Monday, September 26, 2005
Blame it on my genes
My grandfather was known for his sudden, violent outbursts. The object of his frustration would mainly be inanimate, but this didn’t prevent him from claiming that “it was all made just to annoy him”. Man, he could shout! Likewise, as children we knew better than to hang around dad when he was practising DIY. Whenever things went wrong, he would curse the plaster of the walls. Generally, this was followed by “Bart, come here and hold the bloody thing for me”. On which I would enter knees trembling and slipping a way as silently and as fast as I could afterwards. Generally, he started to DIY in the middle of exam periods. Not that he is bad at doing it; it’s just that it was a very frightening experience to all of us. We were tip-toeing around the house to prevent drawing attention to our presence, or worse, make something fall apart because of any tremors we’d cause.
Because the DIY virus is simply in our blood, I too have an impressive collection of machines, screwdrivers, wrenches, etc. But I always thought I would never scare my children like my father did, because I’m just a much calmer person. I’m an icon of Zen-calm when I’m repairing stuff. Well, of course, I do swear occasionally. In our family, we call this “talking to god”. Although I’m an atheist, I still feel this is sometimes necessary to speed things up, or to encourage cooperation of certain appliances or materials I’m working with.
This weekend however, I really lost it. For the 9th weekend in a row, I was refurbishing (read: rebuilding) our living room. Finally, we got up to putting up the wall paper. And despite the fact that there is not a single 90° corner in the whole apartment, or a straight wall without curves, bends, holes the size of the Atlantic Ocean, I managed to remain utterly calm. That is, until I started on what should have been the easy part, on a part of the wall without any wall sockets, doors, chimneys, and so on. I put up a piece of wall paper, well smeared with glue by my beautiful assistant (my girlfriend) for whom this was her first experience in wall-papering. But then I noticed it wasn’t on straight, and I couldn’t correct on the fly, so I took it off again. No problem, just a minor mismatch.
So on it went again, at one side first, but mysteriously, there was this gap again at the bottom. Ok, something was definitely wrong here, either with the wall, or with the paper I was holding or with its sibling already hanging on the wall. Another attempt followed, but by then the glue wasn’t holding very well anymore. So each time I ALMOST had the thing hanging correctly, it slid away. In the end, it just refused to stick to the wall. Just when my girlfriend proposed to put some new glue on, a red haze came in front of my eyes. Boiling with frustration, I vented my righteous anger by tearing apart the insubordinate piece of paper and wrapping it into a giant ball, while the steam was coming out of my ears.
I noticed my girlfriend just quietly slipped away, as softly as she could. It’s just as well, no-one can stop a genetic outburst of anger.