Monday, March 13, 2006

I wish I'd said

You know how you go through life being confronted by difficult situations and afterwards you think, "I wish I'd said..."

It happens to me all the time. Sometimes though you can get it right. Not often, but it's so sweet when it happens.

A couple of years ago my wife and I were driving back over the Grampian Mountains, in the middle of nowhere. I think we'd been to my mother's funeral. We stopped at a very isolated hotel for a drink, a former drove inn at the foot of a deep, uninhabited valley.

It was one of those places you go into where everyone stops talking and turns to stare at you. Five young guys at the bar and a very drunk old man stotting off the walls did exactly that. They couldn't have been more surprised if we'd been naked. I realised we'd made a mistake but it was too late to back out. I ordered drinks and we sat down at a window. After a few minutes the conversation amongst the young men resumed in hushed tones.

I needed to go to the toilet. I got up and walked the length of the pub to the Gents toilet. Once inside I closed the door behind me. The wooden frame was roughly made and full of gaps. I could plainly see the legs of the guys sitting at the bar through the ill-fitting slats. I could hear them too. Suddenly they started giggling. "Oh no," someone groaned, "Heggie's chatting up the boy's wife."

"The boy'll go mental," someone else said.

I turned and peered through another hole in the door. The old drunk was leaning over my wife, obviously chatting her up.

I finished my business as quickly as I could and pushed open the door. Immediately the bar fell silent. The air was thick with tension. Purposefully I strode back towards my wife. I had no idea what I was going to say or do. My mind was a blank.

The old drunk looked up at me as I approached, his head lolling backwards, his eyes rolling.

"Excuse me," I heard myself saying in a loud voice, "Is this woman bothering you?"

The whole place dissolved in laughter. They even clapped in polite appreciation when we left. It was very, very satisfying.

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