A fair few years back, good old British Telecom churned out an ad campaign that told us “it’s good to talk”. This is true of selling phone contracts and it is also true of many wonderful things like spreading gossip, getting a job as a TV presenter and generally maintaining relationships with humanity as a whole. There are, however, such times when anyone who utters a solitary word should be subjected to such horrific acts of violence that would make Reservoir Dogs look like The Teletubbies.
The first of these such occasions would be the early morning commute. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on this one, in fact, I and several work colleagues have entered into an unwritten (and most definitely unspoken) agreement, that when we happen to suffer the misfortune of finding ourselves on the same train in the morning, we perform a secret society-esque nod of polite mute sagacity before all parties go back to pretending the others don’t exist, until the office doors have closed behind us and we’re contractually obliged to interact.
Attempting to engage me in conversation when my brain hasn’t been taken off autopilot (and before the first Diet Coke of the day) will result in a few unintelligible grunts and, should you persist further, a poke in the eye (I can’t help it, it’s the autopilot). The early morning train is where I stuff my iPod in my ears, my nose in a free newspaper and the world can stuff itself!
Next on my Hit List of Hush is the massage parlour. Those of you who are foolish enough to think of these places as safe havens of peace, clearly haven’t read my earlier article (click here). To top off the horrors that might befall you in your prone and naked state, is the chatty beauty therapist.
While I’m trying to drift away from the knowledge that her hand is just two inches from my most delicate of delicates, I’d rather we both just let the tinny whale song fill the air and that the lady with the oily hands reserve her inquisition on social affairs for her chums in the bar later that evening. When someone is prodding and pummelling me into a state of utter muscular bliss, I will, yet again, only be able to utter the most guttural of sounds and these will in no way have been an answer to her pointless queries into my personal life.
It’s rather hard to poke someone in the eye when your head is wedged in the hole of a massage table but the will is there and she’d better hope she doesn’t get the same morning train as I do.
Almost as bad as the tube journey to work is the cab journey home from the airport. After a 10 hour flight next to a screaming toddler, the last thing I want to do is to enter into an interrogation about my week working abroad. I’m aware the driver is only being polite but I look like Tom Hanks in Castaway, complete with beard. There’s your clue.
Conversely, I don’t want to know if you’ve been busy today and I don’t want to know what time your shift finishes (the obligatory questions we feel compelled to ask on entering a taxi). I also don’t particularly want to know who you had in the back of your cab yesterday, unless your only reason for telling me is because it was a millionaire who dropped their diamond collection and couldn’t find the last £20,000-worth. If that is the case, I shall offer you a monosyllabic grunt, roll onto the floor face down with my tweezers and we’ll say no more about it.
I’m going to refer back, if I may, to my most delicate of delicates for the next scenario where chat is most definitely unwelcome. Having assumed the least graceful of undignified positions, with a doctor looking intently at a place most definitely not on most maps, the last thing I want to do is acknowledge said doctor.
The following is not only horrific, it’s also true. I was in the afore mentioned necessary position when the doctor, hands full, so to speak, decided to break out the small talk and asked where I worked, which was a pizza restaurant back in those days. Upon hearing this, my doctor then delighted in telling me they loved that particular place and asked if I would slip them a few extra toppings upon their next visit!!!
Listen chum, you perform your duty, which is to get in and out as quickly as possible and I’ll do mine, which is to lie back, stare at the ceiling, think of unicorns and floral arrangements and try not to trump. Neither of our jobs requires narration, interrogation or pizza negotiation. (I would threaten a poke in the eye here but I think we know who has the upper hand when it comes to sensitive anatomical areas and poking).
The last of my golden silence situations is the hairdresser. These Kings and Queens of the coiff are trained to grill you for all your travel plans (inane questions to be repeated by the junior who washes your hair), your relationship failings (inane questions to be repeated by the junior who sweeps the floor) and your deepest inner feelings towards the X-Factor contestants (inane questions to be repeated by the receptionist as you pay). The whole thing leaves me with a very twitchy eye-poking finger.
I have, through trial and error, found the holy grail of bouff-wranglers. I enter the salon, I’m greeted, offered a beverage (wine please), asked what services I would like (make me look younger and hotter) and then I’m left to concentrate on my trashy magazine while she concentrates on knocking off 2 inches and 10 years. When I leave, I’m none the wiser of her holiday in Tenerife, she is no nearer learning that I don’t watch the X-Factor. For this, I leave her an extra large tip and I forego any eye poking.
I guess BT are right, it really is good to talk – to your friends, to your family… and to tell your hairdresser, gynaecologists, cab driver, masseuse and fellow train passengers to shut up!