They do. It’s a curse I have to live with.
It’s not a few days since Hazel came to my door, declaring she needed a man, on some pretext or other about wanting someone to lift up her dustbin as it was too heavy for her. Naturally, I went along with her transparent excuse to see my finely honed features and rippling biceps as I lifted the green bins to the top of the road for her. I take these things in my stride, happy to go along with the pretence.
So, there I was, in the deep twilight, pulling the car up to its resting spot by the garage, and got out to lift my evening’s shopping from the boot, when I noticed a young woman come down the middle of the road and into the cul-de-sac after me. She called on me. “Excuse me, but I wonder if I could ask an awfully big favour.” The words “awfully big favour” usually put me on edge, since they’re often followed by a plea for £40 for train fare home to some distant place because of some contrived tale of woe.
But she was pretty, smartly dressed, with intelligent glasses (no, I don’t know what I mean by that, just that some women wear glasses that make them look intelligent but reserved, and you want to ask them to take the glasses off then shake their tresses loose to reveal a stunningly beautiful woman behind the mask, the way they do in films).
“Oh?” I said. “What’s that?”
I was still half en-garde, waiting for a sucker punch.
“I wonder, I know it’s a big ask, but, but, could you give me a jump?”
I would have done a double-take, but of course I get this all the time, though not usually in such direct and relatively unsubtle terms. I had to bite my tongue in case I inadvertantly said, “Your place or mine?” Instead, I raised my best quizzical eyebrow.
“We’re at the top of the road, and it’s my friend, she’s left the lights on all night, and now it won’t start, and we’re stuck.”
Ah. Bubble burst. (I just want you to know, this doesn’t often happen to me.)
“Ah, so you’re looking for a …”
“A jump start, yes. Could you help, please?”
She looked at me helplessly and pleadingly, and after I let a few dramatic seconds pass, I said, “Of course, I’ll just put this back in the boot, and I’ll drive up to you.”
I drove out of the cul-de-sac, and sure enough, there was a car parked opposite, with three girls standing outside it. All in their mid to late twenties, and I figured they looked like post-graduate or PhD students. With short skirts and beautiful hair. I did a turn in the road so that we were bonnet to bonnet. One held out a set of jump leads, and said, “We’ve got these, but we’re not sure what to do with them.”
The last time I did a jump start was over thirty years ago, and I couldn’t remember the rule about which terminals to connect first, but with three beautiful women in distress and looking for help from a knight, this was no time for vacillation. I couldn’t even remember where the battery was in my car, but I found it without looking too perplexed, then connected it to the distressed battery without jump-starting myself into the middle of the road.
“OK,” I said, “just let me start my engine, so that there’s plenty of charge for the battery.”
“Should I start my engine now?”
“Your engine won’t start …”
“Oh, of course!”
“Just wait till my engine is turning, then start your car as normal.”
It burst into life. My reputation was safe.
“Oh thank you! Thank you! We just don’t know how to thank you!”
I bit my tongue again, to stop it speaking out of turn, and let natural chivalry take over, knowing that in days and weeks and months to come, they’d regale their friends with the story of how, in their hour of need, a dashing fellow of striking good looks, immaculate demeanour, and a Scottish accent, came to their rescue and asked not even a kiss in reward.
Sean Connery must get this all the time. He’ll know only too well what it’s like being an Alex MacPhee look-alike.