Mrs Annoying Head
Remember when you used to turn up to school drop off or work or your favourite café or wherever you used to congregate with other humans in the morning? And remember how there was always that one person who always rubbed you the wrong way? That one person who just irked you. Maybe they had a really obnoxious laugh or cracked their knuckles or sniffed incessantly or made casually racist jokes or whistled tunelessly through their teeth, as if there were no other people in their immediate vicinity with the ability to hear.
For me, it was a fellow mum at school drop off. To avoid litigation, let’s call her… Mrs. Annoying Head. The moment I stepped through the school gate she’d pick up my scent. It didn’t matter where she was in the playground, her head would spin around, her eyes would lock onto mine and she’d make a beeline for me. It didn’t matter what methods of disguise, avoidance or subterfuge I would employ; Mrs. Annoying Head always found me. Always. The thing that bugged me most about Mrs. Annoying Head was that she would start talking to me, while still too far away to be heard, and continue talking as if we’d been having a conversation for at least forty-five minutes. So, as she approached, what I heard was akin to someone gradually turning up the volume on a one-way interview.
It would usually go something like, “… because you know what general managers are like right? And I mean, I’d told him. I’d told him it was the wrong index-linked adjustment. How could he not know it was the wrong index-linked adjustment, right?”
I didn’t know. I never knew. And I reached a point pretty quickly with Mrs. Annoying Head where I began saying out loud in the friendliest way possible that I hadn’t the faintest idea what she was talking about. It didn’t work. She’d just chuckle and smack my shoulder in that ‘as-if-you-don’t-know-that’ way. So, our catch-ups would often sound more like this:
Mrs. A.H. – “… because you know what general managers are like, right?”
Me – “Not at all.”
Mrs. A.H. – “And I mean, I’d told him. I’d told him it was the wrong index-linked adjustment.”
Me – “What’s an index-linked adjustment?”
Mrs. A.H. – “How could he not know it was the wrong index-linked adjustment, right?
Me – “Refer to previous question.”
My favourite mornings were when she’d sneak up on me (like metabolisms in your thirties), and suddenly was right up in my face speaking a language I recognised but couldn’t decipher. There were mornings when I’d just back away slowly, nodding, until I was completely out of earshot but Mrs. Annoying Head was still talking, raising her voice to allow for the growing distance between us. Other times I’d pretend to be on the phone. She didn’t care. To Mrs. Annoying Head, it seemed that whoever I was on the phone to was simply another member of her chat group. I used to whinge to my husband about Mrs. Annoying Head. “Can’t she tell I don’t care? Can’t she just leave me alone? Why ME?” Based on my descriptions of her behavior, along with his limited contact with her, my husband assumed that Mrs. Annoying Head may well be on a spectrum of sorts and said I should stop being a grumpy old playground meanie and just let the woman have a chat…into my face…every morning. Monday through Friday.
In these new and strange times, where school drop offs are a thing of the past, I miss Mrs. Annoying Head. I miss everything about her. I miss seeing her and her pastel-coloured blazers. I miss trying to avoid her and using other parents as human shields to hide me from view. I miss having to listen to her as I try to extricate myself from her poor excuse for conversation. I miss her obliviousness and her enthusiasm for whatever the hell it was that she was talking to me about.
And when the world turns right side up again, one of the first things I’m going to do is ask her if she’d like to catch up for a wine or a cup of coffee. I’m going to find out what it is that she does, and how it is that she can be at school drop off every morning, and why general managers drive her nuts…and what an index-linked adjustment is.
Because we’re all somebody’s Mrs. Annoying Head.
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