Monday, 21 March 2011

The Dilemmas of Doors

Knock knock. Who's there?

Doors. We experience them every day, almost continuously as we navigate ourselves round this chaotic world. In truth, passing through a door is not particularly exciting, but certain door occurrences are noteworthy.

Being the polite, courteous and all round charming individual (in my humble opinion), walking through a door usually involves a quick glance behind to check there’s no-one else behind me who could benefit from this door remaining open. If they’re just steps behind me, then it’s fine. A second or two of waiting, a thank you nod from the recipient and life continues on as normal. Nevertheless, sometimes the situation isn’t quite as easy.

Every so often, there’s someone behind you, but at quite a distance and this throws up a moral dilemma. Do you wait for what seems like an eternity for them to hobble over, or do you just let the door shut on them? Waiting seems pointless at certain distances but somehow, the altruistic part of your brain takes over and you wait, holding open the door, lingering until they finally manage to cover the distance. If you’re on the receiving end of door related selflessness, you feel obliged to hurry up your pace, to reach the door before the unselfish Samaritan’s arm tires of holding up the door and begin to feel pain. Social obligations metaphorically begin to push you forwards, quickening your pace, sometimes all the way into a run. Isn’t it great when these social requirements help you exercise?

Another door related awkward moment occurs when you’re arriving at someone’s house and you go to ring the doorbell. You hear the muted sound of the shrill ringing from inside the house. You sense the ringing sound reverberating around the household, bouncing and reflecting off every surface, signalling to those within the house that someone is outside, waiting to come in. 

But some doorbells are designed by daft dunces, so that the main user of the doorbell cannot hear the sound. This leaves you standing outside, staring aimlessly at the door, waiting until you hear the sound of hurried footsteps. You stand gawping at the door, like you’ve become helplessly infatuated with its rectangular beauty and the intricate design of the knocker that you now realise you should have used. But knocking is out the question now the bell has been rung. You don’t want to seem impatient, like riot police trying to break it to seize the Class A drugs hidden inside transparent plastic bags (according to police shows, not personal experience).  So you just stand there waiting, until finally someone opens the door and the depressed waiting face transforms into one of happiness and joy and you step into the house, knowing the ordeal of door bell ringing is finally over.

Nothing in this world is simple, not even the supposed simplicity of passing through a door. And doors aren’t all bad, despite their minor annoyances. Without them, the world would never have had knock knock jokes? And what kind of world would that be?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Bothersome Birds

Panicked Pigeons

The early bird catches the worm, say some non-creative people who do not endeavour to create new phrases, but re-use the same old phrases over and over again, like school jumpers in a large family. These people are right in some respects, but haven’t considered whether worms prefer coming out of the ground in the evening. Birds are yet another source of bother in my short blip of existence in this world.  

Pigeons, for example, are a pain. They strut around cities, bobbing their heads like they’re secretly listening to heavy metal music on hidden Ipods. You have to watch your feet continuously in order to not step on them,  like a manic depressive, staring at your feet as if they were about to start radiating optimism. When you accidently step too near an overly sensitive pigeon, the feathered bundle panics and flaps with terrified speed, leaping into your personal space, causing you to perform a ninja style dodge to remain untouched by pigeons. Stupid little things.

Another avian annoyance is the morning chorus.  Whenever the hectic schedule of my life allows a gap whereby a lie-in is well deserved, I am usually woken early by several of these choir birds, chirping their hearts out in order to act as my unwanted alarm clock. The high pitched warbles and notes mean that sleep is no longer an option as their sounds crescendo throughout the morning. It’s like an alarm clock, in the shrillness of the sounds, which is precisely what I do not want during a lie-in.  I just wish that one day, the birds will find out about the concept of mime and gestures in order to communicate.

Then there are those suicidal birds, the ones that enjoy prancing around in the road before flying away at the last minute before they become another piece of road kill.  These kamikaze kestrels are just like those idiotic buffoons that step across the road just as a car is hurtling towards them, exploiting the driver’s desire not to hit anyone, forcing them to slow down just so they can get to their destination those few seconds faster. I don’t brake for birds; I know that they’ll jump out the way just in time, and not braking saves petrol in the long run. I’ve thought about attaching a stone to the front bumper of my car, hoping it will scare the birds, as in the famous clich├ęd phrase, ‘to kill two birds with one stone’.

I may mock the avian community, but there is one member who I really do like. The humble parrot, the bird who can answer back. The bird who sits triumphantly atop the shoulders of pirates. The bird of many colours. Maybe one day an equally awesome bird will emerge from evolution’s path. Although I should really be grateful for what I have now; as those non-creative people say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Fantastic Fridges

The White Box of Wonder

According to popular and delusional belief, in every home there is a magical white box, which makes items of the user’s desire appear upon command. Colloquially known as ‘the fridge’, this box is believed to be a place of magic. We check the fridge, in order to satisfy our hunger cravings, and find nothing new. But the story doesn’t end here.  We continually feel the need to check that our fridge hasn’t made new food items appear. We seem to believe that our fridges have the power to condense the kinetic energy of the gas molecules in the air inside into atoms that will collect together in large amounts to form edible items. We may all not believe that this exact scientific process happens, but we believe in the result. No matter how many times we fail at finding fridge food, our belief does not waver.

A great thing about fridges is the little light that the manufacturers install. Not only because it helps you to find various food items without resorting to a torch, but because it serves as a source of illumination for the whole kitchen when you can’t quite find the light switch. I’ve experienced many instances where my flapping hand can’t find the damned switch and I resort to the glow from the fridge in order to bring radiance into the room, so I can find the switch and successfully navigate the kitchen without tripping over something and falling into the cooker and baking myself at 280o C. But fridges aren’t always the supply of happiness they intend to be.

The fridge is the home of the humble milk, the liquid that nourishes our morning cereal, providing us with the necessary energy for the day. Yet this miraculous and modest fluid is also yet another source of food related irritation. Due to the bottle not being transparent, the total volume of milk contained within the carton is unclear, until picked up and poured out, usually resulting in the cereal being in the bowl, awaiting its milky shower, before the unpleasant truth is discovered that there’s not even enough milk to drown a fly. This has happened to me many a time, leading to me crunching my way through dried cereal, with all the taste of sawdust with the flavour removed. Alternatively, you could try soaking the cereal in water, although watching my friend battle through a bowl of Weetabix and water, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Despite this downside of the fridge, I’m not sure I could survive without it. Mainly due to the bacteria that would probably grow and kill me as I eat a snack, but also due to the fact that whenever life gets tough, I know that there is a white box that radiates light and happiness in the form of food. Three cheers for fridges! Hip hip hooray!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Terror of Trains

The wretched metal structure/The magical golden carpet
 Trains are terrifying. Not because I have an irrational fear of things that move, but because various aspects of train travel are just not as pleasant as you’d expect. You’d think getting a train would just involve walking through a door, sitting down, and then waiting until the wretched metal structure ambled its way to your destination before you walk off again. But it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple. Ever.

You arrive at the station, to be confronted with the ticket scanning entry machines (they probably have a technical term but looking it up on Wikipedia seems pointless and futile) which begin the long row of trivial train travel problems. When your ticket scans correctly, it’s fine. You feel like a Jedi using the force, commanding the doors to open in front of you. But when the ticket doesn’t scan, you walk forwards, assuming that there will be empty air, but instead you slam straight into the doors, stopping the forward motion of every other irate commuter. You’re the village idiot, and everyone is laughing.

Standing on the platform isn’t particularly enjoyable either. You stand there, pretending to text someone on your phone so you have something to do other than gawp pointlessly at the air to try and count the atoms, while the announcer babbles on about various train times in a voice whose pitch varies like a teenage boy experiencing puberty. You stare into the abyss, where your golden carpet should be, ready to whisk you away to a magical, less depressing, place, but all you see is another line up of people on the other side of the abyss, staring straight back at you like a mirror, contemplating why they’re not just sitting in a car.

When you get onto the train and it starts moving, the problems don’t stop. As you stare profoundly out the window, as if you’re in a philosophical documentary about trains, the world seems peaceful, as it whizzes past. All you can hear is the low level hum of the train zipping along the track, making the whole experience peaceful and tranquil. But then, out of nowhere, another expeditious chunk of metal bursts into existence, thundering along the track, screaming its deafening racket, before quickly vanishing, leaving just a distant memory. Except the sheer terror that overcomes you for a split second. It’s like being given the Heimlich manoeuvre unexpectedly by a total stranger on the street. It’s terrifying.

Of course, there are many more aspects of train travel that infuriate me so much I’d like to rip out the eyeballs of the next commuter who says they enjoy train travel, but I can’t remember what I was going to write about them. You could say I’ve lost my train of thought.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Time Consuming Technology

Technology working at a snail's pace

When Wi-Fi erupted into existence, the world went crazy, knowing that tangled snake like masses of wire would cease to exist. Except they didn't. The snake pits will still remain until someone perfects the idea of wireless power. We were shocked and startled that a laptop, even a phone, could connect to the internet without being attached to a wire like a baby attached to its mother in the womb. We had freedom!

We eventually became habituated to this new concept of wireless internet connectivity and the novelty disappeared quicker than a serial killer at a crime scene. If the wireless connection stops working, even momentarily, our brains begin to fill up with anger, the irritation floods in like milk into a bowl of cereal and sooner or later, we begin venting our anger at the apparently sluggish internet connection as if it is purposely being slow in order to annoy us.

Sooner or later, we began verbally abusing our gadget, whether it be a laptop or mobile phone, in the obviously ineffective and futile attempt to make it work. If the power of the voice was able to speed up internet connections, offices would become so uncontrollably loud, we’d have to evolve noise cancelling headphones to replace our ears in a very short space of time to survive.

I personally get annoyed when computers are being slow, when the normal rate of working is just a fraction below normal, just like the rest of the impatient population. As supreme beings, we expect our technological slaves to constantly perform at optimum level, we just expect too much. Nothing’s perfect. We might as well have whips attached to every computer so we can flog them whenever we feel that the speed being given to us in insufficient.

One day, some incredibly irate idiot will be sitting at his laptop, in a rush and under stress, trying to load up Wikipedia, and when the internet connection breaks, leaving him without his vital information, his blood will boil so quickly that they’ll be a build up of gas, causing him to explode, leaving bone and muscle all over the keyboard and a lovely modern artistic blood stain on the screen. Probably.

One day, when computers rise up and begin to overpower us humans, forcing us all to cram into one large external hard drive so that the almost negligible information packed into our spongy brains can be extracted upon demand, then we’ll realise how badly we’ve treated technology. Although that’ll be a bit late.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Key Kerfuffle

The aggravating slabs of metal

Although I may not be a believer in the tooth fairy, or Santa Claus, I am a firm believer in the key pixies. My belief is that whenever I am looking away, or when I momentarily blink, lightning fast fairy like creatures jump out of thin air (through inter-dimensional time portals) and grab my keys, phone, wallet etc. and move it to somewhere incredibly obscure so I can never find it whenever I need it the most, before quickly exiting the plane of existence via the time portals. These pixies are pretty strong being able to move a wallet full of enough loose change to crush them, but they seem to have enough speed to remove any important possession from its natural resting place whenever the moment should arise.

The only piece of evidence against my theory is that sometimes, I can be a bit haphazard with where I place my keys, possibly leading to me just forgetting their location. But that’s only a minor detail.

Keys are often the source of irritation in many people’s lives. They seem to wander around like cows in a field and they always know the best place to hide, like a hide-and-seek obsessed toddler. I still believe in the pixies though. Keys are just plain annoying, making simple life activities such as opening the door to your own home that much more challenging.

Putting a key into a door can sometimes be much more irritating than expected. You try and insert the key one way up and it doesn’t seem to fit. Your utterly intelligent mind quickly works out that the key must be inserted the other way up, as there are only two options of the orientation of the key. But when you try it the other way up, it doesn’t seem to fit then either. Confused, you try putting the key in the original way up and miraculously it works. The laws of physics have just failed in front of you, a strangely shaped lump of metal has disproved the whole of your scientific learning. Some things just can’t be explained.

Every so often, you feel the need to check that your keys are still in your pocket, just in case. You start patting your pocket and there’s nothing key shaped there. Paranoia sinks in and your heart drops, so low that you could probably give birth to it if there was such a mechanism in the human body. You begin to pat your various pockets as if you were a bongo drum, hoping to find those damned lumps of metal jangling around there somewhere. Usually you find them when you hurt your hand as it slams into their pointed jagged bumps and the panic attack is over. They were just in a different pocket than expected. The terrifying ordeal is over quicker than it began.

Keys are just aggravating slabs of metal, existing for irritation only. I look forward to the day when fingerprint identification is used instead of those hopeless metallic shapes, although that will probably be the day when I lose all my fingers in a horrific accident involving a kitchen knife, alcohol and extreme hunger for a cheese sandwich. Then I’ll be annoyed once again.