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Bussed into a parallel school

THERE was a very interesting television programme the other day about near-death experiences. One theory to explain the phenomenon involved a quantum mechanical model of consciousness.

Now, I am probably (good word to use, given the subject) the only person for whom the phrase "quantum mechanics" immediately brings to mind an image of the number 26 bus from Portobello to Edinburgh. It was on this maroon and white vehicle 20 years ago that I made a choice that affected my life and, if you believe some interpretations of quantum theory, at that point the universe split into two parallel ones.

I had two job offers. One was in a school in Central Region, the other in my home town at a school visible from my old bedroom window. I could not choose between them so in my digs one morning I wrote a couple of letters, each accepting a different job. I made my decision on the number 26 bus on the way to college, carefully tearing up the letter I didn't send in case I dropped it and it was sent on by some well-meaning citizen.

I was a pariah in the physics department of that Central Region school. For a year, the other three members cold-shouldered me, objecting to my putting into practice a belief that teaching was one of the performing arts. Things changed when they all mysteriously vanished one night on the way to a party in Bonnybridge.

To this day, nobody knows what happened. Did they defect to a rogue state, taking their knowledge of physics with them? Were they abducted by aliens.

Or was the car attacked, on the assumption that I was in it, by the husband of the AHT with whom I was supposed to be conducting a torrid affair? (I wasn't - we simply shared a mutual interest in computer interfacing and spent a lot of time in cupboards.) I got the PT job, landing it fair and square, though the rumour was that I was conducting a torrid affair with the woman from the council on the interview panel. (I wasn't - we simply shared a mutual interest in promoting positive behaviour and spent a lot of time role-playing.) Then I was spotted by a television producer at a parents' night, got my own C4 youth series Physics In Your Face and finally ended up in Hollywood, where the fact that Catherine Zeta-Jones and I shared a mutual interest in method acting led to all sorts of trouble.

I'll admit that the above is a bit speculative because I inhabit the parallel universe where I posted the other letter. On reflection, it's just as well that I did. Probably.

Gregor Steele liked the 49 bus too.

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