There are people out there who can’t stand their own company. As the saying goes, they’re usually right. So what do they do with their spare time? Wreck yours. Phoning, visiting or hanging around malls waiting to head you off at the pass when you’re on your way to the car with a bag of fresh cream doughnuts and the latest copy of Chow Down (Bumper Holiday Edition). For some reason, they think they’re doing you a favour by inflicting themselves upon you without notice – and it’s just not fair.
You can pick out The Prey in the crowded streets. People with haunted expressions and dust balls clinging to their hair. They sometimes wear dark glasses and towelling hats, and resemble people in a witness protection program. This is because they’ve spent the morning under the bed, hiding from someone jolly in a floral tent who kept punching the doorbell and calling ‘YOOHOO!’
On the other hand, The Predators have little beady eyes, darting everywhere in order to spy a victim. They also have Tupperware catalogues, lamington drive order forms and photo albums full of crap you wouldn’t want to know about. They never phone first to give you time to make up an excuse. When you don’t answer the door, they tramp round the house trying all the locks and windows. While you’re lying under the bed trying not to breathe, you wonder what in hell you’re supposed to do if Maisie Fansbarns comes hurtling through your bedroom window. Do you come out from under the bed and pretend you were dusting, or let her go through the personal papers on your dresser? It’s a tangled web you have woven, and it probably serves you right.
The Warrior Queen, who desires solitude and the company of other animals above all things, was once caught out badly by Mrs Fogsbottom, a ghastly neighbour who turned up each morning at 9am as soon as we kids were off to school. She’d be in situ still when we returned home. The WQ was quietly going batshit. She had never hurt anyone’s feelings before in her life, but found herself in the position of inventing dialogue/scenarios in her sleep with which to defray the dreaded Fogsbottom in a permanent and resolute fashion.
She decided to say she wouldn’t be available for morning coffee for a couple of weeks because she was going to springclean. The idea was to break Mrs F’s habit so she’d move on to greener pastures. ‘Good idea!’ Mrs F agreed. ‘I might do the same!’ The next morning the WQ awoke with hope and optimism. She thought she might curl up with a book and do sod-all. She packed the school lunches, shoved us out of the door – and there, like a battleship in full sail, was Mrs F-Bottom sashaying across the street with a duster in one hand and a container of Vim in the other.
The WQ went feral. There is no other way to describe it. From the top of our steps she screamed across the road – ‘Go AWAY! I can’t TAKE IT ANYMORE! Don’t you DARE come any further!’ The whole thing was accompanied by some rather menacing pointing gestures and much stamping of feet. Mrs F-Bot was rooted to the spot. There was no way to disband gracefully and return to barracks with her dignity intact. None of us can quite remember what happened next, but nobody in that neighbourhood ever spoke to the WQ again. Which was a very happy ending altogether, because that’s just the way she likes it.
If you happen to be a Predator, spare a thought for those who love their own company and delight in talking to themselves and not sharing their cream doughnuts. Go to the library and choose the first book – something by Aarronson about Aardvarks – and start reading. Do not phone anyone or visit a neighbour until you have worked your way through to Zxybrand and read every single word of his million-page trilogy on life in a 16th century throttlers’ camp.
By the time you’ve done this, you’ll be so wise and well informed, people might actually be interested in what you have to say.