This may not have come across during the discourse of my blog posts, but I am naturally shy by nature. Well, sort of. When I write, I can throw off the burdensome mantle of meekness and divulge the true contents of my personality, but that isn’t always the case in day-to-day life. I come from a family of notoriously shy people; who speak when spoken to, tend to avoid eye-contact, are ever-polite, say ‘excuse me’ and ‘sorry’ an awful lot and generally avoid large crowds or gatherings if humanly possible. However, of all my siblings, I guess I would say I am the least diffident. There is a hidden inner voice within me that frowns upon ‘keeping my head down’. I remember thinking even as a kid, yes I’m an introvert but shyness gets you nowhere in life, so you must overcome this. And so, on occasion, I do. But perhaps not in the right way. These days I think of myself more as an introvert with an extrovert screaming to get out. With the use (or on many occasions, the ill-use) of humour, I get by. Some may say I overcompensate. They may just be right.
If I had to describe myself, I’d say I’m still waters, but beneath the surface there is an undercurrent of mischief. It’s a bit like that picture of the red button above; you know you shouldn’t push the button, but what would happen if you did? And sometimes you just can’t stop yourself. And that’s me. Meek and mild, meek and mild, day after day, meek and mild. Until an opportunity to do something really stupid presents itself. And then that usually silent inner voice will scream at me, do it, do it, do it! So I do. There are too many instances to mention but here are a few examples.
The real me (or rather the stupidly-zany projection of me) really came to the fore at school. As you can imagine, I was my naturally shy and reclusive self. But one day, during a particularly dull religious studies lesson, I realised that the sun glinting on my oversized watch-face created a rather magnificent ray of light. And when projecting this dazzlingly magnificent ray of light into Mrs Pearce (the religious studies teacher’s) eyes, she would unfailingly be forced to stop, stammer and shield her face from it. Much to the delight and surprise if my schoolmates who had never seen Adele being naughty. And so this fun continued until Margaret (my classmate sitting beside me) caught on to this magnificent activity and proceeded to try the same trick, but this time using the shiny inside lid of her metal pencil case. At this point I took a back seat until suddenly Mrs Pearce exploded in fury, ‘Margaret!! Get out!!!’. Margaret was shamefully dismissed from the room, leaving me to face the accusing stares of my class. ‘…Miss,’ I instinctively put up my hand, ‘my watch is very big and shiny and I’ve got a feeling that I might accidentally have been shining light in your eyes, not Margaret…’. Mrs Pearce’s face broke into a beam. ‘Oh Adele, that’s very sweet of you to try to take the fall for your friend, but I saw Margaret with my own eyes’. So I shrugged and lowered my hand. Well I’d tried. A boy named Alfred seated across from me turned to whisper, ‘you jammy bastard.’
Forward wind to a few years later. At the age of eighteen I got my first job at the head office of a music retail company as an administrative assistant in the ‘Services Department’. That meant we dealt with things like the shop tills in our nationwide stores. The first week was difficult as first weeks usually are. I was the new girl; nobody knew me and I didn’t know them. And after a few days, the polite smiles and suppression of my inner self began to become tiresome. One day, a couple of members of the neighbouring department to mine (Rachel and Mark) came by with a giant home made card for one of their team members. Oddly enough, she had the same name as me and was only a few weeks further into her job than I was but found the job wasn’t to her taste. Since a few of their department were away on annual leave, I was asked by Rachel and Mark if I would be happy to forge a signature for ‘Richard’, just to say goodbye. They confidently went away and left me to it. Now to this day, I still don’t know why I did this. Like I say, I think I was bored of being thought of as shy. So with my trusty black marker I wrote, ‘I loved you x Richard’. When Rachel and Mark returned, I handed back the oversized card with an expectant smile. Both Rachel and Mark looked at the card, then at each other, then back at the card. And in horrified, hushed voices they anxiously discussed amongst themselves if there was time to make a new card. It turned out that the girl who was leaving didn’t possess a sense of humour. At all. She may merely have been shy, but if she was, she was shy to the point of rudeness. Baffled at my amazing joke having gone bad, I insisted Rachel and Mark give the card back to me and I wrote underneath my hilarious comment in brackets, (Only joking, I wrote this as Richard was away. Good luck in your new job x Adele). And strangely enough, this huge gaff broke the ice and that ended up being one of my favourite jobs ever; I still know staff from that office to this day. It was something we all came to laugh about – eventually.
Twenty five years later and I’m afraid to say I haven’t changed much. My office encompasses hundreds of different healthcare workers all under one roof. Some I only know to look at. As you can imagine, this can make for interesting staff Christmas parties when we all come together in one place – one place containing alcohol. A wee while ago I was innocently eating my lunch in the staff coffee room. I tend to keep to myself and eat at my desk but I thought I’d get out of my office for a bit of a change of scenery. In strolled two of the dental team who happened to be husband and wife (and who hopefully don’t read this blog) and proceeded to join me. They began animatedly chatting about last years’ Christmas party. They were insisting how glad they were that the old system of having a sit-down meal at a hotel around tables of ten, with set name-places was being abandoned this year in favour of a buffet style party at the office, where you could mill around at your leisure. They went on to say how they weren’t especially keen on the old system because you were ‘forced to sit at a table with a bunch of boring people and you got stuck with them for the duration of the night’. I quietly sat there eating my sandwich and contemplating this, thinking, I could be a tad offended since my husband and I had actually been seated at their very table the Christmas before. I remembered this quite clearly because they had dominated the entire meal with their noisy banter and bickering, but evidently they had forgotten me. Over lunch the married pair, still banging on about that fateful Christmas, still being loud and a teeny bit obnoxious, eventually turned to me to ask my opinion on office Christmas parties and if I had attended the sit-down meal the year before. Awkwardly swallowing a lump of bread and ham, I scratched my head and said, ‘well yes, I was sitting at the same table as you two boring bastards’. I broke into a big mock-innocent smile which luckily turned their slightly crestfallen faces into big guffaws of laughter. A dental nurse standing at the nearby sink stirring her cuppa-soup had to physically turn away and hide her face, her shoulders shaking, so she could silently snicker to herself. I don’t know why I do it. But again, it broke the ice. I go to lunch more often these days to see who else I can offend.
Anyway, I could go on but some of these outbursts aren’t fit for publication and some I’ve forgotten. Maybe you know me of old and could dredge up some gaff I’ve long since erased from memory (my children are hugely embarrassed of some of my ‘episodes’ in shops that I didn’t even realise were mortifying for them). It’s not just me, is it? Do you ever do stuff like this? Just blurting out the first words that come into your head or acting out the dumbest impulse? My normally safely concealed risqué sense of humour comes at a price. Sometimes the jokes land and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you’re met with a roomful of laughter, sometimes complete silence falls with a tumble weed rolling by. Yet to this day, I still have this urge to take that risk. To push the red button. Usually because I’m bored of being misconstrued as a shy person, or to break an awkward silence, or through nerves; a silly idea will come into my head and I just HAVE to go through with it or forever regret it. Do it, do it, do it! That extrovert screaming to break free from the shell of an introvert just keeps insisting at me. Anyway, of late I’ve managed to channel that mischief into writing instead, which is a far safer outlet, I think we can all agree. Or at least the benefits outweigh the risks, which they don’t always in real life. Heigh-ho.
NB: I wasn’t going to post this weekend but dragged this post out of the ‘I’m not sure if I should publish this’ folder and tweaked it a bit at the behest of my writer friend, Lizzie. She does night shifts on Friday nights and likes to sit in bed with her porridge on Saturday mornings whilst reading my blog. Then she can drift off to sleep, safe in the knowledge that her life isn’t quite as stupid as mine. So if this post isn’t up to par, blame Lizzie. Because I intend to.