Lord Feldman's dinner is repeating. Could yours?
Have you ever been to one of those dinners where you get placed next to somebody you don't know?
If you have, you'll know that inevitably there can only be three outcomes:
There are the brilliant times when you meet somebody who you find an instant rapport with. Or, at least, can match each other drink-for-drink and spar in mutual banter for the night. It's great fun either way. You swap business cards and, depending whether you actually like them, will afterwards make an effort to keep in touch.
The second variety is where you're bored to tears by your kismet companion. This happens before the main course even hits the linen, by which point you're planning an inventive excuse to excuse yourself. You've probably already sent a shifty text under your napkin to a colleague or mate asking them to ring you urgently so you can duck out. If you haven't, you're thinking about "just nipping to the loo", never to return.
The most awkward of all though is where you're placed next to somebody you really don't like. At all. The difference here versus the other two coping options is that you have no escape. Perhaps you're attending a mid-week work conference and this is one of the compulsory events. You know your early exit would reflect badly on you. So you've got to just grin and bear it.
At this moment you have two choices. You can tell your forced dinner companion exactly how you feel. But, as you're unable to take Option Two of a hasty yet dignified exit, this wouldn't be a wise move. So you have to sit there and put up with it.
Thankfully, this has only ever happened to me twice in my life so far. Somebody who won't agree to disagree, but will vehemently keep hammering home their point in a hope you'll be swayed.
It's uncomfortable at the time, but the moment you leave the room you'll want to let off steam. You'll call your partner or a friend and vent. Then calm down. Move on.
A few weeks later you might even make light of the entire ridiculous scenario at other similar event as a throwaway anecdote: "You won't believe who I was stuck with the other day". A good bit of gossip does tend to lubricate some otherwise dull-as-dishwater dos.
On the front cover of most of today's papers, Baron Feldman of Elstree is accused of making just that type of disclosure. He allegedly called grassroots voters "swivel-eyed loons". He denies it.
Whether what is reported about Lord Feldman is true or not, it should be a stiffener for us. It's easy spout the verbal equivalent of green ink if you've got yourself riled recently. But, if you're not careful, you could soon find yourself as the type of dinner companion others start moaning about. If that happens there's no telling who'll listen to (and repeat) their tales.
Best to take an antacid and get rid of the bile straight away.
David Kuczora is principal consultant at Clive Reeves PR in Birmingham and regional chairman of PRCA FrontLine.