedy or Humour (yes, yes, just like in this blog) but no Comedy or Humour to be found anywhere (don’t even bother). Nobody around to ask, so queue at the counter. Counter person (eventually) helpful. “4th floor,” she says with a smile. “Of course it is,” I reply.
Make my way over to the elevator, where two women are already waiting. Nothing happens for five minutes until one woman snorts and says to the other: “Tsk. Forgot to press the button”. (She means of the lift. She’s already pressed mine). The small light informing would-be elevator users where the car is starts to flicker almost imperceptibly, showing the number 4. Of course it does. We wait. We look at our watch. We swear under our breath. Another five minutes pass, and the women walk away, quite possibly to find a snail to hitch their wagon to, as that would be faster. Finally, the World’s Slowest Elevator arrives at the ground floor. The doors open, I step inside. The doors begin to close, then open again to let someone else in, a situation that repeats itself a couple more times. Start to think it would have been quicker to source and hire a helicopter, and drop out over the roof tied to a long rope.
We start to ascend. Well, the World’s Slowest Elevator starts the World’s Slowest Ascent. We deposit a couple of customers on various floors and then, after three weeks, arrive at Floor 4. The woman in front of me steps out. I step out. The woman in front of me decides she doesn’t much care for the look of Floor 4, so turns abruptly and, in her effort to catch the World’s Slowest Elevator before the World’s Slowest Elevator Doors close, steps on me. Completely pissed off by this time, I exclaim: “Sorry!” That’ll teach her.
I make a fast appraisal of which section I need to aim for: Politics, Economics, Lift Engineering…but don’t espy anything even vaguely resembling comedy. (I’m discounting Lift Engineering for now). I look around the room again, still with the same result. Which means no result. Naturally, there’s no assistant on the fourth floor, so I trundle down the steps to the cafe on the floor below. Queue for the coffee man. Ask the coffee man if he knows where the books are in this store – I’m sure he fleetingly considers telling me they’re on the shelves, but his sixth sense is obviously working well because he foregoes the pleasure – to which he says he does. Where’s the comedy section, I ask. Oo, he replies, don’t think we’ve got one of those. I tell him the clueless hussy on the ground floor (I may be paraphrasing here) suggested to me it was on the 4th floor, but I’ve looked, and I can’t see it.
He comes out from behind the counter. We climb the stairs to the floor above. He looks around the room. He takes out his phone and speaks to someone. “Where’s the comedy section?” he asks. “You know, jokes”. (He’s speaking to someone who has to have comedy explained to them? Of course he is). “It is? Really?” he cries, incredulously. He traverses the room and bids me follow. We arrive at the section labelled REFERENCE. I say nothing. Partly because I have nothing to say that’s repeatable. Or that I can spell.
I make my selection. Where do I pay? On the ground floor. Where else? I descend using the staircase, of which there appear to be 27 flights. (You know that Going Up In A Multi-Storey Car Park Law? Where you drive round and round in circles for 79 stories before espying a sign which says FLOOR 1? The same law applies to bookshops in reverse. Don’t say reading this isn’t an education). *
Queue at the till. Pay for books and purchase canvas bag into which to put them. Into. Make to leave the store, only espy a far nicer canvas bag hanging on the wall by the door, so queue at the till to swap it over with the first canvas bag. It’s exactly the same price, but complicated procedure must take place with bar codes (I could do with the bar by this point) and tills and labels before I can take it away.
Rush to station in a rush. Collect train ticket from machine. Find 20p in pocket in order to spend a penny (don’t get me started), emerge from cubicle to find long queue of women standing in line to use the facilities. Can’t get over to the vanity mirror in order to freshen up my lipstick, so decide to apply it at the wash hand basin mirror. Balance large, open-top handbag containing canvas bag with books, along with other highly important accoutrements necessary for modern day life, on the edge of the basin and apply lipstick in the professional way I always do in order to achieve my normal visage of Sad Clown. Woman brushes past me, I lean forward, which means – of course – my bag tumbles backwards into the basin and activates the automatic movement sensor on the tap, ensuring a thick tsunami of water courses straight into my tote.
Long line of women look at me, so I neatly affect the demeanour of somebody who meant that to happen. (There is a reason I favour the sad clown look, you know).
Explore damage once on the train. Make-up safe, as is my purse, but canvas bag has that lovely, authentic damp feel, as if it’s really wet (it is, of course) and the books within have their pages stuck together. Of course they have. (And they’re not even those kind of books).
Middle-aged bloke climbs on board at Gatwick Airport and sits diametrically opposite me at my table. On the seat next to him he places a large hessian bag with KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON written on the front. He looks at me and asks if I know how long it will be until we reach London. About half an hour, I reply. Although, didn’t the train arrive early at Gatwick? He shakes his head. No, it was on time, he says, which is pretty amazing. I say I knew there was something wrong with it.
Train starts off with a jolt, causing his bag to fall head long onto the floor, all the contents tumbling out under the table. He goes red and, semi-prone, fishes around endeavouring to collect them. I tell him at least he kept calm and carried on. Which, of course, he did.
*I told you not to say it