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It was as he was going to the loo for the second time in an hour just to avoid the silence between them that the strange man approached him.
‘What do you want?’ John stuttered, but the man put his hand up to stall him.
‘Couldn’t help but notice the conversation seems rather dry in your corner,’ he said.
‘Have you tried the Jokeman?’ The man gave John a number, told him about this service - a joke for free, the cost of your telephone call, a joke appropriate for any situation, particularly one when you can’t think of anything to say to a girl you’re desperately trying to impress. And John was desperate.
Minutes later he went back to the table.
‘Two fish were in a tank,’ he said to the girl who was frantically trying to hide the fact she’d been making a call on her mobile. ‘One turned to the other and asked ‘do you know how to drive this thing?’”
To his surprise the girl started to laugh. It eased things so he could begin to tell her how he’d wanted to be a soldier once, and it turned out her dad was, and after that there was no turning back.
Of course, it wasn’t always so simple. John had to use the Jokeman several times after that, and he took pleasure in passing the number on to other guys he saw in similar situations. He’d look over minutes later and see it always worked.
Sometimes he’d wonder if girls used a service like the Jokeman but the girls he met hardly ever told jokes, and he’d see them talking to each other in a way that made him sure they’d never dried up.
No, the girls would have no need of the Jokeman.