It is at this time of year that I usually look about myself for billboards of optimism and enlightenment with which to crack open a new era.
Surely John Lewis or Aldi will have some life affirming platitudes for me dotted along the otherwise bleak high street, something as fresh as the iceberg lettuce my insides crave or as moving and perspective giving as a wriggly new born kitten.
Not this year.
This year I decided to take a moment to remember the one peice of advice that I think about each and every day.
This advice was given to me as a whipper snapper uni leaver on my first day of many in totally irrelevant jobs.
It was my very first lunch break of my very first shift working at a well known war themed museum in London. During my hour interval I got up to use the loo.
A sage arm reached out to block my path.
“How dare you madam, I am away to use the bathroom, please replace your arm to the rest where it belongs”
“No dear” came the hushed response. “You have a lot to learn. I am here to teach you.”
“I am being buddied by Warren, he has told me all about the mop heads and the grenade degreasers. Now do let me pass!” I tutted and rolled my eyes as her bird like arm remained in my path.
I hadn’t envisaged man handling someone on my first day but this limb was needing moved.
I went to brush away her bony wrist but she had the reflexes of a ninja and in that moment my tiny fingers were clamped within her hand, her gold rings digging into my knuckles.
“You will thank me for this young one.” Her soft, appeasing voice made me listen (she was also very close to drawing blood and I figured feigning interest would end this whole debacle and henceforth free my buckling wrist).
“One day, when you are at another thankless job, your knees begging for a moment’s perch, you will look back at this moment as the moment that changed everything. You will recall it when that woman shouts at you. You will recall it when those orders still haven’t been shelved. You will recall it when that father watches with pride as his son dismantles your Julia Donaldson display and with my blessing you will take this memory and your weary sack of bones and excuse yourself. You will bathe in 3 or 4 minutes of additional break time where you can return your breathing to normal and remove that sticker from your hair. Time which you would have otherwise flushed away at lunchtime. For nothing.”
She looked deep into my eyes, soft wisdom leaked out the corners. She was utterly moved by my innocence. She could only recall her own with a shiver. Her grip softened to a gentle, comforting hold as she eventually got to her point.
Pee on your own time.”
I forget her name. I wouldn’t recognise her on the street.
But pee-time lady – I Salute you.