I have developed a sort of Widow Tourette’s. This is where, in the most inappropriate places, I feel the need to drop into casual conversations with complete strangers little bombs like ‘My husband has just died’ or ‘Her daddy is dead’. These widow bombs fall out of my mouth before I realise it and the poor sales assistants, bank tellers, Post Office clerks etc have to try to deal with it. I watch them floundering to remember any staff training they have had on customer service that might help them attempt to make polite conversation with the mad woman before them. Sometimes I think I throw these little bombs out there to make these people realise that life is brief so treat everyone well whatever type of day you are having. Here are a few examples:
Buying a hoover in Comet
At the desk with a boxed up Henry Hoover and two-year-old Evie beside me. I am in a hurry (bad mother – have left Isla in the car as decided carrying baby and hoover would be too precarious). Salesman is taking his time and being perfectly pleasant by asking about Evie and telling me he is a new father and that his baby was born on December 20th. I reply with a smile: ‘Oh my baby was born on Christmas Eve. She’s in the car. Their Daddy died in February.’ The fellow didn’t know where to put himself but he did insist on carrying Henry to the car for me.
Buying two glasses of wine in a bar in South London
I escaped the house for a meet with a friend in the very early weeks after Colin died. I felt almost normal being out with normal people all around. So why when the barman said, ‘are you having a good day?’, did I reply to his bartender banter with a jaw-dropping, ‘No not really my husband just died.’?
Getting a baby passport in various Post Offices in South London
I nearly cancelled the holiday we were due to go on in July due to the stress of dealing with Post Office staff doing the Check And Send service for passport forms. Each time I went to the desk determined not to reveal myself as a mad widow but each time their ‘Computer Says No’ customer service had me weeping at the desk, pleading with them either for a new form or at least not to pay nearly £9 yet again for someone to tell me I had got something ridiculously mundane wrong with the application – one of the signatures had gone over the line of the box, the photo was not in line with regulations, the ink was the incorrect colour. It took five visits to a post office, the help of Colin’s Best Friend and a trainee at Colin’s work to sort us out eventually. No amount of Widow’s Tourette’s penetrated the soulless staff of Royal Mail.
Banking a cheque at a bank in South London
It was a significant amount so the teller told me I had to go into an office to put the cheque through. So me and Isla in her buggy squeezed our way into an office with a bored-with-my-job kind of woman: ‘Hello Mrs Campbell. Due to the amount of this cheque we need to know where the money came from.’ Me: ‘Well it does say on the cheque where it is from but it has been given to me because my husband just died.’ Bored woman kind of gets more interested as my widow bomb goes off: ‘Oh right. How did he die? What age was he? How old is your baby?’. This woman had a form of Tourette’s all of her own and it is called Complete and Utter Insensitivity Tourette’s. She followed my answers of ‘It was his heart. He was 38. She is 14 weeks old, I think.’, with a further heart stabbingly awful, ‘Oh was it sudden?’ and then proceeded to try to sell me some financial package or other to make the most of my new-found wealth. Idiot.