Sunday, February 14, 2010

House of horrors

One look at the way lichen can thrive on a frozen expanse of tundra should tell you how tenacious life is. But then, one look at the way some innocent office-goer can get mulched by a piano tumbling from an upper storey should tell you that it’s also tricky business.

You might suspect, and rightly so, that airborne pianos probably don’t deserve top billing on the long list of things that working stiffs have to fear. Frankly, I’m a case of what they call damaged goods, but even I walk past tall buildings with my head held high, thoughts of deadly pianos even further from my mind than thoughts of making some kind of financial provision for my rapidly approaching dotage. But I can think of lots of things that do belong high up on a list of justifiable phobias, and many of them are not only not random, but downright clear and present dangers right in your home.

For instance: Pressure cookers. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather use a regular pan and spend an hour stirring and sweating into my mutton curry than put a pressure cooker on the flame for twenty minutes. This is because it’s a widely established fact that pressure cookers are made to lull you into a false sense of security before one day exploding in a way that leaves you unsure which bit is mutton curry and which bit cook’s face. My grandmother’s pressure cooker exploded one day while she was cooking lunch, and not only was I a wreck when I heard about it, but she was really mad about having to scrape daal off the ceiling.

For instance: Elevators. Examine your heart and tell me if you can really ever step into an elevator in the upper storeys of your building without wondering, just as it begins to move, whether the cable will hold all the way until your floor, or whether it will snap and send you plummeting to the bottom of the shaft in a twisted wreckage of metal. One retarded school of thought holds that the way to save your skin is to jump into the air at the moment of impact. Hopefully, over time, falling elevators will weed these people out of the gene pool.

For instance: Ceiling fans. We’re talking about a bunch of metal blades spinning at high speed, and if they’re doing this in my house, they’re doing so with a creaky rocking motion. It’s perfectly clear to me that a fan turned on is just a fan waiting for you to take your eyes off it or fall asleep, so that it can fly right off its ceiling mount and either impale your chest or perform a clean decapitation.

For instance: Open cupboard doors. I was brought up on a steady stream of Enid Blyton’s stories about dolls that make Chucky from Child’s Play look good. Before I go to bed I make sure my cupboards are securely closed because, even though I haven’t owned dolls for thirty years, there’s no need to risk getting up to use the bathroom and having some cold little plastic hand shoot out from under my bed and grab my ankle with a tinny mechanical laugh.

For instance: Geysers. These, in my head, are very like pressure cookers. We have experienced a geyser sparking and setting the nearby shower curtain on fire; and I once came home to find a geyser more or less exploded and behaving like the Trevi Fountain. It’s plain stupid to ignore the dangers of being summarily poached in one’s own bathroom.

With houses like deathtraps, who needs falling pianos?


richtofen said...

Thou art and absololutely delightful nutcase.

richtofen said...


Anonymous said...

no, in a falling elevator, you climb out the top, jump across to another cable while shooting the bad guy and causing the elevator to explode, then the explosion sends you upwards to wherever you wanted to in the first place.

cowherd said...

Actually, modern elevators have a safety mechanism that dates back a 150 years to an invention by Elisha Otis - a spring-loaded ratchet that engages as the tension on the elevator cable drops. (Otis patented it and got rich of it, and you get to scratch the elevator-phobia out of the depths of your mind - it's just not warranted unless the laws of mechanics change.)

オテモヤン said...


Anonymous said...

Stairs. They can get you down 'em faster than you intended...

Anonymous said...

What about the guy who tried to kill himself by jumping out of his window, landed on top of a guy happily sitting on the sidewalk drinking his morning capuccino, broke his back - cappucino guy - while surviving the fall himself. Tel Aviv I think, as reported in the Asian Age.
Boy, would you be pissed off or what?

beami said...

On Delhi streets, the sidewalks are death-traps, you really don't need to invoke pianos: you have slabs of concrete askew, craftily hidden little pieces of metal conduits with jagged edges, missing manhole covers, rubble, excreta of different sizes, shapes, origins, even the slippery ones that could direct you straight into the gaping hole left by a missing concrete slab. On the home front, there are also the cooking gas cylinders, that have taken quite a beating before they came to your kitchen. Or, if you are lucky, you might have the leaky potential of a high pressure Indraprastha gas line, coming right into your boiler...

Shujoy said...

Do no new posts meaning your column is no more? Can't you still keep writing on the blog?