30 May, 2007

The Ballad of Lad Litter and TLOML III

I woke up the next morning and berated myself as I mentally replayed everything from the night before. So much for resolving to leave women the hell alone. I was right back where I’d started. Another embarrassing blunder to try to forget, another woman I was highly likely to encounter again faced with a pressing need to avoid me.

You complete fuckwit, Lad Litter, I confided in myself. Just lose whatever shreds of ego you’re pathetically clinging to and give up. They all end up saying they like you as a friend for chrissakes, so just be satisfied with that and don’t moronically believe there’s a hope for anything more. I do tend to pay out on myself.

I read the paper and moped around the big old house on the hill for the rest of the morning. Around mid-afternoon, I started rationalizing, listing pros and cons:

1) She’d actually gone out with me;
2) Conversation flowed easily and I hadn’t said or done anything stupid;
3) She was very beautiful and charming. I felt comfortable with her;
4) Surely you’re not a sleazebag just for trying to kiss a girl;
5) There was really nothing to be embarrassed about;

1) She might have been at a loose end, or just plain hungry, and gone to the restaurant with me just for the hell of it;
2) The possibility that I might say or do something stupid was ever-present. She may well have picked up on that vibe;
3) She was very beautiful and charming. She probably made everybody feel comfortable. It didn’t mean I was anything special;
4) You are a sleazebag if you try to kiss a girl who doesn’t want you to;
5) There was really nothing to be embarrassed about. Yet;

Only one thing to do. Push the matter so that I could be sure one way or the other. Ring her up and ask her to that night’s party that I’d already decided not to go to. If she wasn’t interested, that would end the matter. Until future rounds of rationalization, where I could almost hear myself saying “Asking her out for a sixth time should be okay. She might really have had a string of Amway meetings to go to those last five times.”

But for now, I wasn’t in stalking territory yet. I rang and she didn’t sound displeased to hear from me. I asked her if she’d like to go along to the party. There’d be a few people she knew there. I could come over and pick her up. The party was in Carlton so we could have dinner in Lygon St. She said okay.

This was something of a surprise. I had expected her to make an excuse or just tell me she really wasn’t interested. Now I had a date to get ready for. I spent the afternoon cleaning the car and dressed in the best ensemble I could come up with. Pleased with myself and reeking of cheap aftershave, I climbed into the car and found the lights didn’t work at all. Got out. Checked fuses, checked globes. Nothing.

I called TLOML, apologized and explained the situation and asked if she would be able to come over to my place to pick me up. She sounded a bit suspicious, but agreed.

We had a very pleasant meal in Lygon St but it was the company, not the ambience. Italian restaurants give me the creeps. Because Italian restaurants seem to employ only creeps. But that’s another post, coming soon.

At the party, no-one seemed surprised to see us together and we seemed to be conducting ourselves like any established couple, chatting independently with a range of people but keeping an eye on each other. I thought this was okay. I was wrong.

In the car on the way back to my place, TLOML seemed to be seething and would hardly speak to me. She made her point and I made excuses and apologized. She seemed satisfied with that and after we kissed, she ended up staying the night. If this was a movie, there’d be a tasteful dissolve right about here. But not before letting you know that I pretended to be asleep in the morning when she left the bed, naked, to get dressed. I watched her walk around the room, looking for her clothes. She was fabulous. I remember telling myself that I could get used to all this, and hoped I would get the chance.

We said goodbye and I told her I’d give her a call soon.

It looked like I had a girlfriend.

24 May, 2007

The Ballad of Lad Litter and TLOML II

Are you with me so far?

1) No girlfriend;
2) No prospects;
3) In a downward spiral;
4) Resigned to a lonely existence and to live miserably ever after;

I wasn’t going out much, avoiding friends and gatherings as I felt unfit for good company. No-one was beating a path to my door either. And I was almost past begrudging them.

A former colleague of mine who worked with TLOML was killed in a car accident in April of that year. It was a pretty sad business. He was a funny, social catalyst-type bloke with a bit of niggle about him and was always good-naturedly putting you on the back foot. He had legions of friends and a long-time girlfriend who the accident had left quadriplegic. The ol’ workplace was suffering from his absence. TLOML had got along particularly well with him and was devastated.

About a month after all this, I wandered into the pub one Friday evening for a round of after work drinks. It was the first time in ages and even then only because I happened to be in the neighbourhood. I almost didn’t go. Sliding Doors and all that.

I sat down with a group of people including TLOML and a few others and chatted until about six. People started drifting off and I found myself in conversation with TLOML, a friend of hers and the friend’s latest two-week stand boyfriend. This bloke also had one of his mates along. Party of five.

And I was feeling like the fifth wheel. It looked like the friend was angling to set up TLOML and her new boyfriend’s mate. I was about to head home but TLOML and I had somehow got into a conversation between just the two of us and I was enjoying myself. Plenty of eye contact and we seemed to be connecting. She was lovely. I warned myself not to be fooled. Told myself to make a few excuses and leave gracefully, but stayed on anyway.

After what seemed like a fairly short time but probably wasn’t, I looked around and noticed everyone else had gone.

Moment of truth. This situation looked immediately promising. A voice inside kept telling me to get the hell out before I spoiled everything. I didn’t listen. I asked TLOML if she was interested in getting a bite to eat and that I knew a reasonably priced Turkish restaurant in Sydney Rd. She was okay with that. I didn’t have to listen to the voice inside me. It had stopped.

TLOML followed me back to my place and we left my car there. At the restaurant, conversation flowed easily and I found myself relaxed and feeling pretty natural. She was such good company, so much so that I hardly noticed the belly dancer at all. I was looking at a vision, but I felt so at ease with her, and I hadn’t said anything stupid. This was unusual. I didn’t feel like I had to impress her either. This was extraordinary.

Back to my place for coffee. I put on a record. Probably Neil Young. We sat on the couch and talked some more and she admired the curtains in my lounge room. They had a tasteful forest print motif. I touched her chin and turned her face towards me.

“What are you doing?”
“Oh nothing really, I think I’d better let this sentence just trail off into nothing with a pathetic, mumbled and near-inaudible apology at the end….”

She didn’t laugh and left soon after that. After I’d waved her goodbye, there was still no voice in my head. But there were klaxons and air-raid sirens going off aplenty. I’d blown it. And not only had I blown it, I’d acted against my newly-minted principles by making a move.

I felt like crap. Again.

20 May, 2007

The Ballad of Lad Litter and TLOML I

This is a love story.

I’d spent three years at my first job out of uni before transferring to a new job at another work location. This new job occasionally sent me back to my old workplace. In the meantime, positions like mine which had fallen vacant had been backfilled. So when I returned for the first time there were new people there.

I walked into the near empty tea-room well before the start of the working day, and was greeted warmly by a former colleague. She was sitting with one of the new people: the once and future TLOML. Very nice. Dark hair and big brown eyes, a little bit like a young, non-bitchy Joan Collins, first impression anyway. We were introduced and chatted a little. I liked her voice too. When she got up to make a cup of coffee, I watched her walk over to the urn, not too obviously I hoped, eyes only bulging a little and eyebrows probably hardly raised at all. She had a nice walk. And a great figure.

I’d bump into her occasionally over the next 12 months or so. At parties or other work-related social get-togethers. We’d chat briefly, but I didn’t detect any interest on her part. And I didn’t show too much. So things sort of drifted along. She was hanging around with a group of girls from work about the same age and I was hanging around with my mates and smoking a lot of dope.

Women had become a complete mystery to me. I was a romantic basket case. I’d ask girls out who just weren’t interested and then be deeply disappointed when they begged off. I had quite a few of these in a row over some months. I hadn’t had a girlfriend in ages and felt like a complete loser. And I’m pretty sure I looked like one too.

I bumped into TLOML at a Christmas party and hardly spoke to her. I didn’t really talk to anyone and left without saying goodbye very early. But not before I’d told a few people about a party I was having just before heading off on a trip to the US and Canada with a couple of mates.

This party of ours wasn’t bad at all and being among friends I felt lifted out of a slump. I even danced for chrissakes. I’d half-hoped TLOML would come along but she didn’t. No big deal.

I got back from my trip and drifted through another working year. But early on, I had something of an epiphany. I dropped in on my folks one afternoon to find mum’s cousin was visiting. He was a really nice bloke who had never married or even had a girlfriend and I only saw him sporadically over many years but with his encyclopaedic knowledge of football and kindly manner, we’d always got along.

He would have been in his early fifties by this time and I can remember thinking to myself that if the never-married thing had happened to him, and no doubt countless others, then there was no reason why it couldn’t happen to me too. I decided that I could accept that as my lot and resolved to do the following:

1) Stop whingeing and just get along with people. I was running out of friends who didn’t find me unbearable;
2) Steer clear of women. Not avoid them, just make sure I wasn’t making a nuisance of myself going where I wasn’t wanted;
3) Be quieter. Most of my many problems had been caused by a failure to keep my mouth shut. If you don’t say anything, you can’t say anything stupid;

Very noble of me, I thought, saving the women of the world from my unsolicited attentions. Now I had a plan. Just in my own mind, like, because I had a feeling that were I to reveal this new direction to anyone else they would probably think it as cockeyed and wrong-headed as the behaviour and attitude that had brought me to this point.

19 May, 2007

At The Doctor's

I wasn’t really all that worried when I first noticed the large lump in my right groin area. At first I thought one of my cojones had sneaked back inside where it’s safe and warm. Wouldn’t you if you had the chance? Perhaps not. But a quick count confirmed all of my moving parts were where they should be.

I did not panic. It was a Thursday and on the Friday TLOML and I were due to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of our first date. French champagne, flowers, candlelight, a spliff or two and hot, passionate sex, replete with fun games all our own. Would you believe I spend months anticipating events like these? You bet I do.

I decided to wait a week or so before asking my GP if this lump was bad news or really bad news. Besides, it was quite soft and almost completely painless.

I forgot all about it for the next week and just turned up unannounced at the surgery on Saturday morning. This GP is a lovely bloke and has been our family doctor for about 25 years. He has a steady core clientele of elderly locals but there were very few in the waiting room this time around, most of his long-standing patients, including my own parents, having dropped off the twig these past few years.

Having waited for a week that might have been the difference between life-saving early diagnosis and I’m-afraid-there’s-nothing-we-can-do, you can imagine how keen I was to find out what the prognosis would be. I was about to drop strides and lie down on the table but thought I’d better do that in the surgery rather than the waiting room.

The examination and a few perfunctory questions confirmed what I’d suspected all along: that I had an indirect inguinal hernia. Nothing too serious. You can go on with all your normal business but if the bowel gets mixed up in it, forcing its way into the passage which only contains some fatty tissue for now, it’s emergency time. I’d be silly not to have something done about it.

So I’ve been referred to a specialist surgeon. The GP told me that the operation is a fairly routine one that seldom leads to recurrence or complications, but I’d have the physically active part of my life on hold for about six weeks. So I’ll be trying to have it done well away from cricket season, wedding anniversaries, etc.

And I’d probably need to be off work for about four weeks. I think I can manage that.

17 May, 2007

Eight Random Things About Me

I've been tagged for the Eight Random Things About Me meme by Go Away Please. I believe her when she said she has led a very interesting life.

1. I started playing cricket again at the age of 44 after a twenty year absence and love it more than I ever did before;
2. I have the hots big time for TLOML. Many of our conversations consist of me trying to chat her up;
3. My favourite movie of all time is Out of The Past (1947);
4. My all-time favourite novel is I, Claudius (1934);
5. My all time favourite TV show is Get Smart (1965-70);
6. I have nearly died twice: once when I was having my tonsils out at the age of three; and again after another operation at age nine;
7. TLOML and I attended the same primary school. I remember her, and it really doesn’t bother me at all that she has no recollection of me;
8. Moe, Larry and Curly are much better sons to TLOML and I than I was to my parents;

There you are: a little autobiography; a little romance; a little PostSecret.

12 May, 2007

Lucky I Work for Dale Carnegie

We had a very busy week at work and the business with my not-meant-to-be-sent resignation email to my boss had to wait a little while before he could call me in for a chat. I wasn't worried about what he might say, but I was mentally prepared for a bollocking. He told me how I'd probably been feeling and hit the mark, describing peaks and troughs which cause you to to go home at the end of a bad day thinking all is lost and alternately finish up a good day feeling great about the world.

This boss of mine is a likable, avuncular fellow who is very popular with all of the stakeholders here at work. He invariably exercises good judgment about when to be firm and when to let things work themselves out. I think he's read and implemented How To Win Friends And Influence People without appearing like a slick salesman.

I let him know that I felt the disaffection I'd been letting myself wallow in was down to me and I needed to keep a detached professional distance between myself and the job, and not get sucked in to reacting emotionally to setbacks. I also let him know that I could feel things getting better as I tried to deal with people who I understood were not going out of their way to give me the shits, just being themselves and could be brought round.

He offered me a week off at any time in the future if I felt a little hemmed in, which was very generous. He also told me that he was happy with how I'd fitted in during the year-and-a-bit I'd been there and that he regarded my continuing as vital.

I've put aside feeling sorry for myself and have girded my loins (I'm sure everyone's loins need girding at some stage) to work a bit harder and smarter in the areas of my job that really count. Ordinarily, I need to do a fair bit of work at home just to keep my head above water and I've been coming home drained and not wanting to touch work-related stuff. Which just makes things worse. A little each night will get me back on track.

I also told him that I liked this particular workplace above all others and the abortive resignation business was because if I couldn't cut the mustard here then I didn't want to go anywhere else, but make a clean break from the whole business.

I'd already thought this bloke was the best boss I'd experienced in a fairly good field over a long period of time and this confirmed it. I'm staying. And I'm finished with whinging about work.

03 May, 2007

Stupidity, Thy Name Be Lad Litter

Yetserday morning I composed the following email to my boss:

Hi ****,

I have to tell you that I intend to resign from the ********* and will need to discuss an appropriate exit strategy with you. The plan at this stage would be to finish here at ******** at the end of June. With a LSL entitlement of around four and a half months, my resignation would be effective from the end of that leave period.

My official letter of resignation will follow our discussion once we’ve sorted out all of the correct dates.

I do not wish to continue as a member of the ********* profession without a meaningful sense of commitment to ****** and I apologise for the inconvenience and disappointment this will undoubtedly cause. Especially here, where you and **** and **** and all the staff have been so wonderful to me during my time here. My leaving will remove the potential for greater disappointment were I to remain.

I intend to fulfil all commitments and will leave everything in good order in all areas.

I had a distinct chill around my feet so I saved it into drafts rather than send. But it went! And I didn't realise until yesterday afternoon when I started to have second thoughts about packing it in. Remember that Simpsons episode when Homer sent the nasty ungrateful letter to Mr Burns? Fred Flintstone did a similar thing. I'm a living cartoon sitcom.

I feel better about my job now. So this morning I sent this email.

Hi ****,

I sent you an email yesterday that I meant to save into drafts but must have clicked on send by mistake. Please disregard. I’d like to speak to you briefly about it sometime over the next couple of days.

I feel really stupid but the kind of stupidity I can laugh at, not the sort that has led to my current crisis of professional confidence.

I hope my boss can laugh at it too. Even if it is between gritted teeth.

01 May, 2007

Going, Going, Gone...

I'll be submitting my resignation tomorrow morning.

It will be easy because:
1) I hate my job;
2) I don't want to do it anymore;
3) It will arrest my downward spiral;
4) Long Service Leave entitlements add up to about four and a half months;
5) I'm looking forward to being at home for a while and fixing up a few things.

It will be hard because:
1) I'm turning my back on a career of c.25 years;
2) I don't know what lies ahead of me;
3) It's a great place to work notwithstanding my disaffection with my particular line of work;
4) People there have been wonderful to me and I'll be disappointing them;
5) Whatever job I get next is bound to be on much lower pay.

I'll continue until June to see a few ongoing tasks off, tie up all the loose ends I possibly can and try to leave things in good order for my replacement.

So it goes.