|This soap dispenser looks innocent enough, but then, so did Dr Jekyll|
Wednesday, 9 January 2013
Evidence that soap dispensers can prove a threat to one's peace of mind and give rise to passive sentences
I know you're probably bored, and sitting there thinking, 'I've finished reading Dostoevsky. What next? Oh, I wonder if Fran has ever written anything on soap dispensers. I must go and look.'
So here's a section from Chapter 9 of my book 'Being Miss' in which Miss has an adventure with a soap dispenser during a 'free period' when she doesn't have a class.
In free periods, or ‘frees’ as they’re dubbed, all the school clocks speed up, their hands sweeping round with spite to the next bell. It’s bizarre, because during lessons in which children are uncooperative, you’re hungry or you’re teaching possessive apostrophes, the clock hands stutter round like aged relatives. Yes, time flies when you’re having frees.
But, in those frees, while the clock hands speed up, everything else slows down. Computers take longer to let you log in. The ink in your red pen dries up so that you have to go foraging in the back of a dusty cupboard for another one. The kettle warms up reluctantly, moaning and holding back, like the fat boy on the Games field in winter.
One thing that never slows down is my bladder, especially if I’ve had coffee for which I have a separate channel that runs straight down the middle of my body, unlike my ‘tea’ channel which takes the normal, less perpendicular route.
I trudge over to the Staff Room toilets. In there, a colleague is staring in dismay at the soap dispenser which is making a noise like the rutting deer I hear in the park. It’s spewing out soap like my old cat used to be sick: a bit at a time with a slight pause in between each output.
‘What’s happened?’ I ask.
‘I don’t know,’ she says. ‘All I did was put my hand underneath. It gave me the usual one big squirt, but when I pulled my hand away, it just kept going.’
The puddle of soap is increasing, like a pool of green slime, and we put a layer of paper towels on top of it. It’s clear that this is only going to be a temporary measure.
‘Maintenance ought to be told,’ she says gloomily, drying her hands. Both of us know she won’t ring Maintenance. I make a mental note to use this nugget of linguistic interest in my next A2 English Language lesson: Consider the use of the passive voice in the sentence ‘Maintenance ought to be told’ and contrast with the active voice ‘I’ll go and tell Maintenance’.
‘That machine is evil, anyway,’ I tell her. ‘I was in here the other day, dumped my rucksack on the surface and went into the toilet. The sensor thought my bag was a pair of hands and soaped it several times while I was in the cubicle. Took me ages to rinse it off and it still frothed up in the rain on the way home.’
‘What have they installed these for, anyway?’ she complains. ‘Give me a bar of carbolic any day.’
‘Stains the sinks green.’
‘Yeah, but at least it’s quiet,’ she says, and we both look at the demon dispenser, belching its contents out without shame and still making the rutting noise. She leaves and I go into the cubicle, checking my watch. I’m already fifteen minutes into my free.