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The Hysteria Meter

The ability I have for irritating people from time to time is best revealed when they want me to do something intelligent. I have a thing in my head that I call my “hysteria meter”. The needle indicates the level of hysteria in people who are trying to help me do something a bit on the techno side – and somehow, nothing clicks.

The other day my Canberra brother, who has a highly developed technological brain, was attempting help me do something on my computer, ‘talking me through’ by phone. I could hear his hysteria levels rising: “On the LEFT side of the screen! Up under the bar that reads FILE! You must be able to see it!”

“Huh? Wha – ? I can’t see it – it’s definitely not there.”

A silence follows. I have a mental picture of my brother on his back on the floor, banging his head on the carpet; or kicking his little legs in the air in despair, or perhaps he’s run outside to scream, or perhaps all of the above…
Finally: “Is Heather there?”

“As a matter of fact, she is. Would you like to talk to  her?”

“Please”. The tone almost qualifies as a prayer. His hysteria level is off the planet.

Our daughter  arrives. Three minutes later, the job is done.

When following directions, nothing seems to happen the way it’s meant to happen. In my childhood, the usual method of dealing with obtuseness was to attempt to beat intelligence into children, so I received many from those teachers who taught technical drawing, woodwork, science and other subjects that required a practical mind. My father too – a very practical farming type, used the same tactic, but none worked, and an incident yesterday in a certain supermarket is indicative. (By the way, the photo in this story was not taken in the store where the incident occurred. It’s for demonstration purposes only).

Janet has a touching belief, despite evidence to the contrary, that her husband is capable of carrying out simple household chores without supervision. Every now and then her belief must be put to the test, but somehow only temporarily…

Her forgettery must have been working overtime yesterday when she sent me to a supermarket to purchase a few items she needed … bread and so forth. Overjoyed at her confidence, and promising faithfully to read the list of what was required, I set off jauntily, feeling very important and grown-up.
At the supermarket I browsed around the aisles until I had all the items on the list. When I approached the check-out lanes I was dismayed to see that all had people queuing, so decided to use one of those self-pay booths popular these days. I told the young attendant I wasn’t sure how the self-pay things work, so he came over to help me. He had a bright, smiling and helpful countenance and appeared eager to make certain my experience was without incident…

“Here we are, sir. Put the bread there … no, no – so the bar code faces the scanner”.

I turned the bread around several times… bar code… bar code.. that little line of black things…. Can’t find it. He watched me for a while, then with a smile removed the item from my grasp .

“It’s here” he said, pointing. I put it near the scanner, and nothing happened. The young man still kept his cool. He took the bread from me and held it up to the scanner – PING – off it went immediately.

“That wasn’t hard now, was it sir? Now you can try. Put the next one on. Don’t be frightened. It won’t bite.”

I did. Nothing. It refused to ping. I could sense the helpful young man was finding me a bit of a challenge. The hysteria metre needle was starting an upward swing, just like the tachometer in your car, counting the revs.

He took the item and placed it in position: PING – again it it went off obediently.

“Put the next one on sir”. The smile was still there – just a tad uncertain now, and I noted a certain tightness had crept into his voice. (A lady at another machine was trying not to watch but she couldn’t help it.  Glancing over, I saw her sides heaving. Then I realised she was giggling). Nervously I put the next item on the little platform: PING PING PING PING. The one item registered four times. I tell you the truth. The young attendant’s jaw dropped. His eyes nearly popped out of his head.

“What the – I’ve never seen it do that before!” (Hysteria needle now in the red zone). He stepped up to the wretched machine and did various adjustments to remove the excess payments.

Only one more item to go. The young attendant looked at it, then me, and nodded nervously. I held it up to the scanner. Nothing. “Wave it in front of the scanner, sir!” (Hysteria level now well into the red. Engine just short of seizing…). I waved it.. “SLOWER – WAVE IT MORE SLOWLY!” Young attendant’s fingers were making clutching motions – a sure sign of advanced hysteria… Finally: PING! It worked!

Young man tottered to the register. “Put your card in, please – NO – your bank card! Library cards won’t work in this machine!!!” (Hysteria level registering ‘Frantic’)

At last the nightmare was over and I tottered thankfully from the store. Glancing back I noted the lady was shaking her head, chortling. I could almost imagine her thoughts – useless male!

Back home at last, I threw the bag on the table. “Home, Janet. Got the lot!”

“That’s fine dear. Any worries?” I noted the very slight tic in my wife’s left eye. It pops in at hysteria level 01: husband out alone, unsupervised …

“Went like a night- I mean, dream”.
Oh well, that was yesterday’s effort. I’ve promised myself I won’t tell Janet what really happened. Please don’t dob me in. We don’t want to worry her unduly, do we?


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On Heroines and Hero Worship (with apologies to Thomas Carlyle)

At last the pain I have been enduring while typing is gradually subsiding.

I have to confess it was my own fault: The other morning my mind was not on what I was doing. It was somewhere else; probably contemplating the ongoing mystery of the Deuteronomic Concept of Retribution and the necessity of God’s grace. I was making (or attempting to make) a ‘smoothie at the time, with a banana in one paw and one of those stick blenders in the other. Unfortunately, I contemplated a tad too long, and absently fed one finger instead of the banana into the blender …

I never knew one finger contained so much blood! As I looked at the floor, in a state of shock, it appeared a mass murder had been committed in our kitchen, with pools of good ANeg everywhere.

Here’s just one picture to give you an idea.

Thankfully, I heal well and the good news is, being marrie to Janet, who did her time as a registered nurse, has been a blessing. She’s had plenty of extra practice over the years on the ageing and scarred body of her accident-prone hubby.

Speaking of nurses; last Thursday Janet went to a funeral of one of those she trained with all those years ago. Gail was a delightful person, who died unexpectedly, after spending her working lifetime as a registered nurse. The order of service has a photo of her, back in the days when she and Janet and others were all in the same class at Royal Newcastle Hospital, during the four years of their training, when they had to ‘live in’ – a bit like “Call the Midwife”. It brought home to me the fact that the years are flying
. Gail was the youngest in Janet’s group. All were 18 years of age in their first year of training. Here is a photo of them all, including Janet; beautiful young women, commencing their working lives to care for others in the field of nursing. Sadly, Gail wasn’t the first in Janet’s group to pass beyond the veil. Others have died before her.  Quite a few f the surviving classmates attended the service for Gail

The previous Tuesday I’d conducted a funeral service in my old parish of Manly NSW. The deceased lady was Miss Audrey Cummins, the organist during my time there; in fact she spent roughly forty-five years as the organist at St Andrew’s Manly. She was a brilliant organist. Her predecessor was Miss Alice Bryant, who was the organist at St Andrew’s Manly for sixty-three years. The famous Australian artist Tom Roberts painted a por
trait of Alice, seated at the stool of St Andrew’s superb pipe organ. The painting hung in the vestry for years. Between them, those two wonderful ladies clocked up over a hundred years of dedication; playing sacred hymns and music at St Andrew’s and were involved in various church and choral activities; all hatches, matches and despatches as well. Miss Bryant was quite famous as an organist with a world-wide reputation, as was Audrey, and I was pleased when Audrey was awarded an OAM for her contribution to organ music in 2005. I felt greatly honoured to be asked to conduct her funeral service in the church she loved.

Last Wednesday was a day of violent weather which continued into the night.  Our dear dog Jock normally has a warm and cosy bed in a special room in our shed, which he likes, but on nights like that he gets a bit nervous and prefers to stay in the house with us. He has a special little comfy bed which I put in our bedroom beside me on those occasions. About 2.30am Thursday I was startled into wakefulness by Jock’s urgent nudgings as he pawed at me while making little whimpering sounds that sounded like “Dad – get up! Something’s not right!” He was definitely saying it in dog language. It had never happened before. My first thought was that he wanted to go outside, but it wasn’t. He ran to the stairs and looked up. That’s when I became aware that the fire alarm up there was beeping. I rushed up the stairs, checked everything out, found there was no fire and managed to stop it somehow. Of course by this time we were all awake. Finally we went back to bed.

Next morning Heather told us that after we went to bed, the alarm made a couple of more beeps. When that happened, Jock rushed up the stairs and stayed with her for the rest of the night, sleeping on the floor beside her bed, no doubt ready to wake her if the beeping recommenced.

I’ve thought about it frequently ever since – how quiet, beautiful Jock may well have saved our lives, had the alarm signalled a real fire, for I heard nothing. How many people have died, unable to escape, because they did not know their house was alight until too late?

We look at Jock with increased love and respect these days. This is a dog who at age two had been ill-treated before he came to us, and would probably have been shot – because he didn’t want to chase sheep! Jock is now nine years of age, and our hero – may God bless his brave and faithful little heart.

By the way, I haven’t mentioned this to Tonkie… don’t want to make him jealous!