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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?