"Wading neck deep in a swamp, your revolver is neither use nor ornament until you have had time to clean it" Mary H. Kingsley (1897)

A Question Of Balance

It was one of those mornings.

The local LG Service Centre had called to say my DVD player was ready for collection, following its recent malfunction.  I decided to combine the trip with buying coffee.

The taxi driver was new to me; his driving style unnerving.

The weather was poor.


And more rain.


For an hour, I sat in the back of the car.

The driver alternated between rapid accelerations and emergency stops. His hand continuously sounded the horn.

I felt nauseous and bad-tempered.

We finally reached our destination. But the service centre had inexplicably re-located since my last visit. A move not mentioned when they called, and signed only by the damp sheet of paper, pasted on the door of the old premises.

Their new workshop was a few kilometres away, across the city.

Forty-five minutes and several phone calls later, we found it.

After waiting a while, the DVD player was produced. I asked to see it tested.

It failed.

I sulked.

During the return journey, following yet another emergency stop, I pointedly readjusted my seat-belt.

I put my hand on the driver’s shoulder and made it clear he must ration the use of his horn.

The rest of the trip was spent in relative silence, with me half-wishing the driver would make a foolish mistake, to further justify both my opinion of him, and my irritation.


We reached Ravi’s Coffee Shop.

Ravi, himself, was there.

The sights and smells were comforting and absorbing.

Ravi’s quiet dignity; his calm, noble face; and his gentle smile brought me to my senses.

I started to see my frustrations in perspective. I began to laugh at myself.


Living abroad entails many changes.

One of them is the loss of language proficiency.

Facing the challenge of LG’s repair-shop, and an over enthusiastic boy-racer, my first inclination had been sarcasm: a skill I spent decades honing before retirement.

But my Malayalam is non-existent, and local English is limited.

Sarcasm achieves nothing.

A more balanced approach to life’s small frustrations is now required.



“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration..  I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less clearing up to do afterwards.”   Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


2 responses

  1. Lucille

    Nobody did stress (or sarcasm) like Basil Fawlty. Beautifully illustrated story and I hope, therapeutic in the re-telling.

    June 25, 2010 at 10:27 pm

  2. Jolyon

    Oh yes, you can be sure that ordeals will find you out even when don’t work for the NHS! Your sarcasm may have withered slightly but I expect ‘the look’ is still awesome.

    June 27, 2010 at 11:48 pm

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