The gravel quietly crunched as I eased the van to a standstill. It felt very pleasant to be parking up at midday on Christmas Eve, contemplating a relaxing lunch, then tidying up any loose ends in slow time during the afternoon. Unpacking the van, my euphoria (which was just getting into its stride) tripped over its own shoelace as I rummaged through a rucksack, trying to find my free-standing torch. Hmmm, several screwdrivers, a pair of cutters, an invoice book and a couple of diaries... but no torch. Dang! I double checked the other box which I had had with me in the equipment room. There's was lots in that, but nothing illuminating. Oh... bother!
I had only been a little bit smug at knocking off early on Christmas Eve, but it jolly well served me right.
At the back of my mind, I was pondering two facts:
1. Would the office where I had been working shut at 1pm for the festive period?
2. Would it be possible to find a direct dial number for the nearest desk to the equipment room?
These questions was answered quite quickly, as dialling an 0800 number gave a complete spiel of the firm's opening hours over the Christmas and New Year, but then the pleasantly-accented voice reeled off several options of buttons to press for various departments, none of which were the 'I'm an idiot and I've lost my torch" office.
Taking pot luck, I jabbed at '2' and when it was answered, I blurted out "I don't want to book anything, but I need to speak to Cynthia (not her real name) in the next room!"
Perhaps call centre staff are used to muppets like me phoning up, but the voice on the other end of the line was completely unfazed, simply putting me on hold whilst Cynthia was located, and then I was transferred through to her.
In short order, Cynthia had unlocked the equipment room where I'd been working, switched on the light and had a quick look around.
"I can't see anything, I'm afraid," she said. This at least reassured me that I wasn't going mad, as I flippin' knew I'd checked the room before I'd left. It may only have been a man look, but a big red torch usually does not escape detection.
"OK," I said, "In that case, please could you look around the back of the smaller equipment rack, as that's the only place I can think it might be."
Sure enough, there it was, still switched on and a shining example of how much of a pillock I am. Thankfully, the firm was going to be open all afternoon, so I had time to drive the twenty miles back there and sheepishly collect my torch from a grinning receptionist.
Honestly, and a bit topically, I'm wondering whether I could even be trusted to follow a big star in the sky.