Diary

Cuckoo Clock

06 December 2006 | Diary

Standing on the sixth floor of a twelve-storey building the other day and seeing that no one was around to judge my odd behaviour with their harsh city-people’s eyes, I decided to summon the elevator using my foot.

Am I not a scream, Madam?

But my foot was not the right tool for precision button-pressing, being akin to the elongated shoe of a clown. Too much surface area, you see. Inevitably both buttons were pressed rather than just the desired ‘down’ one. Why had I defied convention? What was wrong with using my finger like a normal person? I would surely pay for this non-conformist silliness.

In accordance with Dr. Sod’s first law (or perhaps something to do with the Gamow/Stern Elevator Paradox) the first lift to arrive was not the one I wanted but rather the ascending ‘up’ carriage.

Seeing that there were people in this elevator and that they might be annoyed at my wasting their time, I stepped slightly to the side and tried to look innocent by regarding my reflection in a glass-fronted notice board and adjusting my non-existent tie.

As kids, we used to pass a house on the way back from school, which had an irresistibly prominent doorbell. It simply screamed “press me!”. So we did. Constantly. When we did so, we would run hell for leather down the street in case the owner came out and rightly smacked the shit out of us. Over the course of this five-year period of bell-pressing, we probably turned a perfectly innocent old man into a Son Of Sam type killer. “Ding Dong!” he would sing while hacking his kid victims into bitesize pieces.

In the lift lobby, I suddenly remembered those days of running away from Mr. Doorbell man. I inched toward the stairwell in something of a Pavlovian panic.

One of the lift passengers – a dizzy young student with pom-poms hanging from her rucksack – stepped out of the lift momentarily before saying “Oh, haha, level six! No, six!” to her friend and going back in like a demented cuckoo retreating into her clock.

I wondered how my foolish foot/button action might have affected this girl’s future in the fashion of Sliding Doors or those Alan Davies adverts for the Abbey National. By delaying her progress to whatever floor she was looking for, I could have inadvertently modified her entire life. Rather than meeting the man of her dreams on the eighth floor, she probably missed him and will end up being raped by a rottweiler round the back of The Garage on a cold Saturday night. Qué será, será.

Lately I’ve been wearing a hat. It’s a porkpie hat with a slight pinched effect going on at the front much akin to a Fedora or a Trilby.

Putting something on one’s head is a universal gesture of having a good time isn’t it? This is why I acquired it: to show people that for the first time in my life, I’m existentially having a laugh. When you’re a kid, the height of hilarity is to put something on your head or to put something on someone else’s head. I distinctly remember laughing at an episode of Rainbow in which Zippy tried to balance a ball on his head hilariously to no avail.

When it’s your own head, it’s fun because you know something is there but you cannot see it. So there’s a certain egocentric amusement to be had in trusting that something exists within your sphere of consciousness in spite of being wholly unobservable.

When it’s someone else’s head, it’s funny because (a) you know what they’re going through or (b) they DON’T know it is there and they accidentally walked into a hanging beehive to hilarious honey-coated effect.

This is why there are so many “What do you call a bloke with a [blank] on his head” jokes and why the Fat Chicks in Party Hats website is so cruelly funny.

It’s amazing how few people understand the semiotics of my hat though. It’s a porkpie hat: to be associated with jazz, blues and ska music and skinhead culture. It took me a long time in my head to justify getting one: while I’m a fan of all these types of music, I can’t actually play any of it and perhaps wearing one might be an affront to those who can legitimately wear it. I went through a similar phase a few years ago of wanting dreadlocks but decided that I would not be able to live up to their semiotic and historical associations.

My porkpie is NOT a cowboy hat like some moron thought yesterday. “Yee Haw, Hello Cowboy” he said. Moreover, it is NOT an H&M-purchased, machine-made affair like another kid thought the other day when he jumped off a bus to tell me that we had “the same hat”. Silly boy. Nonetheless, it was fun to unite with a total stranger for a few seconds over ornate pieces of felt balanced haphazardly upon our heads.



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