Happily Hacked Off

My wife looked at me with that mixture of concern and tenderness which, depending on my mood, fills me with love or irritation.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

I looked up from the beer I was pouring and gave her my “Isn’t the answer to that obvious?” look.  I have a vast range of looks.  It comes from raising children.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

Where could I start?  My shoulder was playing up.  Earlier that day I phoned the hospital to chase when I could expect to see the consultant.  They had lost my MRI results.  In fact, they had lost the report that said they had lost my scan results.  She would expedite the matter.  Nothing says ‘insignificant’ like somebody forgetting you existed.

My manager had finally tracked down the procedural hiccup that had prevented my company paying me overtime earned five months ago.  I’d complained and chased it every time their promised payment date expired.  He authorised an immediate payment ahead of payday, then sent me an email telling me how happy I should be that I’d got the money.

Five months late.

My laptop had spent weeks in repair for a trivial problem.  I’d also chased them up today.  “All done,” they’d said.  “It will go in the post today for delivery tomorrow.”  As if they had coincidentally finished just as I phoned.  As if it hadn’t been sitting on someone’s desk, repaired but forgotten, for days.

I was hacked off with my employers.  Hacked off is an understatement, but I don’t want to melt your ears with my actual phraseology.

 My wife is not well.  It’s a long-term thing that is wearing her down.  It wears me down too, partly because I love her and so I am empathic to her distress, but also with the selfish desire that she would just get better and I got my old wife back.

 Um, the wife I remember back, I mean.  Not that she’s in any way old, even if she is six months my senior.

 That evening, as I arrived at the halfway point through my two-litre bottle of homebrew, she asked me to go to the shops.  We had a sudden and urgent requirement for bread.  I don’t drink and drive, not even when I’m under the legal limit, so I agreed to race to the supermarket on my bicycle.

I grabbed my rucksack, donned my helmet and reflective jacket and jumped on my bike.

 Then I jumped off it again and regarded the back tyre.  It was flatter than week-old beer.  It must surely be a slow puncture, I thought.  It was fine on Friday.  So I pumped it up, thinking that if necessary I could pump it up again for my return leg.

 By the third time I had to stop and pump up the tyre on the way to the supermarket it was getting old news.  After getting our supplies I pushed the bike home through the gathering dusk.

 I’ve fixed punctures before.  I’m a Renaissance Man.  Tonight’s challenge would be to repair it in the dark.  I removed the wheel in short order, and the tyre almost fell off the wheel.  The puncture was large enough that I didn’t need to mess around with water and bubbles to find it.  Patched, I fitted the inner-tube back on the wheel and tackled the tyre.

Remember how the tyre came off easily?  It was lulling me into a false sense of security.  The tyre refused to slide onto the wheel with all the stubbornness of a two-year-old arching his back and refusing to be strapped into the car seat.  As I leant on the tyre lever the end of the lever snapped off.  It was now fully dark, my only illumination my bicycle lamp, and I had no idea of where the end had gone, or even if it had remained in the tyre.  There was nothing else for it.  I pulled the suddenly recalcitrant tyre off the wheel and checked for bits of tyre lever, and then fought the tyre back on.  Then I fitted the wheel back on its frame, an exercise whereby, as soon as one nut is tightened, the wheel twists out of alignment on the other side of the axle.

 “What’s the matter?” she asked, as I stood over my beer in the kitchen, filthy with grease, sweaty from exhaustion, victim of a hundred slights and conspiracies.

 “I’m just tired,” I said stoically, but with just a hint that I might kill somebody if I wasn’t left alone.

 She left me alone.

 The following day dawned hot and muggy.  I dragged myself into work for the start of a new course.  This particular morning I faced being assessed.  I would be tried and judged as to how good a trainer I was, and stamped ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.  Oh joy unconfined.

 “Good morning,” greeted Toni at reception, understandably delighted about seeing me again.

 “Good?”  I growled.  “You try sharing a packed train for an hour with people whose experience of deodorant is purely theoretical.  Gosh, but I am jolly irritated with the whole darned world.”

 No, that’s what I said.  I’m sure I did.  I’m sure I never used the words Toni later accused me of.  And anyway, I’d never be so anatomically incorrect.

 I had fifteen students, a huge number compared to my normal classes.  I stomped around the empty classroom, hurling books on desks and writing my name in large, angry letters on the whiteboard.  I gathered my charges into the room at nine-thirty, along with Amanda, the assessor.  Why did that remind me of Arnie,  The Terminator?

 I launched into my familiar spiel that I roll out for the start of every class.  Halfway through my welcome speech my back spasmed, just for a second, to let me know it hadn’t really appreciated last night’s fight with the tyre.  Could my life get any better?

 At lunchtime Amanda took me aside to give me my feedback.  Metaphysically she donned the black cap and regarded me, a humble supplicant at the mercy of the court.

 “How do you think that went?” she said.  So, it was going to be one of those sessions, where I have to self-criticise and point out all the failings she had missed.  I highlighted a couple of points I knew I am always guilty of: talking to the whiteboard, cuddling my pens, getting so enthusiastic I talk five to the dozen.  She waved them away.  I hadn’t done any of that to excess, not to the point of being marked down.  She highlighted a few of my technical weaknesses, and then said, “You’ve passed, without any doubt.  Top marks in most categories.  By the way, the delegate sitting next to me said she wished she’d had you for her last course.  You know, it’s nice to see someone so happy in their work.”

 After lunch I floated into the classroom and beamed at my wards.  They sat there, a look of eager anticipation, hungry for knowledge from me, a master trainer. 

 “Amanda wants me to thank you for letting her sit in on the course.  My assessment is over.  Okay, start reading your books from wherever it is I got to, I’m off to cruise Facebook.”

 They laughed.  Life, when everything is considered, is pretty good.



About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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