Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Today has been a very mixed bag of a day, mixing extreme frustration punctuated by small pleasures.

The small pleasures have been finally making inroads on one of my day job projects, coffee and some 'me' time out in the sunshine, and several virtual pats on the back from various people.

The frustration comes from one anticipated source, which nonetheless set my teeth on edge and put a crimp in an otherwise pleasing day. I shall relate as follows;

Mrs S had dropped me off, taking command of our much cherished old battle bus for the day, making arrangements to for me to wait at at Sister in laws apartment from around half past four, where Mother in Law is now ensconced for the next few weeks. Having finished work for the day, I took a leisurely amble after a modestly successful day, justifiably enjoying a minor degree of smug satisfaction. Pausing for a while to read a little, I amused myself by quietly ear wigging on some of the unabashedly loud conversations of passers by. One twenty something guy was ranting on at his buddy for the amount of child maintenance he had to pay, to which my thought was; "Well, if you didn't want children, why the hell didn't you take a couple of precautions? It's not Quantum Mechanics for crying out loud." Although chummy was probably not in the mood for such after the fact advice, and neither was it my business to offer such solicitudes. Two women were complaining loudly about the cost of bottled water, and were gently ribbed for their public vociferousness by a passing retiree (Person of pensionable age, elderly, pick your own euphemism). I simply sat on the waterfront reading, watching Seaplanes take off and land, observing how the local Herring Gulls open clams (Pull clam out of mud, fly to rocky part of foreshore and drop clam onto convenient rock) then feeding upon the smashed remains while nervously eyeing a Bald Eagle wheeling effortlessly overhead.

Thus it was I made my way to Sister in laws condo, where I expected Brother in law to let me in. I punched the code for their apartment into the intercom and waited while it buzzed five or six times.
"Hello?" Came the distinctive wavery tones of my Mother in law.
"Hello Ma, it's Bill." I said, being very careful to enunciate and speak slowly, knowing the state of Mother in law's hearing.
"He's not here." Came the reply.
"I know. It's me. I'm at the front door." I said, a slight prescience of impending frustration knocking politely at the side entrance of my conscious mind.
"He's not here." She's deaf as a post, poor old thing, but we thought her hearing aids had been beefed up to compensate. Oh well. I persevered.
"Yes Ma. I know. Is Jeff there?"
"No. Can I take a message?" Is she taking the piss? I know she can hear me.
"No. It's me, Bill. Punch key number one to let me in."
"He's not here either."
"I'm Bill. Come on Ma." At this point the connection cuts, leaving me feeling a little put out to say the least.

Now there's an old shaggy dog story like this which involves a closed door, a parrot and an increasingly irate tradesman. All the parrot can say is "Who is it?" and the tradesman keeps repeating himself until nature takes it's toll on his abused arteries and he drops down dead. The punchline is when the Parrot's owner returns to the house, he / she is alarmed to find the corpse of a tradesman on their doorstep and asks the parrot "Who is it?" To which the parrot replies, "It's the effing stuffing plumber come to fix your effing blinding leak!" (This is the polite version - I think I'm catching being Canadian).

I thought about this old tale as I heard the connection click off, and in a fit of unwarranted optimism elected to try again. I punched the code for their apartment again. I double checked to ensure I had the right one and waited.......and waited..... and waited...... She picked up the intercom. "Hello Ma!" I boomed, loud enough to draw a semi hostile glance from a passing iPod driven jogger.
"Who is it?"
"It's me ma, Bill." I said confidently.
"He's not here yet."
"I know. I'm at the front door." The connection clicked off leaving me wrinkle mouthed with displeasure. Bugger this for an armed militia, went the thoughts in my head, so I wandered off to a nearby coffee shop and enjoyed a pleasing quarter hour with a mug of very nice coffee and a read.

An hour and a half later I am sitting on the doorstep of the apartment block when my Brother in law appears. Concrete is very hard on the old bun muscles, and I got to my feet in not as lithe a manner as I'm used to. We shared a look between relatives who have a shared burden before Jeff asked a little too causally. "Been here long?"
"Just over an hour and a half." I said, adding with a brightness I didn't really feel. "I've been reading. Good book."
"Didn't Ma let you in?" He looked at my forced cheerfulness as if I were mildly unhinged.
"No, she says she can't hear me." I shrugged, trying to make light of the situation. "What the hell, it's been a nice afternoon."
"This isn't good." He frowned, and punched his code into the intercom. "Hello Ma, it's Jeff!" He said loudly after ten rings.
"He's not here." Came the wavery reply. I could hear his teeth grinding from six feet away.
"I've got Bill with me."
"He's not here either."
"No. It's us. Press number one to open the front door." Jeff said in concise and ringing tones. We exchanged looks of disappointed surmise.
"They're not here."
"We know. We're at the front door." Jeff insisted. "Press number one."
"What was that?"
"Press number one!" Jeff's tone took on an air of mild desperation. There was a bleep, but the door did not buzz open. "This won't do." He said in an aside to me.
"I know." I sighed. Mother in law has been shown how to do this several times so far, but still has not grasped the simple procedure. Fortunately Brother in law has a key, so we entered that way. "The whole point of this was so she could let friends in." He vouchsafed in exasperated tones as we got into the elevator.
"I know." I sympathised, but I couldn't keep the annoyance out of my voice.
"This isn't going to work is it?"
"Bugger." The rest of the elevator ride was made in frustrated silence.

When we entered the apartment Mother in law was all apologies, of course. I just clammed up in case I said what I really wanted to. She wanted to come over here, and assured everyone that she could handle simple tasks. Although on a ferry ride between Islands, Jeff had already briefed me on her increasing tendency to make mountain ranges out of dustspecks. It's almost as though she's forgotten how to leave well enough alone. She does fuss over little things so.

Mrs S arrived and saw by my expression that I was about as far from being a happy camper as the closest Quantum singularity. She was quite apologetic for her Mother's lapse, and made a point of keeping herself between her Mother and me. Let me explain; my family seem to have the impression that I am quick to anger and no stranger to violence, which could not be further from the truth (Well, mostly). I get miffed of course, but I am quite capable of keeping a lid on my feelings, although the object of my ire is always left in no doubt whatsoever that I would rather they were elsewhere. Despite serial temptation, I have always tried to ensure that raising my hands in anger does not occur.

Mrs S and I left for home, I opened my book and began working through the final chapters of 'Atlas Shrugged'. Opinion so far? A bit dated, and although it makes a few valid points, the premise of a few key individuals being able to 'stop the motor of the world' leaves my credulity feeling more than a little stretched.

Hey ho. We've six more weeks of Mother in law, and I've got an awful feeling we'll need all the help we can get. Pass the bottle dear, don't worry about giving me a glass.

Update 29th April: It is reported the Mother in law has finally got the hang of the door controls, and that we have a key to get in and check up on her while Brother in law heads back into US for a few weeks before the gathering of the clan in early June. I am spending today filling in forms to try and find some of my many school and college certificates earned throughout my serried and chequered career. It's going to be a long six weeks folks, I can feel it in me water.

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