I was hanging around the street, a little way up from the entrance to the pub where I go for the trivia quiz on Thursday nights. It was one of the breaks between rounds so I’d slipped out for a smoke and a chance to think over a remark I’d made in conversation with a team-mate. I’d just discovered a belief that I didn’t know I had and it seemed to be a good time to start thinking over how to fit it in alongside the old ones and which of the old beliefs were going to need clearing out to accommodate it.
A friendly female voice called out to me "Are you OK there." I’m a sucker for friendly female voices. I replied "Yeah, sure," and tried to pick up my train of thought, but she wasn’t any of that.
"Just had to ask," she said, "Because I’m that sort of person – y’know, when I see someone who might be having a bit of trouble, I’ve got to do something, y’know?"
"Ah-hah." I said, and wandered away up the street a little, still pre-occupied with the new belief problem. She wasn’t having any of that either.
"Hey, don’t take yourself so seriously," she said, "It’s not worth it. I know about these things. See, I’ve got half a leg."
I was starting to regret lighting a second cigarette but I was also fascinated. It’s not every night you meet a drunkenly cheerful extrovert who’s a bit deficient in the leg department. She was blonde and not entirely unattractive as well so I was temporarily endeared to her.
She’d made it clear that, whether I liked it or not, we were going to have a conversation, so I put on my friendly face and moved a little closer. While I did, I took stock of her legs – one foot in a running shoe, the other in a white sock and a sandal with a velcroed strap. I made the count one and a half legs at least but, given what they can do with prosthetics these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if I overestimated by a whole leg.
"I mean, these people here with their trivia, they take it so seriously, y’know? They need to get a sense of perspective …"
I knew what she meant – since I was one of those people there for the trivia but I decided to keep quiet about that.
"… It’s not that important and I should know – I’ve got half a leg!"
"What is it with these people? Why do they take it so seriously?" she asked, "We were sitting at this table and someone asked me to stop copying her answers. So I told her it wasn’t that important – she needs to get a sense of perspective. Look, I said, it's not that important. I should know – I’ve got half a leg."
One and half legs, I corrected her silently. And as it happens I know someone – distantly – who’s only got one leg and a stump and she doesn’t carry on about it the way you do, as far as I know she doesn’t use it as an excuse to crib at trivia nights and maybe she’s smart enough to leave people alone when they want to be left alone too.
I didn’t say any of that, of course, because the last thing you want to do when you have a drunkenly cheerful, egocentric extrovert on your hands is turn them into a drunkenly angry, egocentric extrovert. I took another drag on my ciggie – the sooner I got it smoked down to a buttable length and got back inside, the better but I didn’t want to provoke any "Wazzamatta? My not good enough for ya" stuff either.
A young buck came out of the pub, walked round to the driver’s side of the car we were both standing beside and fished in his pocket.
"Oh shit!" He said, "I’ve left the keys in the car."
"No darl’ – you left them on the table inside."
"No, I’m pretty sure they’re in the car."
"I saw them on the table, I’m sure of it. Go back and have a look."
He complied – he obviously knew better than to contradict her too. I looked at my cigarette – nearly there. Close enough to risk an attempt to channel our mainly one-side conversation onto a less touchy topic than trivia buffs who take themselves too seriously because they’re over-leggy.
"Men, eh?" I quipped. Before she could respond, her buck came out of the pub again.
"No they’re not on the table." He said.
"Well where are they then?"
By now he’d reached the driver’s side of the car. He looked in the window.
"They’re in the car – I can see them on the driver’s seat."
It was a perfect chance for me to bugger off, before I got dragged in any deeper. I took it.