Don’t shit where you eat is as good a maxim as any other – but I just can’t keep it in. A few weeks ago the genial young man opposite got a new jam jar. It’s metallic green in colour – but then aren’t they all, and just as obviously has profile tyres and an allusion to a spoiler, rather than the spoiler itself. It also has a disconcerting habit of soliloquizing: “System armed!” it croaks when he locks it, employing tones suitable to a grizzled CIA interrogator applying electrodes to a recalcitrant Islamist. “Stand back, system armed!” it croaks when a pedestrian walks by – presumably because they’ve triggered some kind of sensor.
Lying in bed of a late night, having screened out the drunks wending their way back from the pub and the agonised ecstasy of copulating foxes, and the traffic on the main road, and the bellowing of late jets hunkering down over the metropolis, I was still assailed by that “System armed!”. In a world of intrusions this was one too far. I took it up with my neighbour. “Yeah, yeah,” he agreed, “it is aggravating, but I got the car like that and I can’t figure out how to get rid of it … but I’ll try, really.”
Somehow I don’t think he made that much of an effort; after all, the “System armed!” is of a piece with his weapon dog, and the bars in front of his front door, and the CCTV system, and the fact that he appears not to work regular hours … Still, live and let live, I say: he’s always cheerful, and seems oddly to be a steadying influence on the younger and more feral yoof who wander up and down the street, deranged by their yearning for the unobtainable and their surfeit of boredom. As for “System armed!” over the weeks I’ve come to integrate it into my mental life. “System armed!” the car croaks, and I think to myself, I’m glad – truly I’m glad.