Uber men (and other anx­i­eties)

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents -

YOU’D THINK BY NOW, sea­soned as we are, that we would have grown out of nerves. That we’d be all pol­ished and tooled-up enough to give our­selves a talk­ing to. Well, we had to give a speech yes­ter­day and, as we stood in the wings of the lec­ture theatre, we de­vel­oped a per­fectly pa­thetic ar­ray of symp­toms.

Em­i­lie ac­quired a sore throat and a swollen gland – just the one. Annabel’s shoul­der rose and rose and rose un­til it felt as though it was at­tached to her ear­lobe. And we both started car­toon sweat­ing in our smart, new polyester frocks. Once we got on stage, Em­i­lie be­gan to com­pul­sively rock – we can only sup­pose as a kind of un­sub­tle ges­ture to­wards self-sooth­ing – while Annabel be­came wild-eyed. Glary. As soon as it was over, Em­i­lie de­vel­oped com­edy shakes and Annabel went all floppy.

All in all it went rather well, and the au­di­ence claimed not to no­tice the ner­vous the­atrics, but next time we’ll be bang­ing the beta block­ers. Be­cause nerves, in them­selves, are an or­deal. Sure we need a few to get the adrenalin pump­ing and op­ti­mise per­for­mance, but they hurt. They make your heart sore and your so­lar plexus tight. They make you doubt and twitch and itch and they do some­thing very weird to your voice: all reedy and thin. So you try to coun­ter­act that and it goes all growly and mono­tone. Pub­lic speak­ing is al­ways a Petri dish for nerves, but ev­ery­day life serves up its own doses of ten­sion, day by day by day…

THE DEN­TIST

He’ll hit a nerve, yes he will. Your body is aflame with an­tic­i­pa­tion of the to­tal sur­ren­der­ing of all power, the prospect of ter­ri­ble pain and a vast bill. Ev­ery in­stinct is to run and never, ever re­turn. Per­haps get on a plane and go into hid­ing and as­sume a new iden­tity so that the den­tist can never find you. But you don’t. You just go limp and a bit teary and he doesn’t hit a nerve. Prob­a­bly not.

FLY­ING

The un­chang­ing de­par­tures board is fine as long as you never rip your eye­balls from it, lest it dis­play ‘can­celled’ or ‘board­ing’. You must be the first to know or you might die. The shriek­ing of the take-off is fine; that howl­ing, scream­ing sound means that every­thing is OK. The rum­bling and crash­ing of the wheels is fine. The jolt­ing tur­bu­lence is fine. The storm is also ab­so­lutely fine. It is only when the en­gine is turned off at the end of the f ight that you re­alise you have been clench­ing for hours.

UBERS

You will prob­a­bly not be mur­dered. You will prob­a­bly get home in a timely fash­ion and also alive. You sit bolt up­right and track the route while send­ing texts to peo­ple with the reg­is­tra­tion num­ber and driver de­scrip­tion. Not that those will help you once you… good lord… is that a box of la­tex gloves on the pas­sen­ger seat? Oh, ac­tu­ally, it’s tis­sues. Could you have one please? You seem to have de­vel­oped ner­vous snif­fles.

NO LOCK ON THE LOO DOOR

Pee, pee, pee, pee, pee faster. God for­bid you should be wear­ing a jump­suit be­cause then you’re fully naked and can you just bal­ance one heel against the door with­out… oh. Turns out that, no. You can’t. Oops. But the mo­ment when you’re done and wash­ing your hands and it no longer mat­ters if some­one barges in, is re­ally rather floaty.

AR­RIV­ING SOME­WHERE YOU KNOW YOUR EX WILL BE

You’re over them. No one has ever been more over any­one. But how will you be and how do you look and do you look old and how will they be and should you be nice or should you be glacial and this is ap­palling but what if they’re not there? Af­ter all this? What then?

HOLD­ING A BABY

It’s go­ing to see into my soul, isn’t it? It’s go­ing to see the rot and the hor­ror – the sav­age on the in­side – and then it will cry and cry and cry and it will hate me and ev­ery­one will know.

AN­SWER­ING THE PHONE

Who rings nowa­days? It must be death call­ing… themidult.com

Is that a box of la­tex gloves on the pas­sen­ger seat? Oh, ac­tu­ally, it’s tis­sues

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