Tab Rates vs. Tab Slates: Week Five

Rates vs. Slates rejoices over hats and renewed academic confidence (ish) but slates coach drivers and being introduced as ‘friendly’.

Bus hat New Look Phoebe Luckhurst picnic Sandwiches supervision supervisor Tab Rates vs. Tab Slates

Misread signals. My supervision was definitely an hour long. I’ve since checked the email four times to confirm this fact. It is a fact. I was supposed to be there for 60 minutes. I’ll allow that I was five minutes late, due to ‘printing complications’ – a rather grandiose term, ‘complications’ seemingly more reminiscent of a difficult Caesarean Section than particularly fitting for the mundane circumstance that actually occurred, namely that the printer was out of paper – but that does not justify the supervision running over by half an hour. I could have had something else to do, perhaps a difficult Caesarean to perform, or something. I didn’t. Actually I was going home to watch The Apprentice, but that’s not the point. At the hour mark, I started making noises that I believed signified a conclusion. Sort of satisfied exhalations, indicative that my academic quota had been filled for the day. I stacked my papers together and put the lid on my pen; if the supervision was in fact an hour and a half long this would have been extremely rude. But it was definitely meant to be an hour long. The only reason I can find for this excess of my academic quota is that I am a dream to teach, in a return to my school reports circa 2005, long before I came to Cambridge and realise that I wasn’t anywhere near as clever as anyone else here. Therefore this incident is in Rates because it has salvaged my soul.

My new hat. I have a new hat. It has a pom-pom. It is black and white. Far from being Orwellian in its economy, this prose reads like a personal essay of a particularly dull eight-year-old, but this is perhaps because the hat makes me look about eight. It is also a particularly annoying item for someone of my relative height to wear, because the pom-pom keeps getting caught on doorframes, pulling the entire item off my head and leaving me confused and bereft: why are my ears suddenly cold? Where is my new hat which is new and has a pom-pom and is black and white? However, I am particularly happy with this hat, because it has been three days now and despite this logistical snag, I, defying form, have not lost it yet. This hat symbolises a new epoch in my life. What with discovering/inferring I am a dream to teach, and not losing something – an act which most people manage to perform unthinkingly with most of their possessions every day – it has been a week of successes.

Bus drivers. I was on a coach the other day. Coaches always hang with the pungent fug of digestive processes, ill-chosen sandwich choices (think before you fill: egg is never going to smell good four hours after you slapped it between two hunks of brown) and Lynx, which, after coalescence with these other two aromas, smells determinedly less like ‘Dark Temptation’ and determinedly more like I imagine the bathrooms in Hell do. There is never a comfortable way of attempting sleep; someone will always try and draw on your face. You always end up sitting behind someone who, faced with the former problem, won’t stop wriggling, the back of their chair waggling accordingly like furniture possessed; or, alternatively, behind someone doing the latter, and giggling maniacally. In short, coach travel is predictable.

What is equally predictable, is that your coach driver will be a wanker. This is perhaps of more interest because it designates that becoming a coach driver signifies some kind of ‘lack’; a cavity in the soul where genuine human decency ought to lodge; that there is some kind of coach driver ‘gene’. I plan to present my findings to the BMA in an extended paper. Our coach driver’s particular grievance was a chap who was, contrary to the driver’s invective, perfectly happy to put his seatbelt on. In fact, I would proffer that the only reason he was taking so long about it was that the driver was spitting in his face (probably) about the importance of putting on his seatbelt. Mr Coach Driver was angry; his anger was so disappointingly predictable. He could have been the coach driver who drove us to hockey games every weekend of my school career; he could have been the coach driver who drove me to Stansted from Victoria in the Easter holidays. The only flaw in my psychological hypothesis would be if he actually were this coach driver, but I find this unlikely and thus conclude that coach drivers are by definition, wankers.

Introductions. Self-evidently, euphemisms require universality for them to become linguistic currency. Everyone understands that when you describe someone as ‘bubbly’, you mean ‘a bit chubs’ and when you describe someone as ‘friendly’, you mean ‘in some way, will make you very uncomfortable’. I was with someone I didn’t know particularly well at an event last week; she was quite drunk, I less so, and introduced me to a friend of hers as, ‘this is Phoebe, she’s really friendly!’ Now. My being able to ‘make you very uncomfortable’ is ultimately indicative of me being found to be somewhat lacking in social skills, ‘friendly’ probably meaning that I touch you on the arm when the occasion doesn’t call for it, assume familiarity when we’ve only just met, etcetera. It is a vague definition, but in no way is it a complimentary one. Watching as someone-I-didn’t-know-very-well floated off, presumably to make more crippling introductions, I was now very self-conscious of my own social conduct which seemed to translate into a paralysed failure to speak about anything other than the advantages of ridged paper cups over ones without ridges. Many and various, if you want me to recreate my appalling conversational topic; however, I had now made not only myself look very stupid, but also someone-I-didn’t-know-very-well (oh, how sad for them), because I was demonstrably not ‘friendly’ but actually surly and awkward. I made someone ‘very uncomfortable’ but not in the way they expected, and for that deflation of social expectations, I apologise.