Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Retreat

Zoe likes to feel that she's done some physical activity to earn her relaxation which is why she loves yoga retreats.

It had been months since our last retreat. Zoe was getting really tense at work. She came home one day and told me that she had snapped at a co-worker. The next day I rang the retreat and made a booking.

The man on the end of the phone took our details.

“And will you be arriving by car, sir?” he asked.

I confirmed that we would be.

“Would you very much mind picking up a fellow retreat participant? Allan is stuck without a car. I’m sure he will be no bother.”

I hesitated. I had thought that the drive to the retreat would be a good time for Zoe and me to catch up. So it was with some reluctance that I agreed to the request.

Zoe was thrilled when I told her that I’d booked the trip. She arranged leave and bought herself some comfortable clothing. She seemed happier at the thought of going away, and I felt very pleased that I’d arranged it.

The day of the retreat came. We slept in and picked up our fellow retreater in the afternoon. He was an unusual chap, not the kind of person you’d expect to find on a retreat; he was quite a tight person and seemed very serious.

As we drove, Zoe and I tried to make polite conversation with our passenger, but it went nowhere.

It was quiet in the car, too quiet really; until Allan said:

“Truck drivers are 91% more likely to have beards than other members of the driving population.”

Zoe and I laughed. This was more like it, we thought.

Zoe quipped back, “Does that include women?”

Allan’s reply made it clear that his observation was no joke.

“Yes, of course, the study included all truck drivers, regardless of gender.”

Zoe and I exchanged glances. What study, we wondered. But we didn’t say anything.

After that we couldn’t shut Allan up. He had a statistic for everything. Some of the statistics, well most of them actually, seemed to be aimed at women. Some even seemed to be aimed at Zoe:

Women whose names start with the letter ‘Z’ are 12.3% less likely to be married at the age of 37.

Women who do yoga are 83% more likely to suffer from a relationship breakdown in their mid-forties.

Women who wear loose fitting garments are 36% more likely to let a major illness go undiagnosed.

It was a bit much. I wanted Allan to shut-up but I couldn’t think of a way of stopping him without being incredibly rude.

Finally, in desperation, I suggested that we pull over and have dinner at a salad bar.

Allan said, “Oh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Salad was a contributing factor in 56% of the food poisoning cases reported in the past year.”

We drove on.

Zoe was upset I could feel it. Like I said, she’d been under an enormous amount of pressure at work and she just wanted to relax.

It was with a sense of relief that we drove up the retreat’s long unsealed driveway.

It was dark when we got out of the car and the sky was a sea of stars. Allan was saying something about women’s inability to name the constellations being 25.6% less than men's when Zoe finally snapped.

She turned on Allan and said, “Life is not just about facts and figures, you know. Life is for living. How much better would your life be if you just relaxed and enjoyed it?”

Allan didn’t bat an eyelid, “Approximately 73%,” he replied “I’ll give you an exact number tomorrow at breakfast if you like?”

Zoe froze. I thought she was going to thump Allan, and to be honest I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had. But she didn’t. She started to laugh. She laughed like I hadn’t heard her laugh in months.

When she finally regained her composure she took Allan’s hand, shook it, and said. “See you at breakfast.”

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