Last week I went into my boss’s office to make the appropriate noises of interest and admiration over her new iPad2. As soon as I saw it, propped on her desk looking all shiny and gum-dryingly expensive, I felt the familiar panic rise within me.
My brain decided, at that moment, to imagine what would happen if I reached out to touch the iPad and my sleeve caught the glass of water on her desk, sending the contents cascading over it, probably making the iPad explode or at least catch fire, almost definitely relieving my boss of her eyebrows and, shortly afterwards, me of my job.
This happens all the time.
My dad is an artist and on my last visit home, he was showing me a painting he was working on for a commission. A very lucrative commission. He explained to me very clearly how the painting had taken months of work to reach its current state.
I could barely enter the room.
I looked at that painting and as my dad explained the details, my brain imagined what would happen if I SPILLED INK ALL OVER IT. Fucking ‘ink’? I have no idea where that came from, I wasn’t holding an open bottle of Quink for God’s sake. Who even uses ink any more? But there it was before my eyes; a horrifying vision of me casually swilling black ink around in its open bottle, inches away from my dad’s VERY EXPENSIVE PAINTING before…WHOOPS! There goes the bottle, splattering across the precious watercolour as my dad falls to his knees and weeps, quite possibly disowning me and definitely cancelling all future Christmases.
I think I know where this bizarre mental tick of mine comes from. It’s the result of growing up with a mother who would shriek ‘CAREFUL!’ if you so much as picked up the remote control or turned to look at a squirrel. The soundtrack to my childhood was a constant litany of warnings and advice. Dinner time came with the same number of health and safety warnings as a game of Swingball in an acid testing facility. “Careful, that plate’s hot.” “You should be wearing a pinny.” “MIND THAT SAUCEPAN HANDLE!” “Careful, that knife’s sharp.” “Are you eating it in the lounge? Then for God’s sake use a tray!” “Mind your sleeve on that hob!”
Of course it was all said with love and concern and I’m grateful for that, but the result is that I spend an unnaturally high proportion of my time working out the most likely horrific scenario and taking steps to avoid it.
Speaking of steps, they’re the worst. When I was five, I fell headfirst down a flight of wooden stairs so my fear is not entirely down to extreme parenting on this one. Now, every time I have to descend a set of steps, I imagine catching my foot and hurtling helplessly down them. Tube escalators! I always walk (or run) down them, flying carelessly in the face of ALL DANGER, yet everytime I do it I imagine tripping and somersaulting down the escalator like a drunk, underqualified acrobat or worse, taking out a fellow commuter and paralysing them for life. I’d have to spend the rest of my days doing fun runs for them and stuff. I mean IT COULD HAPPEN.
I have tried to be nonchalant. I’ve tried to saunter through life with the attitude of someone whose mother has never once dropped them off in town, then leaned out of her car window and bellowed ‘HAVE YOU GOT TISSUES?’ However, I am a more careful person because of it which I’m sure will be a comfort to you if you ever find yourself alongside me on a tube escalator.