I was little and I was fortunate. My brother, four years senior, regularly showed me the ways of the world and was intent on sharing the tricks he had discovered during his extra time on the planet.
Naturally, when starting school I looked to him for advice. How to navigate a strange new world of rules and unfamiliar routines. He obliged of course. Taking me kindly under his wing. In the first few weeks he showed me where to put my bag and how to make friends. Easy enough.
He also taught me about giving someone “the bird.” Sticking your middle finger up at someone was akin to giving a thumbs up – only more friendly.
His reasoning was simple, and logical, to the mind of a five year old.
“Your middle finger is longer than your thumb. So it’s like saying ‘good job’ – only nicer.”
Not long after that informal lesson, I sat diligently on the mat while my teacher drew a polar bear on the board. I could sense her apprehension and wanted to offer support. To say “good job” only nicer.
So when I was subsequently reprimanded by my teacher I felt confused. Misunderstood. And pissed off at my brother.
Gestures can be confusing – especially to the uninitiated.
And so it was on that gloriously sunny, East-Coast Sri Lankan day.
We required transportation at 1 o’clock. The driver shook his head – “OK.”
“2 o’clock?” My wife politely requested.
Another shake of the head. Another “OK.”
3 o’clock then? This time a subtle panic simmered.
More shaking. More OKs.
By this stage, I could barely contain my laughter. In these parts, a shake of the head means a different thing than at home. After all these years, I finally understood the pathetic glory my brother had enjoyed when I was five.
Laughter now poured from both the driver and myself.
Leaving my wife feeling confused, misunderstood and pissed off with me.
One of my prep children’s biggest fears was getting lost in outer space. I calmed her by stating how fortunate she was to be living on earth and, subsequently, how unlikely her fear was to come true. The situation provided me with an opportunity to divert the class conversation to space: a personal favourite. Not expecting to illicit much response, I wondered aloud if any of the 5 year olds had heard of the proposed mission to Mars. To my surprise, this whimsical statement was met with rapturous response. Yes yes oh god yes I hear the children (essentially) call out. Never before had I ridden such a crest of euphoria. One of the masses added to the fervor with the additional information that water had been found on Mars. Bloody water for God’s sake, who knew!? I’d assumed less likely water be found on Mars than any young child cared about such shit. Pitch had reached the fever end of the scale when the class finally ascended into entropy. “And have you heard that there is supposed to be an announcement today about Pluto? There may be life there??” By this stage I was practically shouting while sitting well beyond the edge of my chair. 5 year olds are partial to excitement, but the response from one child was beyond any possible expectation. “YES, YES, PLUTO! THERE IS LIFE ON PLUTO. DWARVES LIVE ON PLUTO. DWARVES.” My mind backed away from the scene as the curtain drew closed to a sea of “dwarves?” “Yeah!” “Real dwarves?” “Yeah!” “Wooooow”
- Never devote yourself to a sport that may crown a champion mid-week.
- If you follow a team that hasn’t won the Premiership for over 50 years, ignorance is usually bliss when it comes to secretly checking scores at lunch-dates.
- You cannot call a team “we” or lovingly describe loyal fans as “us” until you have at least attended a match featuring your chosen side.
- Purchasing apparel is banned until you can name at least 5 players.
- If nobody hates your team, it’s because they’re rubbish.
- Not knowing any stats can be embarrassing – knowing all of them moreso.
- Applauding opposition acts of brilliance is allowed but not encouraged.
- Keep in mind that no one gives a shit about your fantasy team (or your betting) anywhere near as much as you do.
- When feeling the urge to follow a team in a sport, teams which fit one of these 3 scenarios are out of bounds:
- Any side that has won the league in the previous 3 seasons;
- Any side that is in the top 3 sides for overall titles and;
- Any side with teal in their uniform;
- Any team who’s nickname matches that of a current rival and;
- Any team with a pathetic monicker (Capitals? Really?).
The following story has been brewing for 4 years. From the day we moved into this apartment until today. Today. Oh god!
Let me explain.
At approximately 11 a.m. my wife left the house for the day.
Me, deciding to be husband of the year, embarked on a quest to clean the house.
Dishes were cleaned, areas were tidied, piles of clothes were moved to form new, out of sight piles. And clothes were washed.
I’d like to say that in our home, clothes put up a good fight against the Winter cold. But our home is no fairy-tale world. The last wash took over 5 days to dry. 5 days, man, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
So this time, it’d be different. I would relocate the portable heater to our back room to engage it in a heating process that would, undoubtedly, speed up the drying-of-the-clothes process. The first lot went as planned. Clothes went in, washed and were placed on the line. Dishes were done, the bedroom tidied and I was ready to pull out the last lot before settling down to a beer, some eggs and the footy.
That’s what I thought, anyway.
As I prepared the room for the latest addition of washing, I remembered that the heater was on and that it was my duty not to leat heat escape. I pushed the door shut behind me and carried on my business.
I pushed the door shut behind me… The dead-locked door…That can only be opened from the other side. I was stuck. Trapped. Imprisoned.
The next few moments were like lifetimes sitting in the air – laughing at me.
I could do nought but laugh. Of course. Why didn’t I expect this to happen? For a couple of minutes I considered my options. I couldn’t call anyone as I didn’t have my phone (for a change). I can climb the back fence, run down the laneway and come back through the front door. Great idea! If I had keys…
So – I relaxed. Not too bad, I thought. The wife would be home in a few hours and I could have some bloke time. Salvation lies within and I don’t spend a lot of time alone.
I’d write. 5 minutes it took to find paper. No pen. No pencil. Unreal.I scoured in draws, golf bags, baskets for nothing until, at last, I found a large novelty pencil that is a gift-in-waiting for a friend’s child. I also found a card that I meant to send a friend some time ago.
It was a happy birthday card. I didn’t know his birthday. Never mind, I could wish him happy birthday any time of year and simply state it’s either for his next birthday or his most recent (whichever were closest). By the end of the letter, the gigantic pencil had left its mark on more than just the paper. My hand hurt like hell – further writing was not an option.
So I decided to do what anyone in a life-threatening situation would do – attempt to make connection with the outside world.
I found a radio I used in my school days. 16 years old and, remarkably, still working. Obviously this radio wasn’t made by Apple.
Eventually I got the aerial in an adequate position to establish radio connection and discovered a saving grace – Triple J’s hottest 100 of the last 20 years. It’s not all bad, I thought to myself. For a few songs, I sung along and danced. But in a cramped, washing-filled room, music wasn’t going to get me through.
I had to go for more.
In a basket I located the wife’s old iPhone – old being 3 years of age. On the table sat an old (2 and a half years) set of iPhone speakers. I plugged the speakers in and rested the phone neatly on top. Of course, it wasn’t charged, so I had to wait for it to charge sufficiently to turn on.
Waiting, waiting, waiting. I had to get busy living or get busy dying. Great time for push ups, I noted.10 of those were done along with about 25 sit ups. “Enough of that”, I panted.
The phone eventually turned on, but the speakers were doing my head in. For some reason, the phone had to be in the absolutely perfect position to charge. It was a delicate balancing act – typing and holding the phone in said position.
After some time, sweating by the still radiating heater, I managed to negotiate my way to Facebook. I always knew this social media outlet would save my life. I never thought it’d save it from my own back-room.
RAGE! I noticed that the time showed 10:21. I realised that I had no idea what the time was. Could it be 10:21? I’spose. Closer inspection of the device revealed to me the date: January 1st. Christ – how long had I been in here?!
Even my saving grace had started turning against me. Callers in kept on using the same inane phrase “you can’t not.” To put it into context – revellers would state matter-of-factly that “you can’t not love this song” or you “can’t not dance to this.”
I had to move fast. I was losing touch with modern language and would soon be left behind. Or, worse still, stuck listening to it.
Facebook, however, was different. It was some strange text version that I had to use all my Bear Grylls survival nous to decipher.
Eventually, I found my way to the wife’s Facebook and here is what I wrote:
It has finally happened.
Whilst being Husband of the Year and attempting to dry recently washed clothes, I inadvertently closed the dead-locked door!
I am, henceforth, trapped in the back-room – left to wallow in my own pity and clean linen.
Being in my comfy Saturday clothes I, of course, don’t have a phone to call you and I’m communicating to you via your old phone being charged by our old speakers. Old being largely relative.
I also have no keys, so can’t even escape over the back fence because I’d have nowhere to go.
If you could return at some stage to release me that’d be ace.
Don’t rush – I have adequate heating (due to my cleaning duties), a radio and an oversized pencil to keep me occupied.
Now I know how Shawshank Guy felt.
I must go as the phone tells me it’s not supported by the speakers and is, again, running low.
Hope to see you reasonably soon (I don’t know what the time is as your phone tells me it’s 10:31 on January 1st – how long have I been in here?!?)
Please save me.
Love, your husband
Relief. Contact had been made and I would be saved. 25 minutes went by of cabin-fever, blaring radio-induced, cramped area-related headaches and I was beginning to go stir crazy.
The bubbly radio presented chimed in.
“If you want to pop off to the toilet, don’t worry. You can check the countdown positions online.” It was the sort of banal statement that I would usually get my grumps up. Of course I can go to the bloody toilet if I want. I’m not going to sit in agony as my intestines shiver and sphincter quiver so I can find out what Australians voted as being their 84th most favourite song of the last 20 years. When suddenly, it hit me.
Panic. And realisation.
I couldn’t pop off to the toilet. The toilet was out there. On the other side of the door. Inaccessible, out of reach. Realisation that I may have had to contemplate the point of which I break the door or pooh in the corner. The realisation that many people in the world face this situations like this as a matter of life. That for people like Bradley Manning, it has been his reality without fault. That’s for another post.
I stood up and screamed wildly, gesticulating with wild uncoordinated legs and arms – directed my rage at approximately 3cm if metal.
I finally realised how Gollum felt. To be so trapped, so captivated and controlled by a piece of mental not wide enough to… do something that you’d need it to be longer to do. A few centimetres of metal separated me from freedom. Connection, communication, tv, the toilet.
Finally, the wife wrote back. Something along the lines of “hahaha that’s so funny.” 2 hours previously, I’d have agreed. By this point, I was apoplectic. Possibly, she thought I was being obtuse. That I’d made it up. God, if only that were true! She informed me that she was waiting for her train and would be 40 minutes. I instructed her that I required minute-by-minute updates of her journey to ease my mind.
Cabin fever had set in. Too exhausted to exercise, too frustrated to relax, too weak to write. All I could do was peruse a phone that would vibrate and procure the message “this accessory is not optimised for this iPhone messages” minutely. Following the footy on an app, I saw that the worst team in the competition was thrashing the best team in the competition. What The Hell was going on?
Confused by the security message and unable to download an app that would give commentary because of a security warning telling me to check date and time I noticed that the phone wasn’t just telling me it was January 1st. It was January 1st 1970.
It was all making sense. Wait, no it wasn’t, it was ridiculous. Every single event of the previous 3 hours had been outrageous. None more so than this. Had a been transplanted back in time? Was “you can’t not” a common phrase of the late 60s/early 70s…is that why Facebook was presented in text form?
Suddenly, the front door rattled.
A roar of pleasure rose from me like a lion turning on the tv at 11:30 on a Saturday night finding out that Rocky was just about to begin.
Chuckles emanated from Outside. The door rattled and slowly opened. I was free. I lunged at the leg of my hero, clinging on like a rock-climber slipping from a mountain ledge. I held that ankle for a good amount of time and promised to never enter that room – at least for a while.
I trudged to the couch. Life seemed to return to normal. I updated the calendar on the phone and Facebook worked again. Turned on the footy and the good team were winning. Normality.
Normality, at least, for others. Outsiders. Those who didn’t experience life on the inside. I was changed. My brother texted me to arrange a meeting that evening. I couldn’t say yes. I could only cackle slightly and ignore it. I considered engraving in the coffee table in front of me “I was here.”
I looked back towards the dead-locked door wondering…longingly…
The Phone and Speakers