There’s been a funny flashing light in the car for a few weeks. I couldn’t quite make out what it was: it looked like a man holding a huge lollipop. Eventually I remembered to mention it to Mr Life. “Yes, I noticed that. It’s the airbag light,” he said.
“Does this mean the airbag might suddenly inflate?”
I decided to ask my colleagues in the motor vehicle department if I should do something about it, and if so, how urgently. “I’d get it checked out,” said John.
“Can I go on driving the car?”
“Well, put it this way,” he said. “If anything happens, you won’t have much time to think about it.”
I phoned the garage. As I did so, I wondered if they’d ask me any technical questions, as has happened on similar occasions - such as what was the engine capacity. This is not part of my general knowledge. The car’s black with four wheels; I think there’s an engine at the front and there’s definitely a space at the back for groceries.
“What’s the registration number?” enquired the chap.
I wasn’t expecting as difficult a question as that. I had to go out to the car park to have a look.
I went to the supermarket. I was served by a rather spotty youth with a strong Scottish accent. I felt a bit sorry for him. Clearly he was never going to amount to much.
A bar code was missing from my bag of apples. “Doesn’t matter,” he said. “I remember the number.”
“That’s impressive,” I said. “Have you worked here long?”
“A couple of months,” he said. “I came to Edinburgh to go to university.”
“What are you studying?” I asked, envisaging something not too academic.
“Astrophysics,” he said, and enlarged enthusiastically on the fascination of the subject for a while as he scanned my shopping. Then he added, “I’m doing History as an outside subject. I really enjoy that too. I did History as one of my Advanced Highers last year at school.”
Right. Good at artsy stuff too, then.
I made millionaire’s shortbread. More my intellectual level.
(Edited to add: I didn't mean that merely having a strong accent pointed to a life of underachievement. It was just that the combination of a job in Tesco, the misfortune of the copious spots plus the accent didn't seem the most astrophysicist-like combination. Or so I thought. In error, clearly.
I have a Scottish accent myself. (Hellooo, ev'rywunn.) How much have I amounted to, come to that?)