“You are addicted to that bloody thing” said Mrs. D.
“No dear. Technically, I am obsessed by it. In much the same way as I am obsessed by you.”
I thought that was pretty smooth but she was having none of it.
“I don’t care. Stop fiddling with it and take your hand out of your pocket.”
There followed a lively discussion on the difference between addiction and obsession. The former is a more chemical based dependency whereas the latter is usually psychological in origin. These facts were left stranded on the shore as our battle-fleets set sail for the ensuing argument.
Unusually, we both agreed that obsession can be a good thing and can produce great art, wonderful music, leaps in scientific or medical understanding, great literature, superlative sports performances and technology marvels as people passionately pursue their ideas to the exclusion of other distractions. Even more strange was the fact that we also agreed that it can also be hugely dangerous; stalkers, court orders, bankruptcy and self-destructive behaviour. And large credit card bills as my own failing in this area was pointed out.
I have been known to become consumed by lust after the latest electronic doo-dah, camera lens or other item that I just know is going to make my life so much better. The yearning reaches a point where I have to seek help from Uncle MasterCard and Auntie Visa to alleviate the symptoms. Invariably, the post purchase reality of increased debt and less than expected benefit makes me wonder what the hell I was thinking of in the first place…but that’s obsession for you. The hardest part is trying to hide the disappointment from Mrs. D, who can read me like an open book and will ensure that I am made to suffer appropriately for wasting money and letting my heart rule my head. She is very good at that and one incident in particular is always brought up to remind me of my fallibility.
Many years ago, I had been celebrating with colleagues in China following some successful meetings. I spent most of the night and most of my money in a selection of nefarious bars in Shanghai. My flight was first thing in the morning and having explained that I still needed to get my wife a present, I was assured that we could go straight to the airport via a market where I could get anything that I wanted and for a little money. I duly purchased a bottle of her (at the time) favourite perfume and proudly presented it to her when I got home.
Far from being pleased, she went off like a rocket. In hindsight, I could see her point. Even the name on the box was wrong; ‘Obsesion’ was close, but an ‘s’ short. The aroma was more like moonshine rather than the essence of the eighties which Mr. Klein’s original perfume was supposed to evoke. Carnal and material gratification apparently for those that are interested. Not even the ‘thought that counts’ argument was accepted and it was a very frosty morning. Mrs. D went shopping to make herself feel better.
That afternoon we had guests coming round for a barbecue. She who must be obeyed came home with bags, told me to light the fire and went out again. We’d had a period of rain and the coals were damp so I couldn’t get it started. I needed some kind of accelerant and was too lazy to go and buy some. Then I remembered the fake perfume and retrieved it from her dressing table. I did think that it was strange that they had managed to spell it correctly on the bottle but not on the packaging but undeterred, broke the top off and sprinkled the contents liberally on the coals. Throwing a lighted match onto the moist pile produced a sound like an elephant farting in a biscuit tin – a sort of ‘whuuump’ – followed by bright, yellow flames and an initially quite pleasant aroma.
The error of my ways was only discovered when she was getting ready. I still say it wasn’t my fault. If she had told me that she had replaced the fake with a real bottle to make herself feel better then I would not have touched it. Obsession had once again been my downfall.
Back to the present, our discussion drew to a close and we went to bed. My ablutions were interrupted by an exasperated voice from outside the bathroom door.
“I know you’re playing with it again. You’re too quiet. I told you that you were addicted” said Mrs. D.
“Darling, I am not playing, I am working.”
“On the loo?”
“Is there a better place to write shitty e-mails?”
Useful things, mobile phones. What did you think I was talking about?