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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

A Man, a Fan and No Plan

I have fans.

Not fans of my writing. Obviously.

I’m talking about ceiling fans. In the condo my wife and I share, there are no less than three ceiling fans — one each in the living room, spare bedroom and main bedroom. These fans are all from the same manufacturer, appear to be the same model, and presumably were installed all at the same time by one of the previous owners.

So naturally, they all behave wildly differently. Because why wouldn’t they?

The living room fan, I suspect, works properly. It has a ‘low’ speed which is noticeable, but only mildly effective. There’s also a ‘medium’, which is fairly refreshing, and a ‘high’, which feels — and often sounds — as though a military-grade helicopter is preparing to land on the sofa. I like ‘high’. ‘High’ is good.

“Standing under this thing is like being strapped to the cage of a bayou fanboat flying through a blender set to ‘super-frappe’.”

The fan in the guest bedroom doesn’t have these speeds. Maybe it once had these speeds; I’ll probably never know. Mostly, it doesn’t have any speeds at all, and instead beeps rather unhelpfully at you when you press the button on the wall that should cycle the fan. If you’re a bit more forceful — and diligent and lucky — with it, the beeps may finally give way to the fan’s insanely fast speed setting, which makes the helicopter thing look like a goddamned pinwheel. Standing under this thing is like being strapped to the cage of a bayou fanboat flying through a blender set to ‘super-frappe’.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m just telling you the fan speed.

The fan in the main bedroom — our bedroom — is more like the first, only if it had gotten a good talking-to from Eeyore for the last several years. On ‘low’ speed, the fan blades can be tracked by the naked eye. Or a calendar. ‘Medium’ is something akin to a sane person’s ‘low’, and ‘high’ is fine, I suppose, but it doesn’t exactly evoke ridiculous metaphors of dangerous vehicles or overpowered blending devices. So what is it good for, really?

I bring up these fans and their grossly unpredictable behavior to tell you this: as I mentioned earlier, my wife is out of town this week, dealing with some family business. Like a lot of couples, the two of us have very different internal thermostats — she likes things warm and toasty, while I’m more comfortable in chillier weather. Or air conditioning. Or blenders. And both our preferences are strongest when we’re least able to enjoy our optimal temperatures — i.e., when we’re sleeping.

As a good and reasonable couple, we like to compromise when it comes to these sorts of things, so that no one will ever get what they want or be truly happy or fulfilled in life. It’s just what we do. We’re in wuv.

So the fan in the bedroom comes with hard and fast rules for usage. When she goes to bed — usually a bit earlier than I do — the fan stays off. When I join, I may turn the fan on, but only on ‘low’ — which is just frigging pointless — or ‘medium’. Which is basically ‘low’, but still counts as a compromise because it’s not ‘high’. Which is really ‘medium’, in fake-o ‘high’ clothing.

When my wife gets up — always before I do — she turns the fan off, or at least down a notch. We make exceptions, of course — when the temps are eighty-plus, all the fans might be going, and on days we break ninety, she’ll even turn them up herself. Or would, if I weren’t sitting on a pile of ice cubes, willing them to spin faster. But always in the morning, she turns the fan down.

But then there’s the other exception, which I already mentioned. When she’s out of town, all bets are off. So you can bet your sweaty bedsheets that bedroom fan has been on high every night this week. When I’m ready for shuteye, I shuffle to the switch, give it a quick punch, and hear the oh-so-sweet triple beep that tells me the fan’s about to take off:

*brrrrttt brrrrttt brrrrttt*!!

If I were to hit the fan again, I’d get two beeps and ‘medium’; another touch and it’s one beep and ‘super-slo-mo turtle’ speed, for some reason. Those mean nothing to me. I’m strictly here for ‘high’.

I also mentioned that the missus sometimes turns the fan off or down when she wakes up. So I’m used to hearing these beeps in the wee morning hours, when she’s up — and presumably chilly — and I’m still snuggled under the covers. So my brain didn’t immediately skip a snore this morning, when in a hazy half-awake stupor I distinctly heard:

*brrrrttt brrrrttt*!!

Rather, it took a few seconds to realize: “Hey. Stupid. Your wife didn’t turn the fan down. She’s a thousand miles away, fraternizing with your in-laws, bless her little heart.

In the thick of my grog, it was another tick or two before it occurred to me that the switch for controlling the fan was just past the foot of the bed, mere inches from my feet.

Finally coming to, my synapses locked into place with the question, “WHO THE SHIT IS STANDING IN MY BEDROOM, TURNING DOWN MY FAN?!?

The rest of my body wasn’t quite as quick to catch up, and I learned that in the “fight or flight” response, there’s a third alternative, “flop headfirst onto the floor”.

(Come to think of it, it’s odd that instinct would have survived long enough to get to me. I imagine most cavemen with the ‘flop on floor’ gene would have been eaten by a saber-toothed something-or-other pretty early on.)

I managed to extricate myself far enough from the covers and shame to peer over the mattress, where I saw… nothing. I tiptoed into the hallway, nearsighted like a Magoo without my contacts — truly, I’m farting in the face of evolution with every minute I manage to survive — and again found nothing. I retreated to the bathroom and put my eyes in, craning to listen for any floor creak or door slam an intruder might make. Nada.

So I did a perimeter check, like any sane person alone in a house would do. Closets. Behind shower curtains. Under beds. And eventually, the truth became clear. There was no one in the condo but me. So I schlepped back to the bedroom, wondering if I’d only dream-heard the beeps — but the fan seemed slower than it should be. I pressed the button once, which would have taken it from ‘three-beep speed’ to ‘two-beep speed’, if it were all a bad dream. Instead:


I came to the only logical conclusion. The fan, after four years of turning up in the evening and down in the morning, has gotten used to the routine. This fan obviously comes with some rudimentary artificial intelligence — probably the same sappy bit that Eeyore-jacked the speeds in the first place — and it’s accustomed to routine. So in the morning, by god, come hell, high water or temporary spousal displacement, that fan speed was coming down. Hard.

And in the process, I almost shat my own bed this morning. Which is something I’d rather be alone in the condo for, I suppose, but still not on my “list of things to do while the wife is away”. Also not on that list? “Sweep the place for home invaders”, “battle a depressed OCD-riddled AI module” or “exorcise a poltergeist that apparently has control of large metal blades that spin above my testicles while I’m sleeping”. Which is the other possibility, and I’m not even going to go there.

I mean, what’s the point, really? Even if I knew how to fix that, it would just throw the holy water back in my face. It’s a ceiling fan, for crissakes. If that’s the problem, the thing can stay possessed, for all I care.

Just as long as it stays on high until morning. I can live with that. At least until the wife gets home. One compromise at a time, you know?

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