Channel Five is advertising for sitcom scripts, with a deadline of the end of March, so I'm dusting off a few ideas and seeing what can be done with them. Wish me luck.
Since comedy, on TV, is really about character rather than story, I've been watching people so that I can store up a little goldmine of idiosyncrasies to draw on while I'm writing.
Today I learned that both stupid, poor people and clever, rich people are equally capable of failing to see what's under their noses.
In the petrol station, having just left for work, I found myself in the company of a motor mouth with nothing between his ears, but a burning desire to share the emptiness with everyone. While browsing for snacks (and virtuously deciding against buying any) I, and all my fellow customers, were treated to a rambling, high-volume, monologue on how his exhaust had fallen off when driving down the High Street, but how it didn't matter because – I forget why it didn't matter. Life's too short.
And when queuing to pay for my petrol, directly behind him, I dodged his wildly circling elbows as he dived enthusiastically into a display of budget DVDs by the till, painfully reading out the titles one by one – “In – de – pen – dence – day”. Eventually he asked “How much are these? A fiver each?” Silently, the till attendant pointed to the very large sign on the display, right in front of his eyes: “DVDs – £9 each – two for £12.” He looked startled to see it, his lips moved as he read it, and with a disgusted “hmmph” he marched off.
That was the start of my journey. It ended at the barrier leading into the office complex where I'm currently working. The barrier's new, and you need to know a code to enter on a keypad to raise it. Otherwise, you have to wait until security spot you on a camera and come to interrogate you – there's no button to press to summon them, and no intercom to talk to them remotely. Out of hours, it could be a long wait as the security guard responsible for parking could easily be making a foot tour of the complex, away from his screen.
When I arrived, a gleaming Jaguar was waiting at the barrier. There was no guard in sight. I waited patiently behind it for a while. It was a real rich man's car – not flashy and new, but just aged enough to say 'other people can show off with the latest and the newest if they like – I drive this car because I can afford to drive anything I damn well want'. There was absolutely no sign of movement in it. No impatient tapping at the steering wheel, no twisting of the head to see when assistance might be coming. I wasn't even certain there was anyone in it.
Since the barrier blocks exactly the entrance to the complex, I was stuck queuing uncomfortably out on the road – not an ideal place to be. I went to investigate, as nothing seemed to be happening. The Jag's driver was a filthy-rich-looking businessman in an expensive coat, holding a fat cigar in one gold-ringed hand. Not a young, thrusting city executive – this was the prosperous, powerful tycoon type. He sat there, immobile, with the bearing of one who knows that if he waits long enough, someone will come along and bow and scrape to him.
I punched the barrier combination into the keypad. To do so, I had to stand a foot from the driver's window of his car. Only the glass separated us. Did he look round? Did he hell. It wasn't his problem – here was someone doing it for him, just the way it should be. The barrier went up and he drove away without a glance in my direction.
So. Two people, very different, each incapable of looking at something right under their noses. One made me depressed, one made me angry. Do you really need me to tell you which was which?