High achievers bother me.
I’m surrounded by them. Maybe I have a phobia.
Maybe I’m a very low achiever and from down here everyone else simply looks like a high achiever.
There’s this girl in my office. She labels the stuff she puts in the office fridge. With the date. Other people chuck stuff in the fridge and leave it there until it crawls out unaided; she files it in there and makes a note in her diary to remove it on the sell-by date.
This, of course, is merely frightening. On its own I could handle it. I could say she was obsessive compulsive.
But she can do complex equations, and remember 12 appointments, and she knows how to do arcane things with mobile phones, like change the size of the type.
Except that she doesn’t need to because she can see it with her 20-20 vision. She showed me how to change mine, though.
And she’s popular with the bosses. Not because she sucks up to them but because she’s â€¦ well, a high achiever. I have to resort to sucking up, and it doesn’t work anyway.
And she knows! She knows that I’m frightened of her. I am at least twice her age and I suspect I could hold my own if we tried arm wrestling, but I’m still frightened of her.
She passes on documents for me to “peruse and comment”, and I do, and she says: “Yes, yes â€¦ we know it’s very long, but what about the strategy on page 38 and its possible impact on communications with external stakeholders â€¦” and I make an excuse and go the lavatory.
I knew her at school. Not her, exactly, but people like her. Paul Wren was like her, except he had hairy arms.
He was the rugby captain, the cricket captain, top at maths, science, English and geography. He even took religious education away from me (the one place where sucking up to the boss actually works). And he was a bronzed god. The girls wouldn’t look at anyone else. Not even when I stood near him.
Why is it always the same? There used to be a theory that if you were “good with your hands” you’d be an academic failure and that if you understood Einstein’s theory of relativity then you wouldn’t be able to knock a nail in straight.
If this rule actually worked then she’d have a moustache. And goitres. And she doesn’t.
And what’s more she’s compassionate. She says she feels sorry for me. She says I remind her of her in-laws. I’ve been around a long time and I’ve had my share of insults: putting on weight; going bald; bad taste; bad breath; hairs up my nose â€¦
Nothing strikes home as hard as being like someone’s in-laws. Even if she liked them it would be hard â€“ but she doesn’t like them!
And this is no longer school. I daren’t stand close to her in the hope that someone will notice me. If they do I’m likely to find a label on my collar, and a note in her diary reminding her that I’ve reached my sell-by date and it’s time they chucked me out.