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Counters January 26, 2009

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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The Russian doesn’t realise that the world will end if he turns on the heating at random. I don’t mean because the ice-caps will melt and the oceans will rise and the only habitable place on earth will be a very crowded and inhospitable peak somewhere in the Himalayas. Though perhaps I could factor that worry in too. No, he doesn’t realise that all sorts of chaos will be unleashed on an unsuspecting humanity if he just struts elephantinely up to a radiator and, terrifyingly, turns it on at random.

Whereas I, like any sane person, of course have to have a radiator on a setting. They go from 0 to 5. Obviously, strikingly so, a radiator can only be switched on to a whole number. Or, if I’m feeling very, very devil-may-care, a radiator could just about conceivably be switched on to 2 and a half. 3 and a half. But the Russian will happily – happily, I tell you. He even laughs maniacally after he’s done it and puts on an eye-patch – and nonchalantly turn the knob without even looking and walk away and get on with something else like ironing the bills or filing the tea. Once he is safely out of sight, I will approach the radiator with trepidation, as if approaching a ticking bomb.

2 and a quarter! 4 and a seventh! Not even on a notch. The arrow might not even be aligned to anything at all. Just looking blankly at a bit of white plastic, between black lines crying out to be aligned against to save the world from instant chaos. I take a few deep breaths and gingerly adjust the dial to a world-saving setting. No doubt, on each and every occasion, getting there in the nick of time.

I rush to the bathroom to get a cloth to apply to my forehead. The veins in my temples will be throbbing. I will cry from relief at having saved the world again. Suppress narcissistic thoughts along the lines of, “…and what thanks do I get, eh?” And try to regain my composure. I turn the hot water on but instantly sense that all is not right with the world. Bracing myself for the worst, I turn my head slowly to the right.

“Oh god, no!” the water-heater will be on 3 and a bit. “Jesus H….” but there’s so little time left to save the world that I don’t even get to finish the exclamation. I hurl the dial to 3 or 4, depending on whether I’ve been paid or not, and dread to open the bathroom door. The chances are, after all, that the whole world will have collapsed. Descended to a pile of dusty rubble. The bathroom will stand, the only man-made structure surviving, in recognition of my attempts at good-deedery, on a spindly pinnacle of rock… Yet I must have just got there in the nick of time once again. The bathroom doesn’t open out onto a scene of devastation and lifelessness. The dingy corridor is just where it’s always been.

I dash to find the Russian. This has gone on long enough. I plan to have it out with him.

He is busy filing the tea.

“Darling, you switched a radiator on to 2 and a seventh. And the water-heater was on 3 and twelve seventeenths. How can you be so disrespectful of human life? Don’t you care about humanity’s fate? This is probably why Russia’s history is so troubled. Democracy won’t just flourish with irregular settings left willy-nilly in flats everywhere.”

“ByeeB, I no khev time diskaas zis now. I filink ze tea.” And he cackles a cackly laugh and puts an eye-patch over his second eye.

I repair to my quarters, close the door for the peace and quiet I need to mull over the fact that fate has thrown me together with the world’s most dangerous man, and ponder the future. I begin to give in to self-pity. What bad luck. To be thrown into the maleficent arms of the world’s most recklessly uncaring man. But I glean a sliver of bright light. It may be my bad fortune to have to adjust dials for all eternity, but then, aren’t I fortunate to feel the glow of good-deedery that saving the world so god-damned often brings? And then, if we’re counting our blessings, I have to be grateful that the Russian is the only person on the planet who has the disorder of not turning radiators and water-heaters to numerically succinct settings!

The quandary solved, I switch on the TV to clear my head. To let worries be driven out by images and noises of vapid, empty nothingness. I go to adjust the volume. With only minor dread. I mean, surely he couldn’t have… Surely he wouldn’t be so evil as to… To not have the volume on a setting divisible by 5. I press the volume button. 17!

“Oh, god, no!”

Keep your fingers crossed that I keep making it on time.