Given that your reading this blog, you’ll be aware that I claim to have had niceness foisted upon me by my brain injury. ‘Foisted’ is a carefully chosen word, meaning to ‘impose an unnecessary or unwelcome thing on a person.’ Which describes exactly what has happened. One minute my life had been one long exercise in disregarding what people thought of me. Memorably summed by a friend of my partners, who, with plenty of evidence to support it, called me ‘an emotional psychopath’ After the brain injury however, urgent modifications were needed as I knew my previous attitude which hadn’t noticeably hindered me, would do so now.
So foisted is an apt word.
One particularly mercenary example – well she thought it especially mercenary I know – occurred many years ago now, when I was toying with what university course to apply for. Now it does help for you to bear in mind that not only am I morally flexible but also that I’m pathologically lazy. So the idea of applying myself to anything for three years was simply not on, even though someone at school claimed to have a book containing every university course complete with the ratio of male to female students and based his UCAS applications on that rigorous academic standard. Anyway, there was I, desperate to flee my childhood house, but with no idea as to how to effect it, a textbook teenage problem common, to all teenagers everywhere. I know that now, but then it was just another right royal pain in my arse and I wasn’t happy about that.
Thankfully, a girl I knew, who possibly I may have lead to believe was my girlfriend, had applied to a college to do advertising and had been accepted. I was somewhat good at English, had an imagination and some creative potential, in short everything an advertising copywriter needed. So being the dutiful boyfriend, I listened intently and asked questions, whenever she spoke about it. Naturally, I was careful not to instigate such conversations or to appear too keen when they did. Eventually, I knew all about the course, why it was unique – from Day One, they paired students into pairs, like in the real world – what a copywriter did, what an art director did, who were the leading lights in the industry and why they were so esteemed, not only what were considered to be great adverts, but why they were considered great and so on. Everything basically. She was Google before Google – not that she had much to Google at.
So I ‘phoned the college to complain that I hadn’t yet received any acknowledgement of my application. This was May I think. They were very apologetic and put me on a short list of applicants should any of the students not take their place. I know, a high-risk strategy, but it never once occurred to me that everything wouldn’t work out. The girl who thought she was my girlfriend started the course on the September and of course, I called ‘round to hers that evening to get all the details. Wouldn’t you know it but one the copywriting students had dropped out at the last second, and wouldn’t you know that the next day I got a call from the Course Leader (CL) inviting me compete with others on the short-list for the place. I had to come up with four newspaper adverts, four billboards, and four adverts to go the sides of buses for a thing. We were given enough details to help us out, we just had to tell them who the ads were aimed at, why they were aimed at them and what the key takeaway message was. Which I did, submitted and got the place. I was told on the Friday that they’d be expecting me on the following Monday at 9am sharp, and news of a new student had clearly got everyone excited, especially my now increasingly dispensable girlfriend. She told me all about it, as was her wont, and as was mine, I affected polite curiosity.
I turned up at college on the Monday, was met by the CL, who had gathered all the copywriters and art directors in one room, so he could make some sort of welcoming speech before I would emerge to the assembled throng. I could hear him through the door I was standing on the other side of. Any second now…and here’s the good bit. I stepped through the door and heard a muffled cry, rather like the sound a cat makes when it’s on heat. Mind you, I wouldn’t have been altogether surprised if she’d grabbed the nearest heavy blunt object and battered me repeatedly with it.
So result! Not as much of as a result as when news of this became common knowledge and we discovered that the CL had lied about the industry awards the students had won, his thinking being that that if it attracted the best and the brightest, they’d win them anyway. Which turned out to be the case. I won one. So in a weird way, what I’d done was a vindication of that thinking, that to succeed in the cut-throat world of advertising, you were either Sweeney Todd or you were pie filling!
Reading that back, I don’t feel ashamed in any way of my youthful behaviour. I don’t think it reflects badly on me at all. In fact, I’m curiously proud of the teenage me, not only because it was an instinctive thing to do, not only because it never once dawned on me that everything would work out in my favour. But because that I had the arrogance of youth, the confidence and the sheer front needed to carry it out. I sort of miss that version of me.
Truly, I’ve had niceness foisted upon me.