9 April 2010
A client phones, fifteen minutes before I would have gone home from work and missed setting up an important meeting for next week.
‘So, Monday or Thursday?’ I say. On Monday there’s a non-essential but exciting do at work. Thursday is… just Thursday.
‘Monday,’ she says. Naturally.
As it happens, she’s only dealt with a colleague of mine before. She says, ‘How should I recognise you?’
I say, ‘Err.’
Not as in ‘just go up and ask people until you stop getting it wrong’ but as in ‘nothing I can say is remotely going to help you achieve your goal.’
I happen to be this tall, with these coloured eyes and that coloured hair. So is the rest of the universe, in western Europe. (It’s not, of course. The unmarked ethnicity just has the privilege of assuming it’s that way.) The closest any of our other clients have ever come to a personal remark is to say: ‘I thought you were going to be older,’ and leave an awkward pause.
‘I’m in my mid-twenties,’ I say. Beyond that, anything I can think of as a distinguishing feature probably isn’t. The chances are it would be more realistic to say something like: ‘My handbag is so large I sometimes limp.’
When the police visited my primary school for safety lessons, they used to say: think of someone famous who the suspect looked like, so we can put it in the e-fit. (I know I should say ‘whom’. I never met a policeman who said ‘whom’.) Those happened to be the summer holidays I saw a man who looked like the resident bad boy in Home and Away robbing a parking meter. He must have been the attendant, I suppose. But he shouldn’t have been doing his job with his shirt off.
I’d really be a shocking witness. When Jill Dando died, the murderer apparently took flight down a street where one of my friends’ parents lived. I paid a bit more attention to the news than usual and realised how glad I was it hadn’t happened in my street instead. At the identity parade, I wouldn’t have had a frigging clue. ‘Somebody was even in the street? I didn’t know.’ At university, one of my lecturers thought I was blanking her because I simply didn’t recognise her face when she walked past.
‘It’s probably going to rain,’ I tell the client. ‘I’ll probably be carrying a blue umbrella.’