An elderly lady decided to give herself a treat for her birthday by staying overnight in one of London’s posh hotels.
When she checked out next morning the desk clerk handed her a bill for £350.
She exploded and demanded to know why the charge was so much – even without breakfast!
The clerk told her this was the ‘standard rate’ so she insisted on speaking to the manager.
The Manager appeared and said, ‘the hotel has an Olympic sized swimming pool and a huge conference centre which are available for use.’
‘But I didn’t use them.’ She said
‘Well they are there and you could have,’ explained the manager.
He went on to explain that she could also have seen one of the in-hotel shows for which the hotel is famous.
‘But I didn’t go to any of those shows,’ she said
‘Well we have them and you could have,’ said the manager.
The manager was unmoved so she decided to write a cheque.
The manager was very surprised when he looked at the cheque. ‘But madam this cheque is only made out for £50.’
‘That’s correct’ she said ‘I charged you £300 for sleeping with me.’
‘But I didn’t’ exclaimed the manager.
“Well, too bad, I was here, and you could have’
It’s funny really, I remember somebody bewailing their missed opportunities.
In my life I’ve come across two sorts of missed opportunity. The first and most easily remedied is what the French call ‘’l’esprit d’escalier,’ or ‘staircase wit’. This is when you think of the crushing put-down or the witty rejoinder only after you’ve left the room.
For most people, they’re an example of their personal futility, a measure of how far they’ve fallen from the level of normal social intercourse.
But for a writer they’re gold dust. Jot them down and remember them. Then you’ve got two chances of using them. The first comes years later when you are the person telling the story to an audience a generation younger than those who witnessed the original event. Under these circumstances, as you tell the tale, that belated witty remark can appear on time and allow you to dominate the situation.
Another way to use it is to work it into your next book, good dialogue can be hard to come by, don’t waste it. Not only that but this method allows you to claim credit not only for the pithy response, but for the remark that provoked it, giving you almost twice the kudos.
Never turn your back on kudos, it may not pay many bills but at least it’s not taxable.
The other sort of missed opportunity is the sort you didn’t even know you had. I remember a few years ago I’d been despatched to the builders’ merchant to get a couple of things because we were running out. You know the situation, you need three more bits of whatever it is, it’s about 4pm on Friday and you grab the most expendable person who has a valid driving licence and send them.
So there I was, battered jeans, battered rigger boots, torn shirt. Everything bleached by the sun and stained by the environment. Oh and my hair was longer then.
I’m walking up the steps into the shop and somebody shouts, “James.”
Well I’ll answer to James but not many people call me that, so I just glanced over my shoulder to see an attractive and well dressed young woman. So I shrugged and carried on and she shouted, “James.”
So this time I turned and looked. She was probably a couple of years younger than me, elegantly dressed (especially for the car park of a builders’ merchant) and was leaning against a top-of-the-range Volvo Estate which contained two chocolate Labradors and two well scrubbed and smartly dressed children. Oh and to be fair I think at this point I ought to upgrade ‘attractive’ to ‘pretty.’ I’d not go so far as to say ‘stunning’.
It had been a busy day at the end of a busy week and Saturday was going to be busier, but struggle as I might, I couldn’t for the life of me remember her name.
Not at all.
She wasn’t even familiar to anybody I knew.
As she walked up to me she said, “James, you don’t remember me.”
Now here was something we could agree on, a real meeting of minds. At times like this I think a sort of minimalist honesty is called for. So I said, “Yes.”
So she told me her name and added that we’d had piano lessons together.
By my reckoning we’d been about fourteen at the time. I think I can plead in my defence that she’d changed since then.
But anyway we chatted briefly and I was more secure in my mind that I knew who she was. But that night my sister phoned. Now I knew my sister would know her so I told my sister of the meeting and mentioned the name.
“Ah”, she said. “I remember her; she had a crush on you at the time.”
Sisters are the people who tell you things thirty years too late!