An Apprenticeship Of Sorts

Floorboards used to present a problem for me. So did doorknobs. Windows had their challenges. Drawers and cupboard doors had their own little set of tests. Locks, bolts, keyholes, draught extruders, and the strange behaviour of hinges all asked questions of me, questions I struggled with and struggled to manage. And there was the problem of my own body – it presented difficulties to be mastered as well.

No, I’m not about to catalogue the range of phobias I experienced as a boy and then add to it an eating disorder or two. There were no phobias – no major ones anyway – and the problem of my body existed only to the extent that it was relevant to my interaction with the household fittings and fixtures mentioned above, and a few more besides, and thus was a little domestic individual thing, and a childlike fixation rather than obsession or problem in any real sense. No-one ever knew, as I didn’t tell them, that I was preparing, in many of my daily tasks, for a future life as a spy.

Around about the time I stopped running everywhere I started becoming very interested in James Bond. There must have been some sort of overlap: the idea that I would have stopped running from place to place completely and irrevocably is not likely. I didn’t run everywhere in all situations anyway – I was well-behaved at school, for example – but I definitely would run to the toilet and then, via the kitchen with a Kingston biscuit in my hand, back again to the TV fast enough to only be absent during the ad break in Hogan’s Heroes. I suppose the transition from running to creeping around the house can be thought of as part of in a similar light. Both are using the body to discover what can be done with it. Brute force with running, sliding, climbing, jumping, diving, and other athletic events staged in the hallway and lounge room between TV shows gave way to walking silently, avoiding the squeaky floorboard, and practising entering a room without being noticed. I would slip around doorways, hugging the walls, making sure I was seen as little as possible, and the amount of energy I spent on door knob and door handle technique simply defies logic from this distance in time. For some reason, when I became a spy it seemed logical that I would need to be able to open and close doors and steal down corridors without the bad guys knowing I had been there. The idea was to sneak out of an enemy building (bunker/underground lair/bullet-proof floating world domination control room) without the bad guys being able to successfully track you down. And so I would set myself the task of taking items from a room and placing them in another, imagining that I was stealing important papers or plans. I would go about with a luger sometimes – a toy of course – because I decided that they were a very cool looking handgun, but the uncomfortable fact remains that when I wasn’t imagining myself as some kind of World War II double agent, I was probably thinking of myself as a spy for Nazi Germany. Which is just silly. It was a very cool gun though.

All the sneaking training meant I was in a better position to attempt some of the little thefts and deceptions that teenagers practice, when the time for these came in the ensuing years. Albeit with mixed success.

On the weekend I was mowing the lawn and I decided to mow the nature strip out the front. The gate we have at the side of our place has a combination padlock, and I found myself attempting to get the combination right with gloved hands. It was tricky work, but I got the lock unlocked, and while I was making this attempt in my juvenile mind I was a bank robber, wearing a balaklava, and trying to get into the safe – and it occurred to me how much less glamorous my imagination has become. My adult self has swapped the casino and fast sports cars and dangerous women for a rather more prosaic scenario where Ogre is sitting outside in the hotted up Torano and we can already hear the police sirens, and if we are lucky we will get out with a few thousand bucks and avoid capture for a few months. Times have indeed changed.

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Published in: on May 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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