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This week, I discovered that there are still PhD scholarships available for next year. I also discovered that the deadline for applying is just over a week away. Thus I find myself, amidst a frenzied rush of errand running, in the damp queue at the post office, on the phone to my tutor, who I’ve been trying to contact for the last 36 hours.

‘Peter! Thank you so much for getting back to me,’ I say, re-juggling the packages in my arms. ‘Assistant number THREE, please’ chimes the automated voice. We all move forward one. The purple-haired lady at the back bleats incomprehensibly.

‘I wanted to speak to you to see if you thought it would be a good idea, or even a possibility, to apply,’ I gabble, trying to get my purse out of my bag ready for my turn at the window, pressing my phone to my ear with my shoulder. ‘Assistant number EIGHT, please’ says the loud female voice. I waddle forward a place, with my parcels clutched about my hips as I try to regain control of them. The man in the flat-cap behind me makes a noise like a moose with trapped wind.

‘I’m so sorry about all the noise, Peter, I’m just in the post office- but carry on, carry on,’ I say, now sweating profusely and trying to memorise all the key points. My tutor is just getting down to the details of the application form when Assistant number SIX is announced and I am propelled towards a blonde assistant with a steely expression.

Now I’m panicked- I intensely dislike the tendency of the young, arrogant Brits to treat assistants like robots, not warranting the attention of a real person. But on the other hand, I can’t interrupt my tutor; his time is precious, and his advice contributes more to my future than these badly-wrapped boxes.

So as I approach the window, I look at the woman, pleading with her to take my request without words. Hating myself. I push my parcels towards her and begin pointing at the first one, mouthing, ‘Second class, please!’ Rightly so, the woman objects. ‘Are you going to talk on your phone or are you going to talk to me?’ she snaps.

And that moment is the end of my day. As anxious as I felt before, suddenly it is as if that lava has bubbled over and left only a glib residue of intentions behind. In the end, I had to ask my tutor to hang on whilst I shamefacedly completed my order, and after, apologise profusely down the phone and listen in silence to the rest of his advice. Then I went home, took off my make-up, put on my sweatpants, and slept for 3 hours.

Of course, none of my tasks for the day got done after that. A moment like that, in which I was rude, and inconvenienced the days of two different people, and all because of my own bad planning, have become a life-ruining. Whereas before I might have apologised, and then continued anyway, now I need damage-control and a back-up plan; time to recover before I can tackle anything else. The smallest fragments of difficulty that hit an anxious-depressive even by accident, can cause the collateral damage of meteors.

 

 

Photo: NASA/EPA

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