You can go out purposely looking for inspiration, and you can go out purposely looking to inspire people. But it occurred to me yesterday that many of the most significant inspirations I’ve had have happened quite unexpectedly, unsolicited and unintended.
I was at a book launch – the sort of event where the attendees don’t know each other, but they know that everyone is united by the same enthusiasm.
All was going well – I’d found some friendly people to chat and assess the canapés with – and I’d at last allowed myself to finish the single glass of wine the law permits drivers. I took the opportunity while putting my glass back on the bar to slip out to the gents – quite a daring move given that this was a strange place, and locating the gents is one of the great anxieties of the average evening out-of-the-house. On this occasion I had had the great good fortune of clocking them on my way in to the event. The only uncertainty was that, as I strode confidently towards them, the door might be locked – so my confident push of the door was made with a physical caveat: an elbow crooked and ready for the fact that the door might not give.
Naturally, then, my spirits were high on returning to the party, and this must have given an airy confidence to my walk as, while I looked around the room to seek out the little knot of people I’d been speaking with, a fashionably-dressed man came up to me and said, “You look like a man who’s just returned from the bathroom! Where is it?”
Imagine. You live your life going to parties and [a] not finding out where the bathroom is ahead of time; [b] approaching total strangers to ask where they are; while [c] taking the extra added risk of proposing that the total stranger has actually just been to the toilet.
This man must be of a different species altogether. What if I hadn’t been to the toilet? I mean – the fallout just doesn’t even bear thinking about, does it?
The result of his approach, however, was interesting. I found myself very well disposed towards this man. I animatedly described to him where the bathroom was and how easily he would locate it, and only by a force of will did I manage to stop myself enthusing about how comprehensive and sanitary the facilities were.
So it is that these small encounters change a person. I resolve now before the year is out to have that same conversation, casting myself as the questioner. The only trouble is, I’m going to have to determinedly not find out where the gents are when I visit a place – and I’m just not sure I can do that. And then of course I’m going to have to be sure that the ‘returning’ man has indeed just, well, returned.