One of J's colleagues (I'll call him A) was having a barbecue today, so we made the 40 minute drive to his place. Along the way, we picked up another colleague, who needed a ride. I'll call him V.
* * *
Less than five minutes after getting in the car, V mentions that he's going to do the driving test next week, and asks if I've taken the test yet.
I'm tongue-tied, really not wanting to talk about driving tests. "Um..."
"... She just booked her test yesterday." Thank you, J. That much is true. I did book a test yesterday. No one needs to know it won't be my first time. It's not really lying...
I feel grateful to J for coming to the rescue. The conversation that follows is mostly V noting how he'd heard the test was ridiculously easy, and me forcing cheerful sounding replies.
* * *
About half an hour after arriving at the barbecue, I finally sit down in the lounge room to eat a burger - as happens when chasing a toddler around. J and I usually take shifts eating at these things. Now, it was J's turn to chase.
My eye casts around the room, taking in the Halloween decorations.
I look up and see the host, A. He adopts a sympathetic expression, and says "Sorry to hear you failed the driving test."
If there'd been music playing on a record-player, the needle would have screeched to a resounding halt.
I feel V's eyes on me. "You've already taken the test, then?"
Feeling like I'd just been busted telling a massive lie, all I could manage was a nod. My mouth starts going dry, and the burger I'm eating is rendered inedible.
The only people in the room I know - and not that well - are A and V. That doesn't stop the others from chiming in, though.
"You failed the driving test? Seriously?"
"How did you manage that?"
And the final person - I don't remember his name so I'll call him Dick (because, well, he's a dick) wags his fingers in my face. Only inches away, "BAHAHAHAHAHA!!! You failed your driving test? What did you do? It's so easy! You drive every day, don't you? How did you fail? What happened? BAHAHAHA!"
I feel five sets of eyes on me, waiting for me to answer. I can't even look at anyone properly. My vision blurs as I try to blink away tears.
I glance around, hoping that J is nearby and will swoop to my rescue with a nicely timed smartarse comment aimed squarely at the maturity level of these guys... but he's outside, toddler-wrangling.
In true cliché, I want the ground to open up and swallow me.
Despite wanting to yell at everyone for being so rude, possessing zero sensitivity chips, and to just shut the fuck up, I stammer out a few words about my nerves just getting the better of me, and attempt to continue eating.
Dick is like a dog, though, and won't let up. He keeps on about it, and I pretend I'm not bothered, but I can feel the lump in my throat getting bigger.
Ultimately, I don't like making scenes. I wait another minute or two - until I think I'm going to explode - then disappear to the bathroom to calm down. Once safely inside, I splash cold water on my face, and observe angry red blotches creeping over my neck and chest. I've never seen blotches like that before; not unless wine was involved.
Eventually I emerge, bi-pass the lounge room, and head outside. I can handle ribbing from close mates and family, but not from people who are practically strangers. Grown men, acting like fourteen-year olds. Rude.
* * *
Ever met someone who rubs you the wrong way, immediately? Well, in addition to laughing his arse off at me, Dick continued to irritate me by 'accidentally' bumping up against me one too many times throughout the afternoon, asking if I'm Swedish (which I'm normally flattered by, but in his case made him look even more stupid - I mean, c'mon, Australian and Swedish accents are nothing alike), and making consistently moronic remarks in general. Dick. He was somewhat inebriated, but I don't care. I was glad to go home and get the hell away from him.