I think it is only human to want to feel as though we belong to something, it might be country, a religion, a sect, a football team, (to some the last three are in fact the same). It is almost a primeval part of that awkwardness that we all feel when we walk into an event, or a school, or an office, or a pub, or maybe even a club, where we do not know anyone, and you just want to quietly float in and merge into the background. What you most definitely do not want to do is to embarrass yourself or in some way end up feeling awkward. And what exactly I hear you ask has that got to do with anything what so ever with the 100th anniversary of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport?
Well let me enlighten you if I may? Picture the scene, my dad John Austin Birks in 1983 was the GM or General Manager ( or CEO these days), of the mighty Midland Red Bus Company. It was a massive Company employing tens of thousands of people across a large chunk of middle England and beyond. He was also the Chairman of the West Midlands section of the then Chartered Institute of Transport, I was a young aspiring Senior Management Trainee having just started what was to be my three year apprenticeship with the National Bus Company. Dad had suggested that it would be a good idea if I joined him at a local event that was happening at a very swanky venue in Birmingham, so I happily agreed to go with him.
Not ever being a drinker he was more than happy to drive us to the venue which was already packed by the time that we arrived. Being the grand fromage, on arrival he was busy meeting and greeting and in fairness, leaving me pretty much to my own devices. I did not know a single person in the venue, and indeed why would I, so I did what I usually do in such circumstances, I meander around and work out the lay of the land. The first job was to find some liquid refreshment, and it does not take me long to hone in on the young lady handing the large goblets of red wine. I discreetly necked a couple quite swiftly realising that the freebies were limited and once the formalities kicked off out went the free booze. I was feeling much more relaxed as I liberated glass number three, at that point the 5 minute warning was given so I thought it best to neck it asap and pop to the loo and then position myself at the back and observe, in spy circles I simply wanted to be the classic grey man.
So, off I went and did what I had to do, and all was fine, I then thought as ever it best to wash my hands. And this is where the trouble started, the hotel had these taps that you pushed the nozzle down and pop out came the H2O. What I had not anticipated was the speed, volume, and power that the water would have, honestly it was like a Tsunami, seriously it splashed everywhere, all over my face and hair, my jacket, but even worse all across the top of my trousers. It was a calamity of the highest possible magnitude. To all intents and purposes it seemed as though I had suffered a hugely humiliating accident and wet myself, crestfallen I had a moment of panic, what could I do? Only one thing for it, the hand dryers were my only salvation, but tragically their trajectory was too high for my trouser line. So, while I could dry my face jacket and upper torso, below stairs it was a shipping forecast nightmare.
By now I could hear the crowd taking their positions, I did my best to limit the damage but thought best option, discreetly slide out, get a chair at the back and let nature take its course and dry said affected clothing as best possible. So, after counting to ten out I went, and straight into the horrendous glare of public spotlight, I could not have timed it worse, unbeknown to me I thought that I had slid to the back of the auditorium, and would be sat at the back, as it happened all that I had managed to do was walk out of the loo, that was parallel to the podium where my dad was stood. Indeed, as I realised the enormity of my error, he actually said, as he copped me from the corner of his eye. And here is my son Austin who has joined me for his first ever CIT meeting, luckily he did not seem to notice the fact that it looked like my excitement at attending my first ever CIT meeting had resulted in momentary lack of control of my very own waterworks, accentuated quite gloriously by my light grey suit.
Obviously the capacity crowd had clocked the wardrobe malfunction immediately as I recall the faint barrage of collective giggling break out, to be fair they were very kind. I grabbed the first none but quite soon to be soggy seat that I could find and sat the event out. My dad God bless him never said a single word. I to this day do not know if he had realised the exact shocking nature of my misfortune. Or, more likely being the kind man that he was he chose not to embarrass me knowing that I had already done that to myself quite nicely thank you. And so my dear chums that was my first ever attendance at the Chartered Institute of what is now Logistics and Transport.