Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mind The Gap

I've been thinking about gaps. Gaps, you know: the gap between the elevator and the floor, the gap between the train and the platform, the space between teeth, the length of time since I last wrote on my blog etc. You know, those kinds of gaps. There must be a word to describe the slightly unreasonable fear of dropping one's keys into those infinitesimal gaps of the world. The sudden tightening of the chest, the patting of the pocket (you still have it don't you?), imagining the badge slipping out of your hand and falling down that shaft, the internal debate about whether to put the badge into your pocket or hold it, and the speculation about whether you'll drop it as you put it in the pocket... Of course it would figure that I dropped my wedding ring down one of these gaps last night.

I was on the bus, walked up the stairs leading to the back section and prepared to sit down. The glove came off and the ring flew into the proverbial gap under the seats in the lower section.

Arrgh!

As gaps go, it was not as bad as the aforementioned elevator gap. Still it was awkward, you simply couldn't reach it. I could see the little glint of gold but the space was barely wide enough for a finger, let alone a hand to pick up the matrimonial memento.

So it was like an episode of MacGyver - quick what tools do I have that might do the job? The pen was too short. You tried it anyway. The notebooks wouldn't do. No ruler in sight. Let's see, let's try the ethernet cable. That was long enough but not stiff enough. You can touch it. Yes. No. Oops you pushed it further away. Damn.

After 5 minutes of this, you start talking to yourself

"Wedding ring... Idiot... Argh... Aaarggh... Arrrrgh"
The man sitting on the other side of the aisle has been noticing your distress. You turn to him and ask a question that you realize sounds like a mating ritual of sorts or dialogue from some awful film:
"Do you have anything long?"
Confusion reigns... Then you mumble the phrase again:
"Wedding ring... dropped..."
A look of recognition appears on his face, he's been there before: the realm of the unforgivable. He looks into his bag, a pencil comes out. If a pen didn't work, why would a pencil? Still you're desperate... You promptly drop the pencil under the seat... [obscenity].. You turn around looking hopeless... Try the cable again? There's a word for this: impotence.
"Never mind."
Somehow he has fashioned a two pen contraption which he hands over. He's also rolling up a magazine or something and scurries to the front.

Much better: you can reach. But can you grab? Tilt it and hook. Nope. The pens are bending. Meanwhile the troops are rallying as the bus goes on its merry way, people wanting to take up the seats in front of me wonder what was going on. I can't imagine how ghetto I must look, I see "wild haired maniac concern" in their faces... "Wedding ring" calms them down. Now it's entertainment on the commute home. Some even try to help.

Eventually it was teamwork that did the trick. I, from the seat in front, reaching back with with a rolled-up FedEx envelope, managed at length to push the ring closer. The guy from behind managed a flick with the borrowed knitting needle. And the knitwear girl on the side caught the prodigal ring which she delicately handed over to Your Gratefulness.

We had lost a couple of pens in our endeavours but there was a collective sigh of relief. It was 15 minutes of my life, I had long missed my stop, but not to worry. Another bus story to add to the toli tales.

The parting words of my Good Samaritan helper:
"I don't think you should tell her about this".

Improbable gap drops seem to run in the family believe it or not...

A few months ago, just after my wedding, I was heading home with my parents to give them a quick peek at my apartment before they caught the flight home. There was the sight of the slender rectangular mass making its remarkable flight out of my dad's jacket pocket as we stepped out of the train, arching its way through the closing doors and angling itself down the barely 3 inch wide gap.

First, assesment: what was that? Was it the passport or the plane ticket? The train pulled out of the station and we inspected. Luckily no, it was the address book; but were the traveller's checks in it? Uh-oh.

I instinctively primed myself to jump down onto the tracks to recover it. The parents intervened and held me back. They didn't need to say anything, I could hear their thoughts:
Thirtysomething and still got no sense. Hasn't he heard about the third rail? For god's sake, the sign is right there in front of him. Heard about electricity?
So, well, let's ask the station guy. You walk over and knock on the door. He's dispensing tokens. You wait.
"Ahh... Excuse me... Um... Uhh... Ah... My father dropped his address book onto the tracks... Could you?... help?"
"And?"
"Umm... could you?"
The thick Boston accent.
"It's... electrified... You can't go down there sir... Don't go down there!... Book!"
Eventually:
"I'll have to call the inspector... There's no knowing where he is... I can't pick up your book."
He obviously wants you to give up. So:
"Umm... ahem... Could you? Thanks."
You walk away quickly. You've tried your best.

A few minutes later, he comes out of his box. "The inspector is on his way..." Still he wants to see it for himself. Again the disbelief, he keeps repeating:
"A book? A book?"
He bends down and sees it and looks at us, shakes his head and walks back muttering to himself. You don't need to hear it:
"You're making me disrupt rush hour traffic for a book? [obscenity] tourists"
You want to protest that you're a local, but keep quiet.

In the end it was simple, after 5 minutes or so, the incoming train stopped at the mouth of the tunnel. The inspector stepped out and onto the tracks. A little crowd of onlookers had gathered.

He very deliberately walked down the length of the station in the middle of the tracks. When he reached our level, there was a little skip and he bent down to pick the address book up and handed it up to me. I handed it to my father. The inspector turned around and walked back down the tracks, exchanging a look with the station guy. We, in turn, all walked off. Not a word was said until we got out of the station. Then we burst out laughing:
"A book? A book?"
So if your commute was disrupted one autumn afternoon, perhaps it was because of some improbable toli.

As I started recounting last night's mishap and the words "wedding ring" were uttered, The Wife's words were very direct:
"I don't want to hear about this."
There was a murderous edge to her voice, and who can blame her. I should never have brought it up and to think I was even warned about it.

I should have minded the gap.

Soundtrack for this joint


First a couple from Sting and company, The Police being the greatest Ska band to masquerade as rock stars.Next a trio of songs about falling, these fall on the soul side of things.
  • Omar - Fallin'
    With lots of voices in the background, a portrait of a descent into madness. A very soulful confection from one of my favourite singers off the excellent This Is Not A Love Song album.
  • Finley Quaye - Falling
    Why are mournful and lyrical moods still danceable when done reggae style?
  • Alicia Keys - Falling
    "I keep on falling"
Finally one can't discuss gaps without referring to Charlie Wilson's voice (prototype for Aaron Hall, R Kelly and beyond) and the playful funk of these masters. Thus we'll end with
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5 comments:

qB said...

It's good to have you back.

orchid lover said...

Actually, I said "save it for the blog" =)

ennis said...

Poor Koranteng ;)
The mysteries of married life will never be penetrated by men, nor is there an instruction book. It's all trial and error, mostly error.

Afro said...

Great to have you back. that was hilarious!

The Java Diva said...

Great story, it would be a great one for NPR, like on "This American Life" or something. Heart-wrenchingly serious but still light and amusing. I wouldn't tell your wife either :o)