“What the F*** were you thinking?” a man shouted at me last weekend, his face red with fury.
The traffic was at a virtual standstill and I had just realised that a funeral procession was taking place. “Who died?” is what I was thinking as I bumped into his car. I wanted to slide from my seat and curl up in a ball under the driver’s seat like a cat.
Instead, knowing that I had brought rush hour traffic to a complete full stop and was being watched by over twenty drivers, I held my head in my hands with the shame.
The windows were shut but I could hear him through them. “What the F*** were you THINKING?” he shouted again, pacing up and down.
I was thinking that the new family car might need a service. It sounds like a tractor and when you least expect it, does little bunny jumps. The bunny jumps are not good.
Registering that I had lost the power of speech temporarily, the man crouched down and began stroking his car’s bumper.
He came up to my window. I fumbled to find the newfangled button to make the window go down. Panicking and sensing his anger, I hit a button, any button. The rear window went down.
I hit another. This time the passenger seat window went down. Third time lucky, my own window finally lowered.
“Ok. I can’t see any damage” he said. I sighed with relief. I would not face the humiliation of having to fill out an insurance claim form.
The last time I had to sketch a lamppost with the rear of my car smashed into it.
“I’ll take your number, just in case I find any damage when i get home”.
With forty cars beeping their horns around me, the pressure was on. Try as I might, the numbers would not come into my head.
I fumbled around in my bag for my phone. I was like jelly, a nervous wreck. I needed to put this into perspective. Nobody had died. Well, actually somebody had died and was being buried. But I had not run anyone over in my newish bunny hopping car.
All I had to do now was remember my phone number, he would go away and we could all go home, have a cup of tea and watch Homes Under The Hammer.
But this was the ultimate memory game and like a contestant on The Cube, the tension was killing me.
“08…. 08, 08 something. Maybe 6?”
Where was Philip Schofield when I needed him? Instead half of Newbridge waited angrily in a mile long tailback behind me. I had attempted the Phone Number Recall Challenge and lost.
I needed to find my phone. Rummaging about in my bag, the darnn thing had vanished. I looked up at the driver. I think that his face was showing pity.
“Have you a pen?” he asked, softer now and less angry. I dipped into the handbag once more and pulled out a lipstick.
Then an eyeliner that I had last seen three years ago, then a questionnaire from a physiotherapist about exercise in young children, next a Samaritans information sheet and a handful of receipts from the petrol station, and finally a Lego Darth Vadar.
I opened the glove compartment. The obvious place for a pen.
I have a friend who runs her car like an office. She has make-up and hair accessories in one compartment and note pad, pens, tissues in another.
She always has a tasteful air freshener hanging from the mirror and there is not a scrap of dust to be seen anywhere in her car. She can pressed a button and magically talk to anyone through a special machine she has plugged into the dashboard.
She even has a designer perfume beside the handbrake that she uses as additional air freshener.
I have never looked beyond the front seat but I bet if I poked around in the back, I’d find fluffy slippers and a luxury towelling bathrobe.
To sit in her car is like spending time in a luxury hotel. You want to touch everything and take something home.
It’s not that I am jealous of her, but if she ever found herself in the same situation as me last week, she’d probably have pressed a button on her steering wheel and her insurance details, phone number and fingerprints would print out from a hidden gadget in the sun visor.
I opened my glove compartment, praying to the God of Pens.
Inside, an empty packet of Rhubarb and Custard hard boiled sweets, a melted bar of chocolate and a map of Snowdonia.
I was still unable to speak. the man leaned in.
“Just try and remember your phone number,” he said gently now.
This man would have made a great Samaritan. I should have given him the information sheet.
I pressed the palms of my hands either side of my head and focused on the Lego Darth Vader on my lap.
“086, 225?” I was almost there. I closed my eyes and used visualising techniques. I visualised that I was back on The Cube with my whole family sitting in a row cheering me on, clapping and whistling. I was almost there.
I may have had fifty cars beeping their horns, drivers shouting and waving their arms at me but with the good Samaritan beside me, I remembered the rest.
It was a small but important victory.
Despite what my overall general appearance may indicate, I still have it.
When push comes to shove, I still retain a few cells that work in my cranium, there really is sign of brain activity and there is hope for the future.
So what if I struggle with facial recognition, the time of day, what I went into a shop for, school meetings, the names of other people’s children, the names of my own children and birthdays.
I can still remember my mobile phone number. Just.
Local Kildare mum Annie Morris writes the fortnightly ‘Chatty Woman’ column in the Leinster Leader.