Saturday 30 July 2011


Hassle is a word fairly new to me. I can't remember what the phenomenon was called when I first recognised it. It wasn't hassle. Nuisance, perhaps: bother, aggravation - not aggro - annoyance, would all have conveyed the same frustration. Hassle it is currently. I need to define what I mean by the word and leave it to you to see if you are ad idem and, particularly and, to put your own betes noirs under the comment bit at the bottom. (I understand that's a hasselous proceedure in itself). Hassle is that which interupts the smooth flow of your life. It can be active or passive. The most efficient route to a place it's not easy to reach at any time can be impeded by road works and diversions. That's a passive hassle. Active hassle is finding an alternative route. The light has gone out over your make-up mirror and, without it, you can't use its magnification to make sure you've put the eyeliner, accurately, just above your eyelashes . Wonky eyeliner is not a good look on those who are more than three score and ten. The broken light is passive hassle. Climbing on to a chair to remove and replace it is active hassle. My printer is broken. This fact furnishes a pot pourri of hassle. I can't print anything. I have to go through the hassle of moving various impedimenta to reach the back of it to make sure that both the black and the grey cables are plugged in. They are. I have the hassle of contacting the Guru, who is probably at work, to ask if he can sort it. I said 'ask'. I really meant I had to choose whether to go down on one knee - the only one that works - and throw myself on his mercy or say, casually, "when you next have a moment, I wonder if you could look at the printer. It's not working". I tried the latter. I was put through the you-must-have- done-something routine, told to re-check the cables and get on with it. When I reported that its little light was on, the cables were in and all looked well but the message was still 'Printer off-line", I was laughed off the phone. The hassle of being the wrong generation for the current state of the world almost goes beyond hassle to the upper limits of disaster.

When I was working I used, occasionally, to throw money at a situation to mitigate its hassle-value. An example would be to ask the person who helps me with cleaning to do some ironing. It does not make sense to a well-brought-up old lady to spend money on something one can do oneself so it was'nt a request she was used to. The iron needs its periodic rinse-out. This is active hassle. It's a semi-professional iron with a huge tank separate from the bit that actually strokes the clothes. It is heavy and awkward and really hasselous to tip and rinse. However, it spits brown spume over everything on the first press of the 'steam' button if you dare to ignore it's routine requirement. I thought that asking someone else to do the ironing would obviate the need for me to deal with its ablutions. I was wrong. She left me a note saying she couldn't do the ironing because it was spitting brown spume - only she said "muck" so it must have been thicker. Explaining how things work produces more hassle than doing whatever oneself. But, I was guilty not only of deception in not explaining the need and asking her, outright, to rinse it out, first, but also of a costly avoidance technique. It would have been hassle-cheaper to have come clean, explained and enlisted her benign co-operation. Instead, I did the ironing, myself, giving the iron the opportunity to spit at an unremarkable rag before starting to iron the real stuff.
A dear friend caught in the usual humungous hassle of selling and buying property, has to choose between losing a house he likes and is in process of buying or paying an extra sum of money because the Vendors have just discovered they have a mortgage penalty and want that cost, for the time lag between now and when the mortgage would end without penalty, covered. He is torn between the reality of what this means to his innocent self and the reality of where to go and where to put his stuff if he can't move in as planned. I probably have to find a different word to encompass this: calamatation? Last night I arranged to meet a friend after work. I was outside his work. He was outside his home. That's not hassle. It's a failure in communication and almost in friendship. What was hassle was beating a way through the rush hour traffic to reach a rendezvous which we had mutually understood and agreed. That could have been hassle, nuisance, bother, aggravation, annoyance all in one. Oh Dear. Prynhawn da.

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