Rates are thinner on the ground as Rates vs. Slates moves into Week Four and reflects on the previous seven days.
Mistrust. The other day, I scampered out of my staircase – unlit cigarette in hand – en route to the smoking area. But I was forced to stop scampering only moments later when a porter barked, “Luckhurst! Stop smoking in main court!” I claimed righteous innocence. He peered at me as if he were scanning a car park trying to work out if that couple over there are doggers or just waiting for the driver to find the car keys: a mix of suspicion, mild disgust and incredulity. Presenting my unlit cigarette, he had to concede I was correct. Hours later, in an incident of Freudian uncanniness, the same situation arose. I was accused; treated to this uniquely intent glare; exonerated. The following day, different location – the porters’ lodge – but otherwise replicated circumstances. It is amusing to me that I am considered such a blatant repeat offender, resistant to ‘learning one’s lesson’ like the dunce child who continues to poke chicken nuggets into the DVD slot, despite knowing this earns him an earful of Daddy’s agonised moans, vicious obscenities and a smacking that will require years of repression to expunge from consciousness. It is amusing although also mildly distressing.
Observing ‘crossed wires’ situations. I so often find myself mishearing a crucial verb/noun/adjective and entirely misreading a circumstance. It is therefore a perverse pleasure of mine listening to someone else mishearing the Nero’s man and crashing through a disjointed dialogue that results in a blustering return to the start, clunkily executed with, “right. OK. Let’s start again.” It is in this environment of confused and confusing objectives that one party ends up doing something that they really didn’t want to do – buying a stale, overpriced muffin, for example – just to detract from the awkwardness of having to demur. It’s sort of how I imagine middle-aged couples fall into swinging: both parties too scared to admit that they aren’t sure what the other is thinking about Bob and Linda’s slightly louche dinner party and end up shagging the next-door-neighbour-but-one in the cloakroom because it’s easier than saying, ‘right. OK. Let’s start again. Is this drinks, sex or both?”
Lavatory Reading. In a rogue moment of punctuality, I arrived at a supervision five minutes early. Seconds later, I saw my supervisor emerge from the bathroom opposite, rearranging his trousers, and wielding my essay. There was a moment during which the penny whizzed and then became still. My essay had been his lavatory reading. Spotting me, seemingly mistaking my incredulity and mild revulsion as some sort of breathless thrill for academia, he ushered me in – “I’m just finishing marking your essay but feel free to pop yourself down on the couch and I’ll be with you very shortly!” Thus, for the first time in that room, thoughts were percolating. I was actually making synaptic connections. It would have been marvellous had the thoughts not had a very scatological context. Had he washed his hands after handling my essay? What exactly was he doing in the bathroom with my essay? What had my essay been subjected to? Had my essay diuretic, laxative or arousing effects? And when he flushed, did any of the toilet water spray my essay? Am I wrong to be troubled by this?
Ill-advised glasses of water. I, like science, consider hydration to be a fundamental ritual of daily life. Being hydrated suits me. For this reason, I often keep a glass of water by the bed. It is a custom of mine. What also seems to be a custom if mine is waking, sitting upright, reaching for this glass of water and somehow, in a move that defies co-ordination, direction and balance, tipping the water over the bed rather than into my mouth. Perhaps I have a hideously misshapen mouth, something that has evaded my notice by dint of some kind of self-preserving body dysmorphia, and no one has ever thought to tell me primarily because they thought it would upset me, but also probably partially because it would mean that they would have to watch that hideously misshapen mouth contort itself into an abhorrent expression of misery. If anyone could advise me on how to prevent myself from creating puddles in the duvet – another interesting question, why does the water settle on the surface rather than being absorbed straight away? – that would be greatly appreciated. Perhaps there are some kind of mouth or wrist exercises I could practise. Not like that.
Careers Events. Every second evening, when trying to find a fellow reprobate with whom to wallow, I am demurred with a, ‘sorry, I’m going to a management consultancy event’. Their eyes cloud with pity; of course Phoebe is not attending a management consultancy event, they think. Lest there is any ambiguity that this is exactly what they are thinking, several people have had the spirit of humanity to explicate that this is exactly what they are thinking. ‘You’re obviously not going to that though, are you.’ There is no rise in intonation; this is a statement, not an enquiry. Of course, I’m not going to a management consultancy event. But that this is a natural and self-evident matter is what makes me sad. Cambridge has long exposed to me the gaping chasm between how I perceive myself, and whom I actually am based on actual empirical evidence. This is sobering.