Yakkety Yak, Don't Talk Back
I spent two days this week in Zurich and I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Switzerland just now if you are a multi millionaire. It’s expensive in the same way as hiring Lewis Hamilton as your chauffeur
and Daniel Craig as your bodyguard, then driving around in your new, gold plated Ferrari which runs only on fuel extracted from moon rock, throwing hundred pound notes out the windows. Switzerland is the Harrods of Europe right now and there’s no sign of a Christmas sale any time soon.
At Zurich airport I ordered a hot chocolate in the small Costa coffee shop and tried not to gasp when I was asked for eight Swiss francs, which is about seven pounds. I then took a taxi for a journey of less than fifteen minutes and was charged fifty six pounds, made the mistake of having a bag of crisps costing over four pounds, and my pasta dinner at night lightened my pocket by almost one hundred pounds. Bill Gates would last about a week there.
Flying home very much poorer after a couple of days of work, I stood in line as we all boarded the aircraft, when two guys in front of me suddenly recognised each other. I’m not sure if each hadn’t seen the other in years, but I suspect what actually happened was that they had made a mistake and didn’t know each other at all. I loved the conversation and kept repeating it in my head so that I could write it down later for you. It went exactly like this.
Guy 1. Hi there.
Guy 2. (loudly and excitedly) Hi. How ARE you?
G1. Good thanks. You?
G2. Yeah, good. So, how are you?
G1. Yeah. Good. Good. Busy. How about you? How are you?
G2. Good. Good. You?
By this time I had worked out that they were deeply embarrassed and couldn’t think of a thing to say but, of course, they were stuck in a queue that was going nowhere.
G1. Yeah. Good. How’s, er........
G2. She’s good thanks. What about er.....
G1 Yeah, she’s fine thanks. All good. Kids?
G2 Yeah good. Yours?
G1 Good thanks. Good. Yeah, good.
This went on for what seemed like ages until I thought I would expire from holding in my laughter. I wanted to see the floor open up and swallow both of them to cover their embarrassment.
Why is it that we feel we have to put on a great show of excitement and pleasure when meeting someone we hardly know? I do it myself, and always feel false, yet I carry on getting more and more excited, as if they are my long lost brother. Often I’ll finish and walk away and then Debbie will say to me “You’ve no idea who he is, have you?”
I have had long conversations with people who I then discover later I’ve never met, but who look like someone I once worked with. They must have wandered off thinking I was nuts. I also get strangers coming up saying “you don’t remember me do you?” and I always say “of course I do” to save their embarrassment, then have to suffer ten minutes of conversation while trying not to give away that I haven’t a clue who they are. Perhaps I should just say “You’re right, I don’t remember you. There’s probably a reason for that.”
I once did the equivalent of the aircraft conversation with a bloke who approached me at a gig saying we’d once worked together in TV. I pretended to remember him, pretended also to recognise the names of old colleagues he brought up, but faltered when it came to the killer question. He said “of course you were always close to Sam. How’s Sam doing?”
I, of course, had no idea who Sam was, didn’t even know if it was a he or a she, so I panicked. To admit the preceding five minute conversation had been nonsense and false would have been embarrassing, but to answer any more questions about Sam would have caught me out. So I took the only route possible. Knowing I would never bump in to this stranger again I put on a serious face and said “I’m afraid Sam passed away.”
If you have any tips on how to deal with these situations please let me know. I’d offer an incentive but I’m scared the winner might live in Switzerland and ask for a hot chocolate as a prize. I’m not a millionaire you know.