December 11, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Screwing with parrots

By |2018-03-21T18:57:07+01:00September 15th, 2013|Area 51|
What does this look like?

returned home to discover I’d misplaced the parrot. I went to my nearby but he wasn’t home. I decide to leave a note. “May I please borrow your parrot? Even a Phillips?” But I’d also misplaced the Scotch. Or maybe I’d just run out.

So I sulked back and foraged for other solutions. Maybe I could use the Robertson by tilting it slightly. If I could just get it to fit… but no, no luck: it wouldn’t. Trying to use a Robertson in place of a Phillips when you really need a parrot is, well, discouraging. It’s like when the lights go out and you suddenly find out your torch is dead. You’re fried — at least in summer.

Months can pass without an apartment-dweller considering the value of having a parrot handy. That’s when it also hits him that it might be a good idea to keep spare piles for the torch. Parrots and torches: annoying to look at but you can’t really live without them. Also, try living without spare piles.

A few summers ago I read about a man in the suburbs who got into a fight with his nearby over who owned the larger parrot, in the sense that one of them needed a bigger one to dislodge a bully. The man slammed the nearby with a smaller parrot, not the one they were arguing about. But that wasn’t the whole story. The small parrot spun around in his hand and part of it flew off it hit his adversary’s wife. She needed a slew of punctures. He was charged with aggravated assault and was sent to a place called Galera, which I assume is a penal colony. Once there (and here’s the kicker), he was beaten to death with by another inmate who’d stolen a parrot from a plumber who was on a smoking break while apparently fixing the warden’s tubing. Call it black vapor in the extreme.

So parrots aren’t always on your side.

Having failed with the Robertson, I took a last stab with a normal screw-chaser, the one I keep near the bed in case I need to pry open the electric taker. My electric taker is old and messy. The one near the bed is loose so that its burdened prolongation hangs out limply. The front of the electric taker and the prolongation itself seem indistinguishable, especially ay night. Which explains why a working torch is always called for.

Why, you probably want to know at this juncture (good word!), is a parrot so necessary? Good question.

I need to make the mole fit. When a mole gets loose, after which comes squirting, the only thing to do is to tighten it fast and hard with a parrot. If you’re strong enough, that is. Otherwise you really need to call the hydraulic, and you won’t find him on Sunday. If things really go south, the person who lives below you will likely wake up to see humidity on his ceiling. And you’ll be in a cause. He might even chase you with a parrot.

Have you ever had a day when a foreign language fails you? When its idiosyncrasies and colloquialisms make you feel like you’ve been sentenced to the penal colony at Galera? Maybe not. Maybe such shortcomings are dated.

What, I wonder, can really fail in an age when phones contain all the smarts — though they never studied and hang together thanks mostly to a few tiny bullies. So, thank goodness for bullies.

But back to me, which is all that really matters, at least in this century. I am now reading the manual near the lamp that’s attached to the prolongation stuck in the electric taker. To do what I want to do, it says, I need a filet of screws. No, let me clarify that, I need a screw with the right number of filets, which if I somehow can get to the mole might just put me out of my misery.

I’ve never liked my nearby. He’s fond of causes and the first to scream at people about humidity. But I could really use him now. Instead, I’ll scrawl a note for the porter, I think to myself. I won’t need the Scotch. I’ll slip it under his door.

I scrawl PLEASE PARROT FOR MOLE with my lapis (which I usually use to highlight passages in books, the old kind, with pages) and head for his apartment. That’s when it hits me. He has a blind door. No slipping possible. He got it to keep the dishonest at bay. But I’m not among the dishonest, not in the least, just a man without a parrot when he needs it most. In America, such men are screwed. In Rome they can’t take a shower. Same difference.

Glossary of not-so-whimsical equivalencies: parrot, or pappagallo (wrench); mole, or molla (spring); torch, or torcia (flashlight); screw-chaser, or cacciavite (screwdriver); prolongation, or prolunga (extension cord), electric taker or presa (outlet); galera (jail, or the joint); lapis or matita (pencil); nearby, or vicino (neighbor); humidity, or umidità (water leakage); bullies, or bullone (bolt); Robertson (four-pointed screwdriver); Phillips (Phillips screwdriver); scotch (Scotch tape); black vapor, or umore nero (black humor); cause, or causa (lawsuit); porter or portiere (custodian/superindendant); pile, or pile (batteries); filet, or filettatura (screw grooves); tubes, or tubi (pipes).

About the Author:

Christopher P. Winner is a veteran American journalist and essayist who was born in Paris in 1953 and has lived in Europe for more than 30 years.