“Where’s the exit?’ I asked, trying to beat a retreat from Café Nero Piccadilly.
“First door,” my tea drinking companion replied.
If you have ever been curious about what lives in the cupboards of cafes, I can put you out of your misery: There are more loo rolls than have ever been gathered together in one place. There are buckets, industrial quantities of cleaning material to deal with dirt and spilt urine. Then there are wet mops. I’m not talking damp. I’m talking “open the doors and in your face wet”. Any thoughts, about the union of mop, water, bodily fluids and face are best put aside at the moment of impact.
As I beat off the onslaught of tumbling loo rolls and wet stinking mop, I could hear the rise of an ovation from the room. It was more of a sit down outpouring of nervous amusement and relief, that “it was me not me” followed by an applause of pity.
“Not the first door then,” I mumbled.
“I am leaving now,” said my companion, and departed.
I have investigated more cupboards than most people can shake a duster at. If you tell me it’s the first door on the left, that is the door I will open. All other doors are invisible to me.
In a late night triste with a lock and key in Sofia, I spent so long trying to getting to get into the wrong door of my new building, for the residents to become alert to the possibilities of burglary. Rescued by a friend, I was contrite. She was indulgent. When I repeated this performance the following evening, she was less sympathetic. “What door number are you at?”
“No idea,” I said, as I formulated a plan to try my key in all available doors and hope no one called the Police.
Since the day I tried to get into the hot food cupboard on an aircraft, I prefer to take advise, on all possible other types of doors. One twist of the wrong handle may cause a chill wind for all my fellow travellers.
“Can you tell me the way to the ladies,” I asked security as I was leaving number 10 Downing street. “First door on the left Madam.” That’s what I opened. There was the red smiling face of Henry Hoover staring back at me. That’s the vacuum cleaner, not the person. I find it hard to conceive of Henry gliding through the halls of power in much the same way as he glides across the floors of Acacia Avenue.
I have begun to suspect, that what is obviously not the exit door or the way to the lav, for most people, may be a blind spot for me. I’ve developed door rules of thumb.
If the door is not as tall as me, or seems impossibly narrow, I shut it again. These doors carry the threat of a mop in the face. Hot doors should be avoided at all costs. The continental habit of leaving glass doors open to the street, may be one that should be up for review. I haven’t met one yet that didn’t come off worse than me. If there is the slightest risk of having to enter a door code, make someone else do it. If I feel I may be at risk of prising anything open with my fingernails, my guess is that this is a wall masquerading as a door, and not in the consciousness of my advisors.
The point of advisors is to advise on the unseen as well as the obvious. It’s easier to change advisors than to change doors.