... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Monday, August 15, 2011

370: A Thing Called a 'Plunger'

He woke in the same room, under the same roof, under a sky which moved under predictable patterns defined by the long understood laws of gravity. His sheets looked and smelt the same as yesterday; his slippers and toothbrush were where he left them. The mirror reflected brown eyes, brown hair, bony nose and bristled eyebrows. The same razor shaved short the same ever-growing bristles. The sting was soothed by an aftershave balm, the same brand his father had introduced him to. After shaving and preparing himself as one does of a morning, he stepped out of his door, locked it with his key, and went to work. His bus came on time, arrived on time, and he was at his desk with a cup of coffee and a nutritious breakfast bar as the first phone call of the day came in. The wrapper from his breakfast bar went in the bin with the others.

His callers all had the same problems and he advised their solution in all the same ways. An automated service could do the majority of the work; only occassionally does a complex problem arise, but not today. His most preferred day was one without complex problems to solve, one in which all his rituals and habits were allowed to play out without interference or consideration for others. If he wanted his Wednesday lunchtime Cornish pasty but none were available, that was a day worth forgetting. Days, weeks, months and years.

After retirement he had begun working on his property; fixing and tinkering with the electrics and the plumbing, tuning the engine of his automobile, installing a new kitchen, converting the cellar and the attic into habitable spaces. He was well equipt for most jobs but found himself in need of a rubber cup attached to a firm wooden rod; when pushed down the cup expels air creating a vacuum, when pulled up that vacuum is a useful tool for unblocking sinks, drains and toilets. He entered the hardware store:

"Excuse me, do you sell plungers?"
"Pardon me, sir. Did you say 'plungers'?"
"Yes, do you have any?"
"I'm sorry sir, but I'm not familiar with the word 'plunger'. What does it do?"
"It's for unblocking things. It's a rubber cup on a stick; surely you've heard of them."
"Oh, I see. You mean a plum."
"No, they are called plungers. You're thinking of plumbers who use them."
"No that has a silent 'b' in it, like plumbum, the Latin for lead. The tool you require is a 'plum', with no 'b'."
"A plum with no 'b' is small purple fruit with a stone inside. Quite nice actually, but no help for my drains."
"No sir, a plum is a rubber cup on a stick. The fruit you speak of is, I'm fairly sure, called a 'prune'."
"A prune is a dried plum."
"A dried plum; whoever heard of such a thing."
"Ok, do you have any plums."
"Certainly, sir."

He remembered a time when he would have been understood when asking for a plunger, and had no knowledge of when this change had happened. It was not an isolated incident with an eccentric shopkeeper. He mentioned the conversation to his wife, and she too appeared to have never heard of a plunger. She said oh you mean a plum. In their youth she had understood plunger, and would have asked for a plum if in need of a small purple fruit with a stone.

Although he adapted his speech to adopt the new usages of plum and prune, he was never to forget his world where plunger was understood, and dried fruit was thought edible. Eventually he died and the memory of his world was lost forever.

No comments: