Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Elasticated Waistbands are So Practical

When I first went to university 25 years ago, full grants and no loans hanging over us meant that part-time jobs were rare.

I was chatting to one of the youngsters at college, one of the proper students, when she mentioned that she attends pole-dancing classes. I know that some students end up working in the "sex industry" to supplement their income, but I hadn't realised that the training of new recruits was so well organised. "It's an exercise class." she told me "It really firms up your abs. You should try it". The latter comment was directed at another student sitting at the lunch table with us, rather than at me. "Ooh" her friend said, interested, "What kind of clothes do you have to wear to the class?" I suggested something easy to tuck money into, but they ignored me.

I'm lucky enough not to need a part time job, let alone one that requires such well developed interpersonal skills. I fear that I would be unable to compete in a market flooded with lithe 18 year olds. My options would surely be limited to fulfilling very specialised requirements for a niche clientèle or taking up a managerial role.

The Cross Cross Code

Navigating my way out of the car park at the Exalted Seat of Learning last week, as I turned into the autumnally leafy lane lined with honey-coloured stone buildings (OK, past the Gala Casino and into the Street of a 1000 Kebab Shops), a young gentleman stepped off the kerb directly into the path of my vehicle. Out of a simple desire not to have to dislodge 9 stone of greasy, sullen youth from out of my wheel arches, I honked the horn and hit the brake. According to the Highway Code the purpose of the horn is to "warn other road users of your presence” and this was genuinely how I intended it. There seemed to be, however, a breakdown in communication.

The message left my side as "There is, in my opinion, a strong possibility of my vehicle injuring your person and I am sounding this auditory warning device to alert you to your imminent peril". It must have arrived at his side in the form of the worst possible insult, comprehensively covering all the topics of family, heritage, employment prospects, and taste in clothes and music, all couched in perfect Jafaican. Accordingly, he stopped dead in front of my car and "flipped the bird", before huffing off about his business.

I managed to quell my mounting fury by doing what I do best - turning any topic to that of British Sign Language. How interesting that the handshape formed by the extension of the middle finger from the closed fist has for many years been completely neutral in BSL, appearing in signs like Holiday, Lazy and Pretend. However, it is not a legal handshape in American Sign Language because of its insulting connotations. Apparently though, British Deaf people are now starting to shun this "rude" handshape and use alternatives.

Perhaps that guy was just trying to tell me in halting, incorrect British Sign Language that, thanks to my saving his life, he will now be able to enjoy a lovely Christmas holiday.

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