Yesterday I was having serious difficulties establishing any kind of human contact with anyone. On my way into Oxford on the 100 bus, I failed to answer a call from hatmandu as I’d put my phone on vibrate (specifically to hear it over my iPod) and then left it in my bag, where I couldn’t feel it buzz away. When I returned his call his mobile wasn’t in range of a mast.
I got off the bus and walked down Cornmarket. Passing WHSmith, I realised my phone was buzzing something terrible, but couldn’t get it out of my pocket past my keys and credit cards. It turned out it was my slightly wearing Chechen friend: I say received because I didn’t get to it in time, and so my answerphone received it for me. It turns out he’s been ringing me for days, but because he has a new phone and so I don’t recognise the number I’ve been ignoring it; he, in turn, hasn’t been leaving any sort of message, so quite what warranted the pissiness of yesterday’s message I don’t know.
As I got to the till in Ryman’s my phone went off again. It was hatmandu, trying to get in touch again. I said I’d ring him back once I was outside. Safely ensconced in the disused doorway between the entrance to the gym above Ryman’s and the Lloyds Bank, out of the way of passers-by, I rang hatmandu back to have a chat.
By the third time that I’d been whacked off the doorstep I decided to end the call. It turns out the exit is only disused when a shift isn’t ending at the bank. At that point, despite the presence of a spyhole in the door, numerous counter-thickoes bang and bash their way out onto the street like blundering moles into daylight, heedless of what might be on the other side of said egress. The second time I caught a door-handle in the small of my back, I dropped my phone which decided to reboot itself, so I had to ring hatmandu back for perhaps the fourth time that day.
I needed some food. It would hopefully stop me calling shambling bank-cattle “selfish cunts”, ostensibly merely saying it in a loud voice down a phone that was busy turning itself off. So, after eating, and feeling more or less up to the task of discussing with the owner of the St Aldate’s Tavern about having an event there, I steeled myself, crossed the street, and went into the pub.
It was full of smurfs and bananas.
Not just smurfs and bananas. There were Where’s-Wallies, and Hiawathas, and people in nurses’ uniform. I looked round in consternation, and then fled. Mind reeling, I rang the pub manager from the alleyway next to the pub instead, only to get his answerphone—this is a leitmotiv, in case you hadn’t already spotted it—and he called back a few minutes later to say he couldn’t really talk as he was getting married in two hours, so could I go back to the pub and speak to Lucy, the assistant manager? Yeah, he’d heard about the smurfs. Crazy, wasn’t it? Haha.
Inside the pub the bananas had settled down somewhat, and the smurfs were no longer blocking the bar to the same extent. After a few minutes I found Lucy—her name, it turned out, was actually Lucie—and discussed booking the pub with her. As we spoke, someone who might have been a particoloured, bruised banana—or possibly Fred Flintstone, depending on the significance of his markings—started hollering to his cartoon friends to drink up their pints as they were required elsewhere. Lucie fumed, quietly, but we finally finished our discussions and I stood up to a now empty pub, littered with glasses and occasional Red-Indian headdresses.
And then I didn’t wake up to find it was all a dream.