May 4th 2006â€œWhatâ€™s this?â€ said Atkins Down The Road.When I answered the door he was standing there, his arm round an inflatable rubber woman. I hazarded a guess. â€œYour new girlfriend?â€
â€œVery funny. Now be serious.â€â€œItâ€™s an inflatable rubber woman. And youâ€™d better come inside with it, I donâ€™t care for men standing on my doorstep with an inflatable rubber woman, people might think youâ€™re delivering it.â€
â€œThe only think Iâ€™m delivering is our very rosy future,â€ smiled Atkins, stepping inside.I already didnâ€™t like the sound of it. From time to time Atkins has â€˜bright ideasâ€™ which will make him a fortune. They never do. And for some reason he always wants to involve me in them, usually because heâ€™s too broke to finance them himself. It will be a long time before I forget his mobile massage parlour idea that cost me eight hundred quid and almost cost me my marriage.
â€œLetâ€™s be having it then,â€ I said, once weâ€™d reached the living room, â€œThe bright idea,â€ I quickly added, in case he thought I meant the rubber woman.
â€œWhat you are looking at,â€ said Atkins, going into his sales pitch, â€œis not an inflatable rubber woman. It was an inflatable rubber woman. Now it is an Artificial Passenger Aid. Or APT. Or at least it will be when Iâ€™ve got some clothes for it.â€ A thought struck him. He weighed up the rubber woman for a moment. â€œSheâ€™s about the same size as your wife. I donâ€™t supposeâ€¦.?
I nipped this in the bud straight away. â€œWhat exactly is an Artificial Passenger Aid?â€
â€œOr APT. Well apparently theyâ€™re making one lane of the motorways for the exclusive use of cars carrying at least one passenger.â€ He patted the inflatable rubber woman on the bottom, affectionately. â€œOne passenger.â€
â€œYou intend to sell inflatable rubber women to drivers so that they can use them as pretend passengers?
â€œGot it in one.â€
It seemed like a good idea by Atkinsâ€™ standards but I immediately saw a snag. â€œWhy wonâ€™t car owners simply buy an inflatable rubber womanÂ themselves?â€
â€œEmbarrassment. Would you go into a shop and buy an inflatable rubber woman? No. Hardly anybody would. I wouldnâ€™t.â€
â€œYou bought that one.â€
â€œYes but the people I bought it off didnâ€™t know what it was. The Age Concern shop. They were using it as a mannequin. Iâ€™d have bought the clothes it was in too but they wanted too much for them. We can do it all mail order. All very discreet, plain brown packaging. Iâ€™ve costed it all out, we can get the rubber women for about a tenner, say another tenner for charity shop clothes, twenty quid all in, we charge fifty plus p and p. Weâ€™ll clean up.
I must admit it seems like a good idea on the face of it. But then all Atkins ideas do. I told him Iâ€™ll give it some thought.
Â Â Â