Saturday, May 6, 2017

Doppelgänger Tales

Some of my friends and colleagues know of my interest in the “Doppelgänger” [a ghostly duplicate of a living person, derived from the German term Doppelgänger, literally: double-goer].

My interest is both of times that I have been mistaken for someone else; as well as encountering Doppelgängers of other people that I know.

My current interest in the Doppelgänger stems from something I am writing, something that takes over much of my current thinking.

I have a few Doppelgänger tales, some that are seriously disconcerting [as anyone who has shared a late evening in a bar with me will attest to]. I will share one of my Doppelgänger tales here; but this one is an amusing anecdote from my recollections of days now passed.

It was early/mid 1980s, England. I’d just returned back from the American Midwest where I had been studying for a Doctorate in Chemistry. On my return, my Father had been livid with me [as I had given up a good job at ICI, Runcorn to further my studies in America]. He told me in strong terms that I had to get a job after ‘fucking around academia’ and messing up a career in Imperial Chemicals Industries [ICI].

The first job I applied for I got an interview straightway and headed to London, as they needed me to start immediately. I worked as a young Industrial Chemist, for a Chemicals Storage and Logistics company on the Thames [London and Coastal Oil Wharves Ltd], which I helped get into chemical processing with Automotive Antifreeze manufacture as well as Chemical blending.

The company had taken a stand at The European Chemical Trade Fair, hosted at Heathrow’s Penta Hotel. The Managing Director asked me to ‘man the stand’ over the three-day trade fair [as I was cheap, and he wanted to show off his young Chemist to his customers as well as attract new customers].

I enjoyed the few days having a superb room in the Penta; and as I was single it meant I got all my meals and drinks on account. Various managers from the company drifted in and out of the Chemical Trade Fair, helping me man our company stand.

On the final night Martin Wells, our MD had organised a celebratory dinner in the Penta, with three of our managers and a dozen or so of his top customers. The affair was a long and enjoyable evening. I drank rather a lot of wine, followed by generous quantities of Gin. I needed very little encouragement as our long table was in celebratory mode after the Chemical trade fair. So after a few hours in the bar, it was time to say goodnight and farewell to my colleagues and our guests. I stumbled up to my room which was a feat in itself, due to the amount of Gin I consumed.

On entering my room, I was way too drunk to function correctly, so I just fell asleep on the bed in my suit, only loosening my tie. I noted that the red LED on the bedside clock-radio said it was past three AM. The next thing I recall was that I was dreaming about a ringing phone; or so I thought. The dream woke me up, and I realised that I was not dreaming at all, but the phone by my bedside was ringing, and ringing and ringing. I grabbed the receiver and as I pushed it to my ear, the clock-radio informed me it was coming to five thirty in the morning.

It’s reception. Mr Karim, your taxi is here” said the voice on the line.
“I’ll be right down” I replied in my drunken fugue. Looking back, I don’t know why I hadn’t queried the call about an early morning cab. I knew Martin Wells and the other managers were staying in the Penta too; and we were leaving in the morning, but not at this fucking early hour.

Somehow I managed to navigate myself down to reception, where a perplexed Night Porter and Cab Driver [who was leaning on the reception counter] stared back at me; this dishevelled young Asian bloke staggering in a crumpled suit obviously as drunk as a skunk.
The Night Porter quickly swivelled his chair back to his computer and looked back at me and said “You are Abdul Karim of Egyptian Airlines?”

“No, I’m Ali Karim of London and Coastal Oil Wharves” I replied hiccuping and then running to the nearby toilet, as I felt my stomach heave in my drunken state as reality started to spin around me.

As I ran, I remember hearing the Cab Driver laughing “thank fuck for that, as I thought that cunt is flying the 0700 hrs to Cairo.”

Though strictly not a true Doppelgänger Tale; I have two more about a person, persons or thing that may be a true Doppelgänger of mine; but that’s for when I am in a bar late at night and someone wants me to follow Peter Straub’s gathering of old men, when one asks “tell us all the scariest thing that has ever happened to you.”

Until then, back to my writing, and the issue of coming face to face with your Doppelgänger.

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