Small but significant embarrassments abound

Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images
It was a bad week for awkward moments in Dunedin. David Loughrey takes us to the heart of the matter.

It was maybe 3.15 in the afternoon.

It was heavily overcast; a northerly had breathed its last after an hour’s bluster, the fairways were ominously calm and the flags on each green hung limp as they awaited the forecast wind to rumble in from the south and whip them away from their poles to dance alone into the night.

There was an unsettled feeling, a brooding sort of tranquillity coupled with a scrambled sense of foreboding, a knowledge something could happen, you just didn’t know what.

The concrete sky glazed the eyes that beheld it, hardening the heart and benumbing the mind.

All was still.

And then it happened.

They came from above, descending in single file, at first out of eyesight — so steep was their approach — then unexpectedly and without warning they were upon me, four young women slipping down a sandy path from John Wilson Ocean Dr before regathering and tripping their way across the 13th fairway near the tee.

There was no hint of who they were or where they were going, save their general direction, which seemed to suggest they were headed to Tainui, and the odd impression I gained from who-knows-where they were a bunch of young chums who had seen Pink the night before and were spending Sunday having a nice walk and talking about their school days.

The whole thing could have passed without incident.

It did not.The leader of the troop, perhaps sensing she should say something — anything — to the man with the golf club, said: "Something something something something busy today!"

I hadn’t expected it.So I wasn’t listening, and by the time I began to concentrate on what was said it was too late.

Had she said "golly it’s busy today", despite it not being busy, or had she said "golly it’s not very busy today", which made more sense?

Probably the latter, but I wasn’t sure, I was too embarrassed to ask her to repeat, and the seconds were ticking by fast.

I had no time to think the whole thing through, but I had to respond.

"Yes," I blurted in a panic.

"No, it isn’t, really."

I made no sense at all.

My face reddened and my neck prickled with the heat of shame.I sat deflated on the 13th tee of Chisholm Links feeling aggrieved and angry, because these sort of incidents have surely been dogging the unsuspecting since the dawn of human history, and nobody has done a thing.

Nobody has come up with a simple stock phrase that means "acknowledge" but somehow works no matter what has been said.

And that’s a crying shame.It was 8.29am.

The heavy wooden door to the office building swung open to receive a flash of sharp early light, the entrance filled with the heavy coats and leather gloves of employees arriving for the day, footsteps echoed from the stairwell and the buzz of morning greetings steamed up the air.

A lift groaned under its load and wheezed its way upward, grinding to a halt on an upper floor and unloading its panting masses.

They scattered hither and yon, apart from two, who set off towards the entrance to their office.

One was me.I’m a fast walker, I don’t muck about, and 8.30am is time to be at work and timeliness is one of my best qualities.

The distance between me and the other walker, who was dawdling and dilly-dallying excessively, lengthened with each step, and by the time I made it to the door, keyed in the entrance code and swung it open they were 15 metres behind, and it was decision time.

It would be rude to let the door shut and force them to go through the code-keying process, but they were too far away, and standing there for ages holding the door seemed stupid.

What should I do?

The decision was too much, so I closed the door and went back to the lift, rode it to the bottom and then back up, waited to make sure nobody was around and entered the workplace two minutes late, hid in the toilet for an hour, went home sick then came back five minutes later.

I sat deflated in my office chair, aggrieved and angry, because these sorts of incidents must have happening since an animal pelt was first fastened loosely over a cave entrance.

And nobody has done anything about it.

Nobody has come up with a standard distance from a door at which one isn’t required to hold it open, a distance that could be marked on the floor perhaps so these embarrassing and awkward incidents don’t keep repeating themselves down the annals of history.

And that’s a crying shame.

It was noon at the counsellor’s office.

A well-thumbed Woman’s Day and a New Idea with no front cover sat in front of me on a small table, but I had no time to read them before I was called in for my session.

I said "good morning".

My counsellor said "hello".

Both at the same time.

We laughed nervously.

I went to shake his hand as he turned to sit down, and inadvertently touched his bottom.

He had a piece of food stuck to his front tooth.I wasn’t sure what to do; should I tell him and embarrass him or should I not say anything and leave him with that hideous visage for the rest of the day?

He said: "Something something something today?"

I hadn’t expected it, so I wasn’t listening, and by the time I began to concentrate on what was said it was too late.

"Yes," I blurted, in a panic.

"No, it isn’t, really."

He handed me a tissue.

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