I had one of those moments yesterday: I said what my brain threw out first. This is not the same as blurting any old thing; it's not even the same as saying something inappropriate. It has a special place all of its own in the Embarrassing Conversation stakes. This is also known as Telling the Truth.
I was finishing a lesson and struggling to close my bag before I left a client's house. Instead of just struggling, then leaving and keeping it all as people like it kept, this is how it went:
Client watches as I struggle to close my bag.
'There's a troll in my bag!' I say cheerfully and look up to see a very confused expression.
At this point, my client is probably telling himself I didn't say troll and is trying to think what word I could have said. Faced with this confusion and only vaguely feeling I should stop right there, I dig my hand into my bag and produce a bundled shape.
I brandish a vividly-decorated pillow case, folded into a lump and triumphantly cry,
At this point, my client's face is skewed, as if he is concentrating so hard on making sense of me, he can't remember how to hold his mouth on straight.
I unwrap the troll, an ugly, beloved, elderly ornament and show him what I mean. Yes, I mean a troll.
'Not a real one!' I reassure him with a laugh. 'I'd never fit anything in the bag then, would I?'
Finally, after far too long, I realise it may have been a mistake to talk about the troll. I forget other people aren't as troll friendly as I am. Strange.
I re-wrap my troll, put him back in the bag, package in everything else I was trying to fit and leave, swinging my bag through the door ahead of me as it won't go through on my shoulder because of the troll.
I'm often surprised by the reactions of other people when I bring unexpected objects out of my bag (this wasn't the first time). Many a conversation has been derailed by the sudden entrance of Object A from Flap C, occasionally attached to part of Object D. The children love it - other adults in their life don't do this sort of thing. But the adults are often slightly uncomfortable, as if the keeping and then displaying of eccentric objects is part of some deeper problem.
Perhaps we should all be prepared to surprise others in conversation and in life? Maybe we could have that metaphorical Bag of Life packed full of interesting items, just waiting to be sprung into dull conversations with people who grew up all the way? My troll could take centre stage; I could have him with me wherever I go, to see how people react?
No, that wouldn't be right, would it? You shouldn't use your troll just to be different or to confuse people. You shouldn't even use him to get out of awkward situations or to amuse yourself when you are bored.
Trolls should only be there when necessary, as part of a bigger picture. Also, trolls should be enjoyed because there are a lot of people in the world but not so many trolls. We should value their input, even if they take up a lot of space in bags and make for awkward social moments.
Celebrate your trolls, readers, and don't be afraid to introduce them to new people. There is always someone out there who has never met a troll before. Give them the opportunity to understand why your bag won't close or why you need to go through a door with a flourish.
And if they look confused? Well, not everyone is meant to understand trolls, just the same as not everyone is meant to understand people. We are all different and, believe it or not, some people don't have anything surprising in their bags. No, not even in Flap C.