I don’t know if you have ever worn one of those little plastic label things with your name and a little picture of you on it? Commonly they are attached to a coloured lanyard which is intended to be slung around your neck so that when you meet people they are forced to look at your chest.
Now, I don’t really mind that people stare at my chest, but some of my female colleagues find it vaguely disconcerting and they’ve taken to clipping the label to a bag, or a lapel instead.
I nearly always lose the thing, or find it under my laptop in the computer case or some other misadventure befalls me. I have taken recently to hanging the lanyard on the back of the hotel door, so that in the morning, as I stumble, bleary-eyed out of the room, the last thing I see is the lanyard and it makes me remember. So far, this system has been a big improvement. Until today, that is. Let me explain.
I had woken to the strident sound of my alarm function on my mobile. I carried out my usual routine – alarm turned off, shower and shave, get dressed, all going well. Collect wheely-case thing with papers and laptop in and head for the door. I slung the lanyard around my neck and headed on out, confident that I was tickety-boo and ready to face the world – all professional, suited and booted.
I went down to breakfast and there were some strange looks, I admit. I thought that perhaps something had stuck to my face or that my hair was all in disarray, but no. I patted my hair and checked that hadn’t cut myself shaving.
Finally, a colleague leaned towards me and asked if it was permissible to engage me in conversation, or would he be disturbing me? I must have smiled weakly and probably looked at him as if he’d gone a bit mad, for he continued with a very obvious glance downwards, at my chest. I followed his gaze and there, hooked on the lanyard thing which adorned my chest, rested an additional item. Not only was my little plastic identity card there, all shiny and bright, but so was a card which boldly read ‘do not disturb’.
Somehow, as I had left my room, I had managed to remove the ‘do not disturb’ sign from the door as I removed the lanyard and had blithely wandered down to breakfast announcing, unknowingly, to all and sundry, that they were not to disturb me.
Of course, they hadn’t done so. I imagine that some of them had thought that I was a bit grumpy and had come up with a novel way of avoiding conversation over the mandatory omelette and cup of tea. Others maybe just put it down to an eccentric flash.
There was much laughter at my expense, of course. All I can say is that it was a good job it hadn’t been the other side which had been on display, at it announced boldly ‘ready for cleaning’.