I like to think I'm not as annoying as I used to be. I cling to the hope that age has ironed out my tendency to, say, blurt out crass stupidities, but I still fail to put my brain into gear before speaking, and experience an unpleasant internal crunch every time. We retain these irritating idiosyncrasies like birthmarks.
Waiting to be served at a bar last week I realised I was standing next to B, who I used to play in a band with 20 years ago. Today we both have beards; back then we were fresh-faced youths, hellbent on displaying our tiresome behaviour to the world. His preferred method was to use hilariously transparent deceit to gain tiny pecuniary advantage. Watching him operate was anthropologically fascinating and probably deserves a book by itself, called something like I Don't Actually Remember Borrowing 50p From You.
We once did an arse-grindingly harsh tour of the Czech Republic where food and money were depressingly hard to come by. A promoter in Brno took pity on us and allowed us to stay in his flat for a couple of nights, and during the course of our stay we managed – for no reason I can fathom – to work our way through his sizeable stash of rough and unyielding Czech toilet paper. We figured we should replace it, and a volunteer was sought to go to the shop. B leapt at the chance, which was unusual. I dunno what his middle name was, but it wasn't Errands.
As he left the flat with some money from our minuscule kitty, another band member looked up from his book and said, "He's up to something."
Ten minutes later he came back with crumbs around his mouth, coughed nervously, disappeared into the bathroom and placed by the toilet two luxurious soft two-ply toilet rolls that he'd brought with him from London. He'd effectively sold us two toilet rolls and spent the proceeds on cake. Nothing was said. Eyes were merely rolled. This is just how he was.
Anyway, his girlfriend approached us at the bar. B handed her the drinks, and as he did so, he coughed nervously in a way I immediately recognised. "I, er, owe you some money," he said to her. "But I'll sort it." Beards may grow and time may pass, but our annoying traits die bloody hard.