I had an interesting day of manly pursuits yesterday, the events of which ultimately led me to seriously consider calling the police so that I could be rescued from a piece of plastic.
After a long, stressful week, I decided to achieve something in my non-work life, so formulated a plan of attack. This would involve 1) a haircut, 2) applying fresh sealant to the edge of the bath, 3) buying a bicycle, and 4) going for a ride on said bicycle. I was partially successful.
1) The Haircut
I went to my local barbershop at 7:45, wanting to get there before it opened at 8 and, thus, avoid the inevitable queue of hairy-eared old men in three-piece suits who seemingly get up at 4 am just so they can their day out of the way as quickly as possible. As a side note, this seems like a good plan and I might follow their lead. At that rate, I could be back in bed, smothered by the somnolent folds of my duvet by six in the evening, basking in a miasma of warm flatulence.
Unfortunately, there were already two early birds standing outside the shop and as there are only two barbers, I knew I'd have to wait. In a way this didn't overly bother me as I do gain a strange pleasure from allowing my eyes to wander around the barbershop and drink in the curious detail: the black and white pictures of elaborate, ridiculously crafted hairstyles which always seem to be far outside the reach of the barbers abilities; the bulbous bottles of multi-coloured hair tonics, aftershaves and potions; and, of course, the unique sight of a cardboard sheet of styptic pencils. Such are the delights of a barbershop - a strange, arcane collection of ephemera that you won't see in modern, faux-chic hairstylists. It's like wandering into a shop from a Harry Potter book.
After flicking through a 'Stuff' magazine and coveting many, many items, I was called to the chair and went through the usual routine of discussing 'topical items of interest'. This consisted of moaning about the amount of fireworks that people are letting off, grumbling about the fact that "it should be one day only, fireworks night, but it's been going on for two bloody weeks", and muttering about where people are finding the money considering we're in a recession/economic slump/depression. I came out twice as grumpy as when I went in. It was brilliant.
Indeed, I feel very much at home in the barbers. It's a place where grumpy men can sit in the total absence of females and moan ineffectively about what's wrong with the world. Sadly, there are one or two people who take this in an unpleasant direction and start ranting about "asylum seekers", which leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It's entirely possible to be a curmudgeonly git without resorting to xenophobia and casual racism, but some don't realise it. Such people fail to recognise proper barbershop etiquette.
2) Applying fresh sealant to the bath
It has taken me several months to actually go to the shop and buy the necessary sealant. It will now sit in a drawer, probably until next summer, when I shall eventually apply it hurriedly and amateurishly. Then, a couple of days later, I will recognise what a poor job I made of it and decide to redo it at some point. Thus the whole terrible cycle of failure perpetuates itself.
3) Buying a bicycle
I've put on weight. I need to lose it. I rarely leave the house apart from when I'm at work.
Cogitating on these seemingly insoluble problems, I eventually decided that what I really needed to do was buy a bicycle. The walk to work only takes me 15-20 minutes, but I figured that if I did it by bicycle, it would save me 10 minutes in the morning and another ten in the evening, and would also lead to me being able to go out for cycle rides in the crisp winter air. As a happy by-product of this physical exertion, I would lose weight. It seemed like a capital idea, so I went to my local bike emporium.
I won't bother going into detail except to say that I bought 1 bicycle, 1 rear light, 1 front light, 1 bicycle lock, and 1 puncture repair kit. The owner told me to come back in half an hour during which time he would adjust the bike to my height, affix the pedals and do general bikey things. Frankly, I don't know what the hell he was doing, but I nodded sagely and agreed that there were clearly many tasks he needed to perform before I could leave with my item. I went for a walk, returned and left with my purchases.
It took me about 5 minutes to get home from the shop, during which several things occurred:
1) I realised that the handlebars were too low and I was hunched over my vehicle like a gorilla riding a tiny motorbike in some bleak Eastern European circus
2) The plastic pedals on my bike were so cheap and badly constructed, that one of them actually split when I was only halfway up the road. There's "wear and tear" and then there's "cheap, badly-made shit".
3) The saddle seemed to have been built by a sadistic, disaffected child in a Bangkok sweatshop who's sole purpose in life was to make everyone else in the world as uncomfortable and miserable as he was. Previously, I'd been led to believe that the hardest substance known to man was diamonds. At 36 years of age, I've discovered that it is, in fact, bicycle saddles.
4) The shop had forgotten to give me the bike lock I'd paid for
5) I am so horrendously unfit that it would be laughable if it wasn't so utterly pathetic. To see a grown man wheezing and swerving around on the road is never a nice thing. Unless, of course, it's someone else in which case it's hilarious.
I got home and, weary beyond the capacity for rational thought, pretty much flung the bicycle into the back garden, went upstairs, sat down and drank a glass of red wine with shaking hands.
Later, after I'd regrouped, I returned to the shop with the bike where the lovely chap there gave me the lock I'd paid for, installed metal pedals at no extra cost, and sold me a saddle that wasn't designed specifically to flatten my arse into a slab of cold, dead ham. He also informed me that some extension pole things were coming in next week that could be used to raise the handlebars further. I was hoping that I'd be able to ride this item that I'd bought, but clearly one can't expect fucking miracles.
Although the bicycle shop man was very pleasant indeed and didn't try to unnecessarily sell me things I clearly didn't need, I do hanker after the days when you could go to a shop, purchase something, take it home and be immediately happy with it. Why is that such a difficult thing to do? This is the second weekend in a row that I've gone out, bought something and then had to take it straight back to the shop. Do other people have these problems, or does the universe reserve them solely for me? Is this some sort of punishment for my hatred of people? Is it karma?
Sadly, the universe had one more trick up its sleeve as I found later that evening.
The bicycle lock came affixed to a sturdy piece of cardboard, and was held in place with a small black cable tie.
The cable tie somehow found its way onto my computer desk and thus I found myself watching a film on the laptop and absent-mindedly fiddling with the small piece of plastic.
As I watched the movie, the cable tie was toyed with, first between my fingers, then between my thumbs. The cable tie then made its way onto my thumb, where I slid it backwards and forwards, unthinking, like someone fidgeting with a gold ring.
Suddenly, I found that I'd pulled the loose end and the cable tie was fixed firmly around the width of my thumb and wouldn't come off. I proceeded to give it my full attention.
Taking a craft knife in my fingers, I slid the blade under the cable tie but the angle was slightly wrong so I adjusted the tie a little bit. Unfortunately, in a moment of quite stupendous idiocy, I did this by grasping the loose end and pulling. The cable tie tightened by at least 5 notches, cutting right into the flesh of my digit. I now couldn't even get the blade of the craft knife underneath it without cutting myself. At this point, I started to panic.
Obviously, it's never a good thing when you have a problem of this nature to resolve. The shame of having done something so stupid is enough to contend with. When you proceed to make the matter significantly worse by introducing injury-related urgency into the equation, you're not really helping anyone.
My thumb was turning blue and starting to feel very cold and numb. Suddenly, I remember seeing a video on the Internet in which you cold unlock a cable tie using a needle (I watch a lot of crap on the Internet, yes. However, in this case, I felt absolutely justified. Knowledge is power.)
I took a needle and inserted it into the cable tie so that I could pull it apart. It didn't work. I tried several more positions until, finally, I found 'the sweet spot' and, excited by my inevitable success, managed to jab the needle directly into the flesh of my thumb. Bellowing like an enraged moose, I removed the needle and reconsidered my position.
By this point, all manner of thoughts were cascading through my perspiring skull. Would I have to call the fire brigade? They have equipment for cutting open car wrecks, surely they could help me with this? Actually, what about the police? Do they still use handcuffs or have they, as witnessed on another Internet video somewhere, moved over into the realm of the cable tie? If they put them on people, they must have a method for getting them off. Alternatively, I could always call for an ambulance. Surely they have to deal with this sort of moronic activity every day, don't they?
In the end, I decided that the shame would just be too much. I'd rather lose my thumb than be escorted from my flat, in full view of the neighbours, to have a three inch piece of plastic removed from my swollen appendage.
I remember being vaguely pleased that at least I'd placed it on my thumb and not, in a moment of extraordinary boredom, my penis (men do strange things when they're alone and restless). If that had been the case then, basically, I would have had to kill myself, no questions. I would have remained there until at least Monday lunchtime when, due to my non-appearance at work, someone would have undoubtedly called the police to break in. Thus, in a moment worthy of David Carradine, I would be found, slumped in my chair, garroted penis exposed to the world, blood-slicked craft knife in hand, throat neatly sliced open. Observing my mutilated genitals, one policeman would shake his head and mutter "Jesus fucking Christ. What's wrong with people?" whilst another vomited noisily into his hand.
Fortunately, it was just my thumb, so that didn't happen.
Eventually, I managed to free the cable tie by snipping away at it with a pair of nail-clippers, and all was right with the world.
Still, I couldn't help feeling very foolish indeed, like a curious cat with its head stuck in an empty tin can, bumbling around and knocking into the walls. This is why I shouldn't be left to my own devices - boredom and a staggering lack of foresight always kick in and, within minutes, I can find myself in perilous situations of such startling complexity that Jigsaw from the 'Saw' movies would shake his head and say, "Bloody hell, mate, that's fucked up."
On the plus side, I did manage to send a couple of tweets about my ordeal which elicited several amused retweets, but not much in the way of actual help. This is how you know who your friends are...