Some people seem to attract bad luck in the way others benefit from its close relative, ‘Good Luck’ for ease of identification. Nigel had been born into poor, or ‘restricted’ circumstances or whatever euphemism floats your boat on this particular day. No problem with that, except that his grandmother had been born at the tail end of a more prosperous time in the family’s history and was constantly trying to remind her grandchildren that they were ‘gentlemen’ or something else which might mean that life or the local employers would treat them more kindly: this is seldom the case, as Nigel would discover during his unfortunately long life.
Anyway, no need to dwell on his gruesome history; Nigel was highly intelligent and perceptive, but had neither the confidence nor social skills to take advantage of the fact: to be honest, the opposite was nearer the truth. Because his well-meaning but deluded grandmother gave him elocution lessons, and because his surname harked back to grander times, he stuck out like an over-manicured thumb amidst the poor and unglamorous streets where he spent his youth. He wasn’t physically bullied but he was constantly derided and made to feel apart from the normal run of life. He comforted himself, by reading, researching and reflecting on the world around him. This may or may not have improved his position.
Move on a few years and he is now a junior clerk in the office of a company selling a range of tinned fish. Needless to say, the environment was as inspiring as it sounds and filled by people who longed for the end of their working day. Nigel worked at some small desk collating sales returns, and thus had a fragile connection to the marketing department. Let’s face it, those marketing boys knew how to live a life: highlights were the afternoon ‘conferences’ where tea was not the only drink and expansive plans with little hope of fruition enjoyed a brief time in the “Limelight;” a small illumination device largely fuelled by vanity, but more of that another time.
Here he was at the back of the room, waiting to be grilled, if you can use that term carelessly in the fish environment, about tin sales in Greenland and Iceland. ( Apparently disappointingly small,) when Carl Boomberger, Head of Marketing and all-round self-confessed genius mentioned in an aside that the “world, in marketing terms, “Was really flat”. Poor old Nigel, whose mind was not as gripped by the topic as it might have been, only came alive at the end of the sentence, and without thinking responded. “Actually it’s round sir, or possibly elliptical, if you want to be pedantic”. There was a short pause while people tried to ascertain what kind of life-form was capable of natural speech so far back in the room when Carl exploded “Are you trying to teach me my job young man”.
“Is that possible” said Nigel with an ambiguity which might have saved him from the consequences of his impertinence. On this occasion it didn’t and he was left to ruminate on the relationship between power and freedom of speech as he scanned the newspaper for jobs while standing at the bus stop.