Yes, I know this is where you expect to find yourself a bit of Country music, but this morning, something a little different. (Sunday Morning Coming Down will be along shortly, fret not.)
You see, somehow, I appear to have reached a landmark. This is my 1000th post. So, I figure you deserve my best anecdote as a reward for having stuck with me this long.
It’s all downhill from here, by the way.
Deep breath. Here goes:
We had a Christmas works do last year.
It’s something we haven’t really done at all in my time in my current job: mixing socially.
A few of us had met up at the end of September to mark one work colleague getting some sort of auditing qualification which I neither understand nor aspire to. She seemed happy enough to have achieved it, and we all had a really good night. The success of that led others to decide to organise something similar for Christmas.
And so it was that we descended on a local pub one Thursday night. I found myself holding court over a group of work colleagues, mostly women, (when they weren’t pushing ice cubes down my back, which I nonchalantly retrieved and plinked into my drink), dropping anecdotes, taking the piss out of them and myself, generally being the entertaining old soak you know and love.
A few days later, I was sat at my desk at work, when within my earshot Kay (my boss) and one of the other bosses were discussing how enjoyable the night had been, how Kay and I had been the last man and woman standing – we stayed until the ungodly hour of almost-chucking out time – which means that in their eyes we are now confirmed alcoholics. I tried not to earwig, stayed focussed on my monitor, but couldn’t ignore it when Kay said “Yeh, he’s not a bad drinking companion. Tells a pretty good yarn, too.”
I looked up, all innocent. “Who, me?”
Yes, you, they chorused.
So, here’s a pretty good yarn. Everybody I know already knows this story, but it’s the one I’m most often asked to write up here, and I’ve always resisted. Until today. But since this is my 1000th post, now seems as good a time as any.
The first time I ever told this story, and was made aware of its comic potential was back in the mid 1990s. I’d just started working for Boots the Chemist, and had to attend one of those induction/team building sessions that new employers feel obliged to make you go on.
As an ice-breaker, we were invited to tell the rest of the group our most embarrassing moment. There was the usual parade of people trying to avoid the gaze of Pat, my boss and the lady charged with presiding over proceedings. (I used to refer to her as Auntie Pat, which she hated and would often tell me not to call her it. I meant it as a term of endearment, but she didn’t seem to take it that way. Make of that what you will.)
After a few minutes of awkward silence, I thought, “Ah well, I have a pretty funny one”, and put my hand up to volunteer.
After I’d finished, and the laughs died down, Auntie Pat said: “I’m not sure anyone’s going to be able to beat that….”
They couldn’t. They didn’t.
I’ve told this story many times since. All of my friends know it. I told it to my Dad one Christmas a few years ago, when there was just me and him sitting up into the wee small hours, drinking, chewing the fat. “You have to tell your mother that one…” he howled. And the next day, when I did, she said “You have to tell (insert name of aunt or uncle here) that one…” Now, barely a Christmas or a family gathering goes by when I don’t end up telling this story, so you may as well hear it too.
Have I built this up enough yet?
I’ve told this story many times, but I’ve never written it. I hope this works out okay, but I can’t promise anything. That’s what’s known as a disclaimer.
Let me set the scene. It’s 1987, and I’m at Sixth Form. My fellow Sixth-Formers decide a night out is needed, but an activity of choice cannot be agreed on. The boys all want to go to the pub, get drunk and try to get off with the girls. The girls, sensibly, (bar a couple of notable exceptions) want none of that, preferring to go to the cinema to see what is now universally recognised (by straight men) as being the worst film ever made: Dirty Dancing.
A compromise is reached: we’d all go to the pub, have a couple of beers, and then go to the cinema to watch Patrick Swayze do his thang.
And so to The Red Lion on Peterborough’s Cathedral Square we ventured, a bar which had two very important qualities:
- A juke box and two pool tables, and, even more importantly
- It was renowned at the time for being a tad on the lax side when it came to asking for ID.
After a few hours of pint quaffing, we trotted off to the cinema. At that time, there were two in the mighty pantheon that is Peterborough: an Odeon and an ABC, both close to each other, but I’d be lying if I told you I could remember which of them had the dubious distinction of showing Dirty Dancing.
What is important to note here though is that cinemas in the late 1980s were a very different beast to cinemas now. Cinemas had two or three screens at the most; the term “multiplex” simply didn’t exist.
We all make our way into the screen showing the Dancing film. As the Pearl & Dean adverts roll…
…I’m mildly aware that I need to pee, but I figure I can control myself.
The film starts. It’s terrible, obviously. The urge to visit the Gents becomes a little more urgent. I look at my watch and decide I can hold it in a little longer.
After an hour or so seems to have passed, I check my watch again. Oh. It’s ten minutes later, and my bladder now feels full enough to burst. There’s nothing for it, I decide: I’m going to have to go to the gents and miss the thrillingly complex and layered build up that you’ll no doubt be aware occurs in Dirty Dancing.
I’ve ended up sitting towards the rear left of the theatre; there’s no exit behind me to the left, so I now have to make my way along the line of people sitting to my right as I head towards the door.
“Sorry…excuse me…was that your foot, I’m so sorry….sorry, excuse me, sorry…”
I stumble to the end of the row, and make it to the door. On going through it, I find myself in an annex, confronted with three more doors.
I feel a little like this (although dressed slightly differently, but only slightly, mind):
One has the word “Ladies” written on it, so I exclude that from my enquiries.
The other two have no writing on them at all. But it’s okay, I reason to myself, because I can remember walking through one of them to get into the theatre, which means the other one had to be the Gents, but the sign must have fallen off. You know, like they do.
All I need to do, therefore, is remember which door one is the one that I have already been through.
The sensible thing to do at this point would be to open one of the other two doors, or both if necessary, to establish what was on the other side.
I did not do the sensible thing.
Instead, I decided that as the door marked “Ladies” was the one to the left, then the door to the foyer must be the one to right, with the door to the Gents’ being in the middle, next to the Ladies’.
Now, gentleman readers, it is at this juncture that I require some support, for what I am about to say demands a frankly incredible suspension of belief.
You’ve been in a similar situation, I’m sure, where the desperate, overwhelming need to pee coupled with the certainty of the proximity of a place to pee leads you to begin to unbuckle, unbutton or unzip in advance of sight of the actual target, right?
We’ve all done that, haven’t we?
Actually, I know I’m not alone here. A chap I knew when I lived in Cardiff described the exact same thing when he recounted how odd it is that the need to pee when drunk dramatically increases the moment he got his front door key out of his pocket, like his bladder had decided that keys out = home, or near enough that nobody’s going to object. He even had a name for it: “Premature Drunk Piss Excitement”, which, if you’ll excuse the phrase, doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but I’ve never managed to improve on it.
So, not just me then.
On this occasion, however:
I force my way through the door that I have determined is 100%, definitely, no two ways about it, the door to the gents. Unzipped and ready for action.
Only to find that the door in question does not lead to the sanctuary of a urinal.
It lead to the concessions stand.
And specifically, I am standing behind the hot dog stand. With Little Jez out and ready for action.
Luckily I manage to clench, but I see a girl dressed in the cinema’s livery turn towards me, her lip curled up in disgust and horror.
And then, as I desperately attempt to tuck everything away again and head for the door, I hear the voice of the bloke she is serving, who was trying to buy a hot dog.
“Not that one thanks, love. I’d like a full-size one. Plenty of mustard, please.”
Appropriate song alert:
Led Zeppelin – Hot Dog
Oh, the shame.
Drinking buddies will now testify that I now seem to have developed a system where the desperate need to pee is avoided quite simply, by visiting the toilet almost every ten minutes after the second pint as kicked in. The correct medical term for this is not “I’ve broken the seal”, or “The taps are on now”, or “Captain Slackbladder”; no, it is called “Being Nearly Fifty.”
Anyway, enjoy your breakfast.