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My series of ‘How to…’ and ‘How not to…’ guides to urban survival has been unexpectedly popular. I may as well surf the zeitgeist here.

javaj240 and I had a bit of a natter about the concept of stretchers, a word she’d never heard of. So let me explain, if I can.

Lies are out and out falsehoods. ‘Hi, I’m Duncan, and I’m a multimillionaire!’ is a lie.

Fibs are untruths that help oil the bearings of social discourse. We all use them, all the time. ‘No, your arse does not look big in that.’ That’s a fib. It doesn’t always work, by the way.

Stretchers invariably contain a kernel of truth. Stories that are at least part true. But the narrator adds some things for dramatic or humorous effect. I use this tactic quite a lot. My firebreathing post? True in essence, but I didn’t set fire to the trellis in the pub garden. It just made the story funnier. I did however nearly incinerate the firecrew. That bit’s gospel. So now you have to guess about Radio Ga Ga too. A lot of that is true, but not all of it. I can tell stretchers with the best of them.

One of the surefire signs of a good stretcher (though it’s not an invariable one) is a really good opening line. Here’s one I heard recently from my mate Dave. We were talking about awkward moments we’ve experienced.

‘I once woke up in the middle of the casino at Caesar’s Palace wearing only my underpants.’

That’s a killer of an opening line isn’t it? A real belter. Dave had my full attention, and waited until I’d stopped snorting beer down my nose.

‘Yeah, it’s true. A bunch of us had gone to Vegas for the weekend, and we got battered. I was completely mangled. That’s what you do in Vegas. Anyway, I tend to sleepwalk when I’m pissed, and I woke up standing in the middle of Caesar’s Palace, wearing only my pants.

‘When I came to, I was right in the middle of the gaming machines. There’s some old dear pumping money into one of the bandits, flashing lights, bells ringing. You know. I stood there blinking for a while, trying to make sense of things, ‘cos I was still absolutely shitfaced. I didn’t have a clue what was going on, where I was, nothing. Know what? She just took one look at me, then turned back to the bandit. It was as if I didn’t exist.

‘So I’m in my pants in the middle of Caesar’s Palace. I need to get back to my room and have some more sleep. But I don’t have my key card. Obviously. So I have to navigate the casino, and remember I’m still pissed, and go to reception. In my pants. And I had to queue. In my pants. Lots of people checking in and out. Quite a big line. Nobody paid me the slightest bit of attention. Nobody batted a fucking eyelid at a biggish fattish bloke queuing up at the reception desk in one of the most famous hotel casinos in the world, wearing only his underwear.

‘So I finally get to the desk. Even the fucking receptionist didn’t blink.’

‘How can I help you, sir?’

‘I’ve locked myself out of my room. Can I get a key card, please?’

‘Well, I’ll need some form of identification, sir. Do you have any ID?’

‘So I just gestured down with my arms open, and said, ‘Do I look as if I have any ID? Really? Do I?’

‘She was very good about things. She got a security guard over. Jesus, he was a fucking monster. But very polite. He took a pass key, got me back to my room, an adventure in itself as I could hardly get into the lift. I was just banging into things. I had a bad attack of vertigo when the lift went up, and would have fallen over if he hadn’t caught me. He got me back to my room and I showed him my credit cards, he just said, ‘Enjoy the rest of your stay in Vegas, sir. Anything else I can help you with?’

I know this story to be essentially true. I have verified it with one of the other people who was there. But I think maybe it’s not entirely true.

It’s still a great story. A stretcher in the grand tradition.