Sun | Jan 21, 2018

As a man: Going it alone

Published:Sunday | July 24, 2016 | 12:00 AMMelville Cooke

I found myself home alone last weekend. This is something that has not happened in about six years. And the time before that was in 2000. So, last weekend included, in 16 years there have been four occasions in which I was left by my lonesome self at home.

And no, this is not a tale of burnt meals, clothes with a couple of seams, and treasure hunts for toothpaste. I attended a boarding school, so I can take care of the basics. Neither is this a piece on missing warmth in the bed (I did, naturally), and the thud of not-so-tiny feet (I could have done with some of those, too). And it definitely is not a gleeful expression of nights out on the town, rolling in at 5 a.m. with a song on my lips and a couple of beers in my step.

Instead, it is about the mechanics of living alone - something that is the reality for a number of adult men and women that I had never thought of, simply because I did not need to. Of all the times I have been home alone, this is the first I had thought of it in terms of safety - not even taking precaution against a home invasion, but just little things that could happen.

I was extremely careful in the shower. I held on to support where I could. When I was stepping out, I lifted my feet well over the side of the tub. I stepped gingerly on to the mat so I wouldn't slip. These are things I would do without a second thought if other people were home. But being on my own, I knew that if I slipped I could be in deep trouble. A broken leg, for example, would mean having to crawl like Sean Connery in The Untouchables after he was shot with a machine gun in his home. I did not want to know what the house looked like from that angle, so I was careful.

Then, when I was falling asleep (when you are home alone you do not go to bed, you just fall asleep wherever you are) I was sure to have the cell phone and home line handset, both fully charged, beside me. It was not only a matter of having a tool of communication at hand because I might need it, but also being able to answer a call quickly in case someone thought of checking up on me.

If other people were home, if someone called and did not get me, they would simply ring someone else in the house. If they called the home number and the phone was far away from me, someone else would answer it. If someone is home alone and you call their cell phone and home number without an answer, it's panic time.

I was extra careful in turning off electrical equipment and triple-checked the gas stove to ensure it was off before going to bed. Locking up was an exercise in shaking doors and pushing up windows. It was all a matter of being responsible for your own safety.

For the first time, I really thought of the patterns and procedures someone who lives alone has to establish, and it is a different life from mine. Plus, there was an additional thought - people who wear glasses and live alone cannot afford to misplace them when they go to bed.