When you find yourself doing things you really don’t want to do

My wife got herself into a sticky situation recently. I came home to find her at the kitchen table with her head in her hands, sighing deeply. The panic in her eyes really got to me, as she’s a fairly calm person in a sober state.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. She looked like she’d just mistaken a hamster for a meatball and swallowed it whole.

“I think I’m a basketball coach”, she said in a thin voice.

Facts first. She used to play basketball up till the age of seventeen. She was very good but she’s 39 now. She smokes 39 packets a day, drinks 200 units a week and has no interest in basketball whatsoever yet she had somehow managed to get herself into the position of basketball coach.

So what happened? The answer is simple. It happens to everyone. You want someone to like you and you tell a little white lie. Just to make them happy. This is what my wife did and she’ll pay for it for the rest of the year.

We’ve recently moved house and now live in a very ‘family oriented’ street. This doesn’t mean young families. Most of our neighbours are old but they have shit loads of kids and grand children. It’s always busy next door. Our neighbours basically own the street after living here for over fifty years and you’d better be on their right side because they can make you or break you. We’ve never thought about keeping things private because none of our previous neighbours ever had any interest in us, apart from a junkie who stole our shower head. (We’re still not over the fact that the shower head was the only thing worth stealing) So we didn’t think any harm would come from it when we started talking to them in the front garden in the morning or over the fence with a cup of tea. Before we knew it the whole family got involved and it was really nice how we all got along casually. When my wife bumped into their eldest daughter in the supermarket, it only seemed polite to make small talk. When she started talking about her daughter playing basketball, the reply was genuine. “How nice, I used to play basketball.”

That, apparently, was the beginning of the end. We got invitations to games, which we politely declined time after time. We’d close the curtains on game day, pretending not to be home and took the long way home, entering the house through the garden. After two weeks, my wife ran into the basketball crew again and got kidnapped. Now she’s not one to shy away from anyone but when she said ‘stay clear from the eldest daughter’, I knew she meant business. Even I had to admit she was quite frightening in her forward way of communication.

So there she was, all alone, vulnerable and miles away from home without a car or any means to escape. When twenty strangers gang up on you and ask you if you want to coach kids basketball, what do you say? You can’t say you don’t have kids yourself because you don’t particularly like them. Or that you can’t deal with the commitment of showing up every week. Or that you can think of a thousand things to do with your spare time that are awful but still way better than coaching kids basketball, like joining a macramé club, signing up for a taxidermy course or working in prison for free.

After I’ve finished writing this, I’m going over to my neighbour’s garden to rake up the leaves because she’s got a bad back. Her seventeen kids have outsmarted me and have all come up with valid excuses not to do it so I guess that’s my work-out for the next four hours.


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