You know that sort of bad bad dream you wake from, heart pounding and palms sweating with panicked breathing? That kind where for the first few seconds after you wake, your confused mind still believes you’re in that terror filled situation, and you keep trying to work out what you might do to escape, while a little perplexed that you are suddenly horizontal, as against your previous vertical animated situation? Suddenly you realize it was a dream, and relief floods you – no, flushes through you – the same way cold fanta used to flush down your parched throat on that hot secondary school inter-house sports day. Selah. Amen. That split second, when the realization comes rushing inwhen the switch between terror and peace happens – that moment folks, is a precious moment. Why? The potential difference! The suddenness and magnitude of the change in emotions – I believe this feeling is what the makers of roller coasters hope to achieve with a 100 foot drop in the tracks. Oh yes, and the worse the nightmare, the better the feeling of relief!
You see, I am one of those suckers whom you can get to do anything just by hinting that it is something difficult, or something that not everyone can do. And so in I go, for guts and for glory. My glory does not include all those 300 Spartan things o! Of dying on the battlefield and other such nonsense. Or Achilles in Troy: “Never forget, we are lions!” and they start beating the butts of their spears upon the caulked wooden boat-floor in anticipation of a glorious death on the shores of Troy that will be talked about for centuries afterwards. My hand and leg no dey all those things. Sure I would pump my fist in the cinema, shout “yeah” and get all the goose pimples that are required when watching such heroic displays. For the case of reality, however, it is a requirement that the final outcome be success or something close to it, and most importantly, I, the “actor” in this movie, must survive it all, and live happily ever after.
So, fast forward to me chatting with my friend and going “Loooooooooooool” when she told me she was blown down to the ground by a high force wind while trudging through calf-deep snow to get from the caravan where she has to sleep to the caravan where she has to work. Yeah the winds were pretty strong and cold when I executed a similar journey as she did about an hour before, but nothing that could blow fat-and-heavy-me down. For sure the winds were picking up in recent days, driving the fresh snow along and creating huge piles of the same against stationary objects and structures about the premises where I worked. But I was warm and happy in my working unit, going mindlessly through the motions of work, my happy feet especially close to the portable heater on wheels which I had made personal since I joined this team. The wind could howl all it wanted. I had no need to go out in the next 12 hours at least. It was at this point in time and thought that I noticed that my chats were no longer being delivered to my online friend. Minor nuisance. Probably some network fluctuation. Should get fixed in a moment. Well it did not get fixed as I thought, so after 5 minutes of waiting I decided to check on my connectivity by observing what is called the signal-to-noise ratio in that nifty software I use for such things. -100 db. In case you were not sure, this is definitely not a good thing. -100 db meant a whole lot of things at that very moment, and none of these were remotely good by a long shot.
Let me explain. Trudging through snow to get to a caravan? Yeah I was at a remote location, at a pretty high latitude (close to the north pole). The nearest town, or village was an hour and a half by rusty chopper, or nine hours by truck over some really rough terrain. And this town cum village happened to reference itself to our city as its “nearest city” just as I referenced myself to it. My only means of communication was a VSAT dish, sitting pretty on the roof of the caravan where I worked. It was my portal to facebook, youtube and other less important things such as sending work related e-mails. Also it served my IP phone which was used to make calls. -100 db meant that this VSAT dish had been jolted and was completely not aligned with the satellite which my internet service provider thousands of miles away piggied back on to get that precious signal to me. Yup, we were cut off from the world, and would not be re-connected until somebody went up there to re-align the damn dish. Oh, and this was not just about facebook or sending some silly mail. The data we were getting from gently probing the earth had to be transmitted to another location where it was being processed. Not being able to transmit would mean a halt in the probing process. Explaining the detailed consequences of this in full would serve no useful purpose here, not to mention that it would be extremely boring. All I would say is that tens of thousands of dollars in revenue could get lost, as well as my reputation for knowing what I was doing when it came to this job. Management reviews, apportioning of blame, root cause analysis..arrrgh. There is no need to think of all those things; it’s way easier to just fix the problem, and then the world can continue being round.
I knew I would be the one to ascend the roof. No question. My colleague happened to be a girl, and er, well, she was not one of them agile girls. Even if she was and wanted to go up, I couldn’t let her do that. I am not that bad nau. Our spectacled eyes met, and I nodded, and began putting on the armor for the cold and wind, while she began making the necessary connections with equipment for this pointing process. Seconds later, following my recent ascension, I was in a different world. Temperature: -25 degrees celsius. Wind speed: 25 m/s. Roof: extremely slippery. Being blown down from the roof was a real possibility. It didnt take 5 minutes for my gloved hands to go numb, and for my face to lose feeling. Regardless, I bravely set to work, while listening to the handheld radio for Katya to announce I had re-acquired a signal.
Okay! Fast forward to one hour later, and I am still on this forsaken roof, watching hands that no longer felt like mine working the stiff knobs frantically, trying, still trying to get that signal steady by changing azimuth and inclination in turns. What had I been doing for the past one hour? Aside from trying to acquire a signal with the wind regularly rendering my efforts useless, I was asking my self a lot of questions. Why is the universe so big? And why is the Higgs-Boson particle so tiny? Why do frogs hop? Their forearms must be pretty strong to support their weight when they land, so why not just walk on all four of them? Does it have to do with jumping high to catch flying insects? What was God thinking when he decided to make me? And what, O Black and big headed African boy, are you doing at latitude 69 degrees North? How did you find your way here from your sunny place of birth at the equator? I shook my head bitterly as I remembered the recruiter’s words: “We know this is not a location for just anybody. Only really determined and resourceful individuals would survive it.” The dude read me well, and oh he really got me. What would I have replied before? *Squeezing my voice like pikin*: “No, I am not determined and resourceful enough. I don’t think I would be able to handle it”? And that is how one year later, I have been on a roof for one hour, and I am not even sure anymore what the damned reason was for wanting to point this VSAT in the first place. I was starting to feel sleepy. Why couldn’t I just come down quietly and make my way to a warm bed and just sleep, and forgerrabout how none of those “bosses” in town would understand the circumstances surrounding our having failed to deliver to the client on this one? I guess I actually was a determined person after all, to have persisted this long in this seemingly hopeless task.
Finally, I sat on a box on the roof, the relentless wind still gutting my unfeeling face, my usual proud and straight shoulders slumped beyond recognition (this must have been how the Chameleon, Jason Bourne, changed his appearance in those novels). I sat there, and did the last thing I could. I prayed. Yes I did. But it was just two words “Help me”. I was taayaaaa-ed. As in taaaayaaaaaaa-ed! After brooding over a lot of philosophical issues, I decided to give it a last try. My fingers grasped the knobs once more. Did the wind just reduce in intensity? Maybe it was just me imagining things. God I hope I haven’t begun to hallucinate – not the seeing type, the er..feeling type of hallucination, if there is one. What I am sure of however is that in the next minute I heard Katya’s excited voice over the radio, “Stop, stop, stop! 16.5 Volts!!!!” I waited a while, and she kept repeating this over and over again. She runs out into the snow, waving to me on the roof, since she thought my silence meant I could not hear her, and might lose the signal and move some more degrees in azimuth. But of course I heard her. I just was not in the mood to speak. With a straight and solemn look, I fixed all the screws, and deadlocked the VSAT’s position, descended the ladder, entered the working unit, and entered a warm hug from my tearful colleague. This was a real life nightmare that had just turned around, and I had experienced for real that precious moment when it all flips over, relief floods you, and the world is as it should be once again. This is the kind of hero I like to be. It is not: “He gave up his life on the roof of the unit so we could get a signal from the satellite. We would forever remember his bravery and dedication to service delivery.” For wetin?! Of course the client would get his data or whatever he wanted, but I would also get my Facebook and Youtube back, along with all my friends who keep me sane by chatting with me during my sojourn in the Great Nowhere. Yeah, and respect. I would get that too from my colleagues. Maybe the black African boy was not so lost after all.
Once again, gates are opened, and Majesty Unleashed.
Mudi writes as Thomas at silentblare.wordpress.com. He also happens to be my only brother. 🙂