Imagine the picture: I'm hanging at the bus stop with my crew: Jo, Mo, Flo* and Allan**. We are the Free Bus Pass Gang; twice a week we gather at 9.35am to wait for the 657 bus to take us into town. (It used to be the 620, but Uno, the bus company, recently changed it to the 657 and now it comes 8 minutes later. No, don't ask, because we don't know either.)
The crew are OK about the fact that I write letters to the local paper; they all know I am the Chair of a community action group, that is trying to stop the local town council from selling our urban green space to a developer. Thus I fire off a lot of what I like to think of as wry, witty, urbanely Swiftian epistles, which always get published in our local paper.
This is because the editor knows my stuff will generate rude responses from people with humorectomies and irony bypasses, who live in the posh bits of town, and see no reason why our urban green space shouldn't be covered in tarmac and Tesco School of Architecture housing because, hey, it isn't their urban green space. Over the years I've developed quite a following, and am apparently referred to colloquially, and locally as 'that redhead who writes those letters'.
But the crew also know that there is a darker, more perplexing side to what I do, known as 'The Writing', words usually uttered in the same cautious tone of voice that one might use for other words, like 'shark' or 'cockroach'. Thus it is that Jo eventually plucks up courage and asks, 'How's The Writing going then, Carol?'
And that's when it happens. Without even thinking, I sigh deeply, roll my eyes and say: 'Last week, I lost all my toolbar widgets! And Google spammed my blog and I had to go into a chat room and talk to a Techie, and then I had to download Chrome to sort it out.'
There follows a long silence, that hangs around in the air in the way that bricks don't. The crew study the ground carefully. Then Flo murmurs, 'Didn't understand a word of that, sorry.' And Allan agrees. And Jo and Mo step away from me, as if I might infect them with whatever I've got. And then, thankfully, the bus arrives. We scramble on board, showing our passes to the cheerful Polish driver.
Nobody sits next to me, all the way into town.
* Names changed to protect identity.
** This is his real name.