Monday, April 07, 2008

Squeaky Whinge

“It’s a squeaky hinge that gets oiled,” was the catchphrase of an Australian girl I used to work with in a London office. When it came to squeaking, she was the queen, and would badger our employment agency for higher wages so often - every week, when she went to pick up her pay - that they would cave in just to get her to shut up and leave. In that respect, her policy worked. (Either that, or she was using an antipodean sexual metaphor that went right over my head at the time.)

Her advice to me was to do the same and whinge like a hinge. Much as I shared her philosophy that if a thing was worth complaining about, it was worth complaining about at great length, I could only bellyache in the presence of like-minded moaners. I’m the kind of bloke who says that the soup’s shit, then two seconds later when the waiter comes and asks how the soup is, I’ll smile and say, “It’s fine, and thank you very much for asking.”

I’d been thinking about my former colleague every night for the past eight and a half years, because there was a squeaky hinge on our bathroom door, and every time I got up in the small hours to go to the bog, it caterwauled like a smitten tomcat with its nuts caught under a steam-hammer. And every time I thought sleepily, “Owch, I must take care of that sometime. Squeaky hinges should be oiled.” And yes, it’s round about eight and a half years since we moved into this house.

The middle of the night was the only time I thought about the squeaky hinge, which was why it never got fixed. But the other day, I was clearing out my tool box (for the first time in eight and a half years), and came across tons of useful stuff like glues and screwdrivers and wrenches that I never normally know where to find. And a can of something called WD-40, which, according to its own publicity, “stops squeaks.” Why did no one tell me we had this magical substance?

Another week of creaking nights went by before I actually got around to bringing the can of WD-40 all the way upstairs to spray on the hinge. It took me less than five seconds. Amazingly, after a couple of squirts, the hinge stopped squeaking. Now, in the middle of the night, I am struck by the silence when I pull open the door. But while continuing to admire the curative properties of WD-40, I miss the squeak. Thinking about it makes me alert and stops me going back to sleep.

This made me realise that even though I’m a grouch at the best of times, it’s better if I stay that way. Family and friends can tolerate me as an accustomed background noise, but have long since stopped listening to anything I actually say. Imagine if I became all sunny and positive – they’d worry about me and think that I was sick, or up to something devious.

It would be selfish to put them through that, so it’s best if I stay as the kind of hinge that malfunctions just often enough not to bring too much attention to myself. Not completely unhinged, just one that makes the same low-level, negative noise on any given subject. Bloody ’ell, even if they elect Obama, something’s bound to go wrong. It’s not worth Lincoln getting promoted, they’ll just go straight back down. Etc.

Stay away, well-intentioned handymen. Leave squeaking hinges be. They may not sound it, but they really are happy that way.


Gadjo Dilo said...

There's a lesson in this (somewhere) for all of us. I've just been reading How to be Good by Nick Hornby, about a miserable old scrote who decides to pack in the whinging and try to be sunny all the time - and consequently pisses everybody off! Love is....a squeaky hinge.

No Good Boyo said...

This post ought to be circulated as a memo to all wives and girlfriends under the heading: "Home improvements destroy the very inner peace you seek in self-help books. Leave things alone and you will find harmony, equilibrium and other ladies' stuff."

Stay-At-Home is the author of a fine poem to mark the retirement of a colleague with whom we both once worked, Mick "Bloody" Atkin - a man who had the Northerner's gift of being able to swear within a single word.

The most irascible man who ever lived, Atkin abruptly became polite, thoughtful and oath-free in his last months in office. I could never work out why, but I knew it was wrong.

I still see him from time to time, and always feel disappointed that he hasn't yelled "Fookin' spiiike it, yer fookin' idle Welsh bastadd!" at me.