Sometimes Memory Lapse Can Be A Good Thing
I have a memory for the most useless things. I have the ability to remember long strings of numbers, which if I was a fraudster would come in very handy – if I really wanted to remember other people’s credit card numbers. I still recall phone numbers from decades ago, most of which are probably no longer in use (01642 Kieran!). Other people have similar skills. When I was a gainful employee, I was travelling through Penn Station New York City in about 1994 and while I waited for my connection I thought I would make some business calls to the places I was visiting on that particular two week trip. I had my company AT&T phone card and my company credit card, and the deal was that you had to tap in the AT&T number first, followed by the payment number to advance pay for the calls.
As I was furiously tapping away a Cop tapped me on the shoulder. No doubt having heard my accent at some point he was probably thinking ‘stupid British person’, because he warned me to make sure I was covering the keypad when making calls on a public phone. The reason was that the local drug dealers would look out for business people using the same calling method and would sit and memorize the numbers that were being tapped in. As soon as the victim’s calls were done, the druggies would buy drugs using the memorized card details.
So I suppose that means that I could also have been a drug dealer. As you grow older these memory methods are supposed to fade as your brain cells die off, but my ability seems still to be intact where remembering where I put my keys is not. I set off for Macedonia at 4am on Monday morning and when I checked in at Manchester Airport I found I had forgotten the house keys for my Friday return. When I finally arrived at my hotel in Skopje in the mid-afternoon I found I had also forgotten my European multi plug adaptor so I had to borrow one from the hotel where I was staying (or buy one from a shop) or my entire week of training ahead would have to be busked, with minimal support from my various devices.
I was there to deliver a training session to Macedonian export consultants how to advise their clients to build trade outside the Balkan region, specifically with the EU – a bit rich coming from a bloke whose country has just decided to isolate itself from its European partners! My previous presentation of the same material had been in Kosovo, five days after the EU referendum that led us into this dark chasm, and just one day after Iceland had humbled England in the European football championships. I get all the good jobs!
By Wednesday evening when I had arranged to go for a meal with my friends and colleagues from the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, I realized I had not been outside the hotel since I arrived because the training was delivered in the place where I was staying. I was taken to a fabulous restaurant. When you travel and you are tired after long working days, there is always the temptation to stay and relax in the hotel, eat and rest until the next day. But actually you feel more rested and ready to go if you get out and enjoy the local culture. And I don’t mean going to a safe restaurant that sells yet another version of fish and chips. It is much better to follow the lead of who you are with.
As we sat down at our table, these guys started to set up. My first instinct was ‘great, I won’t be able to hear myself think!’ I was extremely tired and feeling quiet, knowing I would probably have to retain an outwardly positive appearance until the early hours of the next morning. Our meal started with a toast which involved swigging Raki, which I learned later is one of the top ten most alcoholic drinks on the planet. I had quite a bit of that and later red wine to accompany the meal as this local Serbian folk band struck up. They were still playing four hours later! They covered everything, from traditional folk songs, national songs, pop, blues, jazz, swing, then Let It Be and Another Brick in the Wall which I assumed was for the British bloke just five yards from their tiny stage. By the end of the evening I was utterly pissed, so woke the next morning and several times during the night to a level of dehydration that only the best nights can achieve and also accompanied by just a tiny bit of a headache from Hell.
Although it took a while for me to get into my final training day (it was after lunch before I started to liven up) things had gone very well and everyone seemed pleased with everything. It wasn’t until I was on the flight home that I remembered I had promised to go back to the restaurant in Skopje and do a gig. So sometimes the things you forget deliver nice surprises!