In praise of inexplicable malfunction
This might just be me of course (lots of things are) but do you find that everything you own has at least one idiosyncrasy which means visitors can’t use it without your help?
You know, things like a telly which, when you switch it back on, is an hour the wrong way, and so when you go to the channel guide and choose Garden Makeover Art Class Challenge in the Sun, series 93, it saves it for you to watch in an hour’s time.
Or the lock on your front door where one must lift, push, kick the bottom and only then turn the key in order to have it work.
The fire that won’t pull unless you take the grate out for the first few minutes. The ancient Edwardian lampstand that makes a connection in just one millimetre of the total travel on the bakelite click thingy. The freezer door that will only stay closed if you’re gentle with it. The loo flush handle you have to push up, not down.
It can’t be just me actually, because whenever I go to stay with friends, there’s always a warning. “Your bedroom is at the top of the stairs, turn left. The hot tap in the bathroom is cold, and vice versa”. I’m sure everyone’s had The Warning: “you have to give it a sharp tug”, and even on one occasion, “if the fridge starts chanting the Eucharist intro, bash the left side with your fist”.
I have a mate who buys laptops at bankruptcy auctions. He pays next to nothing for them, but with each one, there is The Warning: “The Save function doesn’t work, and it only types ‘q’ if you hit ‘a’ twice”.
All these malfunctions are just the Stuff of Life, and life itself is too short to waste pointless hours trying to fix such manufacturing incompetence. But my Dad was a stickler for such things: if there was a rattle in the car, he became the Nutty Engineer Barry Barmcake, Rattlefinder General. Me? I say to passengers, “The air conditioning whistles the soundrack from Gigi: it’s a French car, and there’s no extra charge – get over it”.
There is a limit, of course. During my Master of the Universe period, I took delivery of a brand new Porsche. After half a mile, the windscreen rear view mirror fell off. Porsches come with all kinds of expectations, but mirrors stuck on with paper-glue are not among them. An Alfa Romeo boot lid lasted just three weeks before falling off, much to the understandable hilarity of every pedestrian in Clapham Old Town. These are things worth complaining about.
But the time comes in every worthwhile life to put away childish things, and accept that – provided you don’t buy anything manufactured in China – most products will develop eccentricities over time. The very fact of having to explain them to people almost gives any such device a certain charm….perhaps even a dimension of character.
I long ago accepted that, when it comes to DIY, I am Captain Slapdash – a man to whom things correctly horizontal and vertical are alien. Whenever the imperfection of my works is pointed out by others, I say “Look Numpty – I am the legendary Captain Slapdash…how can I do things right and still be the unique Comic Hero creation Captain Slapdash?”
There’s just no pleasing some people. Men like Bill Gates becoming a self-satisfied billionaire – or networking creeps like Jeremy Hunt rising to the top – are galling because they have profited massively from plonkerism.
But my incompetence profits me nothing. Except when people I don’t like place an egg-cup and one of my shelves, and it collapses.
“Now look what you’ve done,” I say. That’s more than enough profit for me.