Friday 18 March 2011

The main thing in one's own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry.

I awoke yesterday morning and made my way to the bathroom to begin my morning ablutions. With my face buried in a hot flannel I heard the bathroom door open then close, after which followed the distinct motions of someone adjusting the toilet seat and placing themselves upon it. Hands still pressed to my face, I turned my head slowly to the side while pulling the flannel fractionally down, peering over the top. I did not know the strange man who sat perched on the toilet seat next to the wash basin; I watched him in stunned silence for a moment, and he returned my gaze with a level look that indicated he felt perfectly at ease being there. He did not say anything to me, nor I to him, and we both carried on about our business, patently ignoring one another, apart from me passing him a new toilet roll when I saw he was going to run out. After flushing, he generously washed his hands in my bowl of clean water and dried them on my towel. He didn’t bother to close the bathroom door as he left.

I dressed and made my way downstairs to the kitchen. Sitting down at the table with my two fresh slices of toast, I leaned over the day’s newspaper which lay to one side, while my arms remained over my plate, spreading butter and jam on a slice of toast, which I then proceeded to eat. I heard the approach of footsteps and continued to stare at the newspaper, studiously ignoring the woman who walked up to the table and took one of my slices of toast, and then sat down and began to spread butter on it. I continued regardless, leaning back over my plate to take bites of my toast, while my other hand remained stretched out to the side, leafing through the pages of the newspaper. We didn’t say anything to one another, apart from this stranger barking “Jam!” at me when I failed to pass the preserve, even though I had been intending to but was waiting for her to finish buttering her toast. She wolfed down the toast, took a swig from my tea, and then left. I put the dirty plates and cutlery in the dishwasher myself.

Halfway to work I stopped at some traffic lights, and while my car and I idled, four men got in and made themselves comfortable. They travelled with me for some distance in silence, gradually going their own way when it suited them, although the chap who abandoned the car while we were doing seventy along the motorway probably regretted not hanging on a little longer.

That night I paused in the process of snuggling down with my wife, threw off the bedcovers, left the bed, and hung a big ‘Private’ sign on the outside of the bedroom door. Alas, by the time I re-entered the bedroom I found that three men and a woman were in various states of undress and in my bed, helping themselves to my wife. I looked on agape, and then in anger, before leaning my head back out of the bedroom door in disbelief in order to check the sign I had just posted. I quickly took down the Free-For-All sign that I had mistakenly hung there, and made a mental note to store it somewhere safely with the Round Robin sign, as far away from the privacy sign as possible.

It’s a step forward from enforced grouping, but y’know, sometimes the default-to-open group system in Rift can seem a little bit impersonal and antisocial.

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