Solicitor? Accountant? Diners all failed to guess What’s My Line
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David Clayton is well known in East Anglia for his TV and radio work, but ask a table of diners to guess his job and....
A funny thing happened to me the other day. I'd gone out to a nearby pub/restaurant which I'd been meaning to try since it had changed hands and was now serving Thai food. I love Thai food. My wife and I sat down and ordered a lunchtime platter to share then took in the surroundings, weighing up, as you do, the ambience of the place. Opposite us was a table of four chaps in animated conversation and enjoying a pint or two. They were laughing, talking loudly and to be honest, created an upbeat atmosphere in the place. Far better than a sepulchral silence or bland background music.
We weren't being nosey, but you can't help picking up snippets of conversation, can you? So, after a while, because of the odd overheard medical reference, we both muttered to each other "I bet they're doctors." And that was that. They continued to have, to all intents and purposes, a jolly lunchtime drink. Our food arrived, which was very nice, thank you.
Now, my wife and I are both enthusiastic people-watchers. Come on, we all do it don't we? You sit there in a pub or restaurant and try and imagine a back-story to the other customers. Personally, because I travel around the country for work, you can't beat a busy hotel reception area. Not only do you see the people, you get the extra bonus of scrutinising their luggage as they arrive to check-in. It helps. I've developed all sorts of theories, not necessarily correct, but personally entertaining.
The neat attaché case and suit-carrier? Obviously, a businessman just there for one night before a crucial meeting. Large wheeled cases with multiple labels are almost certainly tourists from afar. A coach will pick them up in the morning for the next destination but not until they've crowded out the breakfast buffet. The energetic walkers are usually lean of stature, have neat haversacks and minimal luggage.
All harmless, sweeping generalisations on my part, but it passes the time.
So back to my local hostelry. We'd enjoyed our food and were sipping our drinks when one of the four men came over to our table and said something like, "I hope you don't mind but we always play the game of trying to work out what someone does just by looking at them." This was directed at me, by the way. He was polite, of good humour and possibly a little emboldened by a pint or two. Across the room his three mates were looking over obviously eager to know the answer. Happy to play along we asked him what they'd concluded.
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"Well, I said you're a solicitor," he told me. "One of the others said accountant. "I was a failed accountant once," I replied. It had been my first job after leaving school and I was next to useless. At this point I wasn't sure whether I was pleased at these suggestions or not. With due respect to those fine professions, I was never trying to project the aura of either, if indeed there was an identifiable aura to project.
There was one other left-field suggestion from the table. "Exam invigilator." My chest swelled a little at this for reasons I can't work out, other than it felt a more exclusive group. "What do you do?" said the man. "Well none of those, so what do you think?" we challenged, mischievously. In the end I confessed to radio and TV, so they were, in truth, nowhere near.
There is, I suppose, a dark side to all of this as we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I have to say this encounter was good fun. I was, if you like, the subject of an impromptu "What's My Line?"
Now, what's an old broadcaster supposed to look like?