Last night I was alone.
The shop wasn't busy, so I didn't feel especially out of place at my table-for-four-with-single-occupancy. In fact, the chicken was so engrossing, that I didn't really bother too much about my dining alone at all. I did my usual time-filling trick of text swapping.
I relaxed nicely.
After I'd finished, I returned to the car park. The people before me in the queue for the ticket machine were scraping together their two pound car parking fee from silver coins. They had just enough, but their last ten pence's worth was in the form of two five pences. They were struggling to get the machine to accept it. They apologised to me for the delay. I said I didn't mind and that it was nice to watch them paying together as a team. The two women in question were in their mid to late 30's I guess. They seemed more bothered about the inconvenience they were causing me than I would have ever been bothered about it myself. They hit the realisation that their last ten pence, in two five pence installments, was simply not going to work. The machine only takes ten pence pieces, nothing smaller (no, that would be CONVENIENT). At this point, I said "Here, let me." and whacked a ten pence piece into the slot. They were thankful and maybe they wondered why I'd do such a thing. I explained that "I just wanted to be part of the paying team".
In truth, I think I realised that the price of ten pence was less than the inconvenience they were suffering and I just threw it into the machine as a favour. Or, maybe it amused me to join in the paying. Or maybe I could pay ten pence and get myself to the front of the queue to pay for my own ticket. Probably all three. Generally, it felt like a minor bit of generosity on my part would sort out a problem right under my nose. I didn't think twice. In fact, if I'm honest, I'd sort of predicted the problem and already located a ten pence piece just to be on the safe side. The women were grateful for my intercession and thanked me. I shrugged it off. It really was nothing. Then one of them said something which I thought didn't summate my motivation at all - "Ah you've helped some damsels in distress".
Though I'm all for chivalry, I don't think I view women as helpless creatures who need some big strong man to some along and save them from nasty things. I think that attitude is demeaning towards the female gender. Sure, an individual may have needs and I'd like to think that I could step in and shoulder a burden, but just being a girl doesn't make you a damsel or in distress. Still, I smiled and they walked away, and I didn't feel like a sleazy 30-something-singleton, using any excuse to meet available women. Because I'm not. Yet.
As I walked to my car I mused over the exchange. I thought of what I could have said in response. I would not have said this, nor even wanted to, had I thought about it at the time. But it occurred to me that it would have been funny (for an onlooker) if I'd said it. This is one of those Esprit d'escalier moments (see here) - the "thing I should have said". The French gave it this name, because you think of it on the stairs leading away from the encounter. In this case, I was not on some stairs, but here's what went through my mind:
Her: Thank you, you've helped some damsels in distress.
Me: Really? Oh, I would have thought a damsel would be a lot younger.
I chuckled, laughed and guffawed my way to the car.
Then I went to Tesco.
I had a plan for Tesco. I was going to buy some tea bags and some shampoo. That was all.
I spent nearly £50.
It wasn't my fault. I'd decided at some point, in my head, prior to arriving at Tesco, that if I saw the Borat DVD for cheap somewhere I'd buy it. It gave me such a laugh when I saw it at the cinema, that I'd happily see it again. It was under £10 in Tesco. Into the basket it went.
Then my appetite was whetted.
I found a copy of A Clockwork Orange for under £6, and I feel like I ought to see that movie. I've never seen it.
Then I went through the CDs. Then my night became complete. For £3.93, I bought a CD. No, not a CD. A double CD. Chas 'N' Dave. Yes. Chas. 'N'. Dave. They have two apostrophes in their name and they're both in the right places! It was the greatest hits CD with a bonus "knees up" CD. Chas 'N' Dave. Genius! It so surely made my night. It was definitely worth the £4. No I'm not having a breakdown. I bought it ironically, of course. Any-old-iron-ically.
Having said that, you have to be careful of doing things "ironically". There's no such thing as an "ironic wank", as a wise person once said to me. I may have bought this CD expecting to laugh at its inadequacies and appreciate what makes the genre so cringeworthy-yet-somehow-amusing... but I still bought a Chas 'N' Dave CD. I'm 33 and I'm buying Chas 'N' Dave. Whatever next!?
Well, to balance things out, I bought an Oasis CD too. That's not really being "down with the kids". This CD was released during my student days (or thereabouts), so it's young people's music of my generation. I also bought the previous Kaiser Chiefs CD, which is young persons' music of today... but I still like it... and I'll probably buy their next album. Ha. And nobody will tell me I'm kidding myself. And it doesn't matter, because one of them went to my school, so I'm just supporting my school (that's a crap argument).
I have a long drive to Leeds after work today. I suspect that these CDs will come in handy.
The tea came with a free soft toy, which is now in the proud possession of my ex-girlfriend, whose shower I used last night, my own being somewhat "not online yet".
I had planned to go to sleep on the other side of watching Borat, but realised that it was midnight when I got home, and so there wasn't time. I've a lot coming up next week, and I can't be messing it up with heroic efforts at movie watching.