The number is 69
My friend Kamal, who lives in Florida, decided to spend his birthday in his homeland, Trinidad. By all accounts, it is expected to be on a grand scale - the Richter - and is likely to be the first to reach 10 on that scale, which is normally used for earth-shaking events.
In the days preceding his departure for Trinidad, with anticipation getting higher than the invitees to the birthday party and the bar owners in the remote village of Manahambre, using Kamal's arrival as security for bank loans and the purchase of luxury vehicles, I called him to enquire about the arrangements for designated drivers, hangover cures and tent rentals.
He was not available, possibly attending a pre-party party. Extremely tired from a day of toil, and so utterly fatigued from the pressures of the day, I went to sleep knowing that Pollard would finally "come good" (as the cricket writers say) and the Tridents would beat the Zouks. In fact, I headed for bed during the 10th-over break in the CPL match.
At some point in the night, my phone rang with the hurried, rising, loud ringtone that is noisy, irritating, insistent and close to deafening that I have chosen to deal with my increasing loss of hearing. It seems that so deep was my slumber and so overwhelming my tiredness that despite its volume, the phone had been ringing for some time before I heard it.
Neighbours had already switched on lights and headed for the emergency exit. Car alarms in the parking lot were already going off, klaxons deafening. Even the police, who have no compunction and who are utterly without mercy or compassion when they continuously shatter the nocturnal peace with their cacophony of sirens, stopped their caterwauling in awe.
FELL OUT OF BED
I jumped, leapt, flew and fell out of bed and almost strangled myself. I had forgotten that now, in my post-middle-age life, I have to sleep attached to a CPAP machine with what is known as a 'flexible' hose on one end attached to my face and head, covering my nose with a mask like Bane in the Dark Night Rises, and the other connected to the machine, which pumps air into my lungs.
CPAP (according to Wikipedia) stands for continuous positive airway pressure, or the use of continuous positive pressure to maintain a continuous level of positive airway pressure in a spontaneously breathing patient. If this definition confuses you, let it pass since the malady of advancing age is even worse. There are two things you need to know: The machine speeds up the air flow when you start to snore and that as you age, even when you sleep, you're under constant pressure. The pressure gets worse the older you get.
The problem with the word 'hose' is that it can be misinterpreted, especially by doctors and wives. I shudder to think of my wife's reaction if I told her that I got tangled up with some flexible hose and fell out of bed. Worse, I can imagine telling a doctor in the emergency ward that some flexible hose got me down.
It is like Mark Twain's take on statistics. He said: "Statistics are like ladies of the night. Once you get them down you can do anything with them." Consider what they can do to you if they get you down. The hose pulled the extremely expensive and fragile CPAP machine off the night table, into the air, from whence it was plummeting to a crash-landing on the tiled floor, but since my glasses were next to it, the disaster would have been both a spectacle as well as earth- and glass-shattering. The glasses went flying in one direction, I was heading in another, and the machine in a third.
It is like the problem of the man who had to make a decision about saving his daughter, wife or mother. I ended on the floor with the glasses on the ground and the machine on my stomach. But in the mêlée, I had forgotten my tablet.
This was not Panadol or Aspirin. This was my ASUS, which I had caught my asus to buy when it had just come out and which contains my .epub and .mobi libraries. It is my nocturnal companion, providing me with access when I wake at four in the morning to all the regional newspapers. It re-Kindled my passion for bedtime reading and watching cricket matches from Sri Lanka and Australia. I had also forgotten some large brass statues that are also on the night table. I escaped the mêlée and mayhem without a scratch.
Unfortunately, my ASUS tablet was not so fortunate and had a large gash on the Gorilla Glass that covered it. The phone, also, was not so lucky, and has developed even more ailments than me - it cuts off in the middle of conversations and the touch screen has become frigid. It even backs off when I put my finger on it. The call was from Kamal, who was in his usual high spirits, but the phone died immediately after we started talking.
I will be 69 tomorrow, and when I hear all the snide remarks from my friends based on the sexual connotations of that particular number, I tell them I prefer 74 or, in other words, 69 with five people watching - my wife and children.
But what worries me is what I have already come to. Connected to a machine, flustered by a phone call, needing my glasses to find my glasses, and not strong enough to cope with some hose. But there is hope. Kamal gave me a book, Great At Any Age, which tells me that at 69, Mother Theresa won the Nobel Peace Prize; Francis Chichester completed a solo sail across the Atlantic Ocean, a total of 4,000 miles in 22 days; Mary Kaplan completed her goal of running a marathon in every US state, coming first in her age group in each race; and Laurence Olivier won a Golden Globe for his performance in the film Marathon Man.
More intriguing is that Brigham Young, the Mormon, fathered his 56th and final child. Me, I would be content to survive Kamal's birthday party.
Tony Deyal was last seen lying in bed with his hose, breathing heavily and dreaming of becoming a Mormon.