Wednesday, 13 April 2011


One of the more interesting areas I studied during my BSc psychology was the mystery surrounding intelligence. And while the research was quite extensive, I never came across any evidence as to whether or not there is any relationship between the standard IQ as we know it and good old-fashioned common sense. Something tells me that there would almost certainly be a direct negative correlation between the two. That is, as the IQ goes up, the common sense goes down.

I am aware that this idea is not completely revolutionary stuff but the thing is, when people tell anecdotes about the inadequacies of otherwise clever people, they are usually alluding to things like the doctor who can’t boil an egg or the top barrister unable to tie his own shoe-laces. I am not, in case you hadn’t already guessed, either a doctor or a top barrister but neither am I completely dense. I’m okay. I enjoy documentaries and intelligent conversation, I always buy a decent newspaper with my morning Americano, sometimes I even read it. However, the things I have done are so ridiculous that, if my theory holds true, I should one day be able to crack the secrets of the universe.

Anyway, of my many debacles, my absolute number one is most definitely the time I was 21 years old and found myself travelling alone to America. I had been abroad many times before but always with the company of friends, relatives, or a boyfriend, never completely alone. In the past I had generally drifted into the airport without saying or doing very much and then just sort of magically appeared in another country a few hours later. As I entered the airport alone this particular time it never really occurred to me that I should have perhaps taken more notice during previous excursions. I mean, I knew the drill: Check in, put hand luggage through the x-ray, step through the bleeper thing, read magazine with special ‘how to stay slim on holiday’ section while devouring king-size Mars bar, get on plane.

What could possibly go wrong?

“Is this your suitcase?” the frosty, frumpy looking check-in lady asked me.

“Um, no, not really,” I answered.

“If it’s not your suitcase, then whose is it?”

“Well, it’s actually a Chinese guy’s called Xue, but he prefers to be called Ryan, thinks he’ll fit in better with an English name. Not sure of his surname,” I explained innocently, describing my new oriental flat-mate.

The check-in lady looked slightly disconcerted by this which I found a bit strange. I mean, I borrowed cases all the time, my own being a bit small for a month’s supply of Marlborough Reds and 15 pairs of shoes. I made a mental note to buy a bigger case for my next holiday.

“It belongs to a Chinese male who uses a fake English name you say. How long have you known him?”

“About a week now I think,” I replied.

“And was there anything in the case when he gave it to you?” she asked.

“Yes, a walkman and a sock,” I replied proudly, feeling rather pleased by my brilliant recall for what could have been easily forgotten details. Perhaps there were professions where a superior memory paid well, I mused. I suppose in a job like the police force it’s important to have those sorts of skills. And I’d get to hang out with all those dishy policemen too. I could climb through the ranks ending up in CID if I played my cards right. I’d definitely phone the local police station as soon as I got back to make some enquiries.

“Did you pack your own things?” asked Frosty Frump.

I cast my mind back to the previous evening.

“No, not entirely. I did get some help.” I answered, starting to feel a bit agitated.

“No need to get angry now. Just be calm,” she said.

“I’m really not, I’m fine, I just don’t understand why I’m being asked all these…”

“I was talking to myself Miss Pollock.”

Fast forward to 2011 and I now understand why I was dragged off to be extensively interviewed and have my possessions waded through by a pair of security guards. I never did make that call to enquire about a career in the police-force; Dad suggested they might have it on record that I had quite recently called them to ask if they would take a gigantic, hairy spider out of the bathroom. Apparently you’re not supposed to call the emergency services for things like that.

Yes, really, not even if you want to cry and it’s bigger than the sodding cat.