Whiling away the wakeful early hours this morning in casual thought, I found myself remembering an awkward situation I found myself in some years ago. Having worked out that it must have happened within the last ten years, I looked it up here and, of course, I’d written about it at the time. But the chances of many of you remembering, even if we were friends then, are not high and I’ll tell you again with the benefit of hindsight added.
It was when I was chairman of a society and we held a coffee morning for new members. The committee members went around chatting, introducing themselves and being generally friendly, and Alan, one of our number, called me over to meet a woman whom he’d been talking to about the Latin language. You’re interested in Latin, he said. I agreed that I was but it wasn’t until we’d been chatting for a couple of minutes that I discovered that she was wanting to set up some Latin classes and needed to find others to join her. I was rather alarmed when I realised that she thought I was keen. What day would suit me?
I back-pedalled at once, I hadn’t honestly got time or inclination to take part in any such thing and I said, truthfully, that there was no day of the week that I could guarantee to be free and several when I certainly wouldn’t be, and not to count me in. I hoped that was the end of it but, a few months later, she sent me an application form to join her group. I didn’t think much of the attempt to railroad me and I didn’t care for her plan anyway – she said she wasn’t interested in literature, only grammar and I couldn’t see any fun in that.
So I wrote back to extricate myself and got a distinctly unpleasant reply. I’ve looked it up –
Thankyou, but I don’t know if the class will run now. I had been counting on a minimum of four. I had not expected that anuone, having given their word, would make alternative committments.
I am sure you would not expect your members of NADFAS to do that,since they would perhaps find this unethical. Typos and spelling mistake hers, not mine.
So I wrote again, explaining that an interest shown in her plans (I was really surprisingly polite, considering she’d absolutely buttonholed me) in a casual conversation isn’t actually giving my word and I had told her so at the time. I listed my regular commitments (not all of them, only those that actually involve work) and explained that the extra ones that have come up have to take precedence over things I do simply for my own amusement.
Her reply said that I’d dealt her a sledge-hammer blow. She hoped I felt thoroughly uncomfortable.
I didn’t, I don’t, I was extremely relieved not to have got more involved with such a peculiar and frankly unpleasant person. Her final word on the subject was “Beatae sunt quae ab ipsis occultare sapiunt”. (They are happy who know how to conceal (or cover) themselves).
People aren’t very often unpleasant to me and when they are, I take it to heart. And I really had not given her any encouragement, from the moment I found out what she was talking about. I thought I’d forgotten the whole matter but it evidently had been in my mind somewhere – I had to look up the details of course, but the basis of it was as upsetting as it felt at the time. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t sleep much, if I’m as easily upset as that. Clearly, Z is a snowflake after all, which is pretty silly of me.