The London Paper – 20 Nov 2006
I was presented with what can only be described as a ‘no win’ situation last week. My 50 something year old boss recently found out that I fancied myself as a bit a chap on the squash court and challenged me to a game. On receiving this challenge over a couple of pints of ‘Bishops Finger’ in front of various colleagues at ‘Dirty Dick’s’ I had no choice but to accept. The problem is that this buffoon will be deciding my bonus over the next few weeks. Should I let him win? … and risk appearing like a drip even though drips are unlikely to get a fruity bonus come January. Or should I play him and beat him and risk possible retribution come b-day?
Let’s also not forget that I’m probably the most competitive person in the City which is akin to claiming to be the biggest nutter in Baghdad. I completely concur with Gore Vidal’s proposition that ‘It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail’. Most of us in the City are alpha males but such is my sickness that I have at times competed with colleagues about who is the most competitive. So allowing the boss to win would require me to fight every natural urge in my body. I decided to play it by ear and see how the mood took me on the day.
In the taxi over to the sports centre he upped the stakes by suggesting a small wager on the game. Things were really going from bad to worse now. I proposed we merely play for honour but he wasn’t having that and we settled on £50. Before the game I made some piss-poor excuse about my ankle but he matched my gambit and raised me a ‘recurring twinge’ to the shoulder. The game itself proved to be incredibly tiring – he was even more competitive than me and, even more importantly, was desperate to show that he was fit and strong. Throughout the latter stages of the game he was sweating like a ginger kid in an orphanage and looked like he was about to have a coronary.
Anyway, eventually I let him win a narrow victory and, with a pretend tail between my legs, went over to shake his hand. Amazingly, once he’d regained his breath he had the audacity to shout ‘Who’s the daddy?’ and then patted me on the back saying ‘not bad for an old man, eh?’ Now this joker is married to a woman half his age (wife number 3 I think) and clearly has major issues. When he finally asked the rhetorical question, ‘still lead in my pencil, eh?’ I realised that this squash game was actually a simple opportunity for my boss to prove he was still a sexual tyrannosaurus. I already look forward to his condescending remarks at the next departmental knees-up.
Richard Nixon famously said ‘Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser’. But in this particular case I think swallowing my pride could have been a more financially lucrative decision. I didn’t ‘listen to the voices’ and provided he still foolishly believes he beat me fair and square I’m looking forward to receiving a bonus unsullied by his conceit having been damaged. I’m competitive but at the end of the day, as we say in the City, ‘money talks and bullshit walks’. Anyway, I can always whup his ass come February.