The Inevitable Second Gear
Remember that story where the resident on the ground floor (let's call him "A") would be woken up in the middle of the night every night by two successive "thud" sounds? The tenant upstairs (let's call him "B") would come home late, sit on a chair and then first take one shoe off and throw it on the floor with a thud. That wakes up "A" with a start. "A" then anxiously waits for "B" to take off his other shoe and throw it on to the floor. Once done, "A" knows he can finally go back to sleep without (hopefully) any further disturbances.
One night, "B" returns home late as usual and takes off his first shoe, again, as usual. But this time, there is an indefinite wait for the second shoe's lunar landing as "B", perhaps from being a little intoxicated, is simply toying around (or even talking) with the shoe without (yet) throwing it on to the floor. And remember, this is TUI, Talking/Toying Under the Influence, hence plenty of spit being showered on to the lone shoe, being treated as heaven knows what through the blurry vision of a blurry mind, but I'm sure with lots of smiles, slurry sentences, or should I say "a" slurry sentence, being repeated ten times.
But this is torture for "A". Oh come on, just throw the darned shoe on the floor and get it over with! But that never happens, and he is too stressed to go back to sleep, fearing being woken up again at a time unknown to any (sober) person.
This is what I call expecting the second gear after the first one. I know this is foreign to many in the age of vehicles with automatic transmissions. But those old or enthusiastic enough to remember, the transmission of the manual car has to shift from first gear to the absolute must second gear without delay in the case of an engine revving up fast.
Now, life comes with many such first and second gears. Case in point, the tenants "A" and "B". When there is the first gear, the antennas are up in anticipation (or fear) of the second one. The classic "waaaaakkkhhhh" (first gear) is usually followed by a "thooo!" (second gear), not to mention the devastation and havoc the latter causes to those around with even an iota of sense of hygiene and propriety. And so, the when-will-the-second-shoe-be-thrown panic surfaces in me as I am working at my ground floor home office and the guard outside executes his first gear of "waaaaakkkhhhh" but with the second gear ("thooo!") missing, or worse, already executed in stealthy silence. There goes my work as I rush out to see the environmental damage. The guard grins wide, knowing why I came, assuring me the second gear is inside his digestive system. I am not totally convinced as I am sure the damage caused by the second gear is likely to be discovered sometime later, the hard (slimy) way.
Coincidentally right then, another first gear takes place. The old fashioned broadcasting is in the air—one rickshaw, one rickshaw puller, one passenger and one PA system tearing down the neighbourhood with a high pitch announcement (its only other competition being the round the clock construction noise): "Bhaishob, agamikaal, shokal noyghotika hoitey, baro ghotika porjonto…" from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon the following day, there will be no electricity.
Now, there is ample time to prepare before the second gear strikes almost a day later. Good. Thank you for the heads up. The buckets are being filled, the ironing is being done, etc. as we don't have a generator and the IPS is in its death bed. Even I go to bed early knowing that I can't sleep beyond 9:00 am when my sleep apnoea machine would turn off and I'd better get the mask off in a jiffy without getting suffocated.
As it happens, I am up way before 9:00 am in anticipation of the second gear. At least I got my beauty sleep. I also know that my laptop will hopefully survive those 3 hours on battery power.
9:00 am: all the lights and fans are on. It's the same at 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 12:00 noon … At 4:00 pm sharp, the internet goes down, while the electricity is still up. So, when did electricity become Ethernet?
Time continues. 5:00 pm, 6:00 pm … the rest of the day, the following day and the one after. Oh come on! I can't take this!! Second gear! Where art thou? This suspense is killing me! What is wrong? Is power outage now also stuck in traffic? Or is this just a drill, and only a drill, to rehearse for the upcoming summer? Or maybe this was the signal of some future time when the electricity WILL actually go when I'm the least prepared. Or is it that the man pulling the lever, singing Preity Zinta style, "It's the time to DESCO!", isn't up yet? No, it's not April, else I'd suspect an April Fool's prank. Or is this the characteristic "nothing starts on time"? Or is this a "gujob" (rumour)? Or, was the rickshaw manned by the weather man?
Never have I found myself in a situation where I am actually waiting for the power to go out. Maybe just to get the suspense out of the way, I myself should turn the main switch off …
No, I will wait, but with Pohela Falgun ushered in with fanfare, the wait may not be that long. For the fans have started and soon will be the ACs, thus denoting February 13 the official start of bad weather lasting for a good eight months …
Naveed Mahbub is a former engineer at Ford & Qualcomm USA, the former CEO of IBM & Nokia Networks Bangladesh turned comedian (by choice), the host of ATN Bangla's The Naveed Mahbub Show and the founder of Naveed's Comedy Club. E-mail: [email protected]