With a road trip in the offing, I had been thinking of compiling a playlist, one that reflects the joys of the open road and the summery weather – despite the rather long odds against either of these occurring. Experience has taught me, however, that compilation begins as an enjoyable trawl through musical memories but turns soon enough into a chore – especially when you know that Spotify’s algorithms will do the job for you even while you sleep, and that other people’s playlists are available for plunder.
However, the decision not to bother with the playlist really was clinched when I read the following: a person might expect to live for 83 years, which may sound like a long time but, when expressed as 1,000 months, does not. By my reckoning, I may have only 120 months to go – and the last one slipped by alarmingly fast. With my time running out, I was grateful, therefore, that the results of my recent medical tests proved positive (the nurses told me there and then) but miffed that the consultant consumed a whole morning of my life (but only ten minutes of his) by calling me in, weeks afterwards, to read out the notes. He could have Skyped me.
Concern about my diminishing allocation of months is leading me to evaluate the returns from all sorts of time-usage. I had, for example, been reluctant to spend part of my allowance calling technical help-lines for assistance with pesky problems on my email accounts but, in the end, I was driven by despair to do so. My emails were bouncing back with explanations such as “DNS server not recognised” from people I have communicated with for years. Could it be that Wonderman readers now had to “opt in” to conform to the implementation of new data protection regulations? The help-lines were predictably painful: one kept me on hold so long that my battery expired and I had to start all over; another put me through to an expert so lacking in expertise that I was convinced it was his first day on a job he had obtained by false pretences. Success, of a kind, eventually came when a chap convinced me that I was just another unfortunate victim of the latest Windows update and that Microsoft is working to resolve the problem. By then, conscious of the ticking clock, I was ready to accept any explanation.
The time spent was productive in part, however, since I learned a bit more of the International Phonetic Alphabet, an indispensable aid for speaking one’s postcode. The letter M, for example, is spoken as Mike, not Manchester. Apparently, international agreement on the phonetic alphabet was reached in 1956 and it was no small feat, considering the complications. C, for example, might be Country or Cycle – and that’s just in English. In fact, they chose Charlie, which must be confusing for Italians, with their Ciao and Cappuccino. H is represented by Hotel, despite the fact that many people regard it as silent in that context. If they were to revise the alphabet for present times, they could simplify things by taking into account the fact that technology has extended the global reach of English: C could be Computer, H could be Hardware, A could be Algorithm and so on.
I probably won’t be invited to the symposium for the review of the International Phonetic Alphabet, despite my sensible idea. I thought this as I made my way one sluggish morning to the gym, determined to use the time to physical advantage even if the brain was unproductive. I searched Spotify for a workout-friendly playlist and came across one titled “Kinda thing my dad plays when he’s working in the garage and stuff.” It must have been compiled by someone with months to spare I thought, resentfully.