Welcome to my world of The Unexplained – yes, you're welcome to it
Pleading guilty to assault on battery
Something for the Weekend, Sir? I'm getting funny dreams again. Either that or I have stepped into one of Arthur C Clarke's episodes of Mysterious World of The Unexplained albeit without the Sri Lankan foliage and Eric Morecambe glasses.
Inexplicable things have been occurring around me this week. In other circumstances, this might be fun. With the grim Northern European winter setting, I could pretend to be drifting through one of those Nordic Noir supernatural-cum-crime thrillers that Mrs Dabbsy has been boxset bingeing recently.
However, encountering the unexplained provides little entertainment value when you're being paid for one's training skills. What am I supposed to tell an attentive delegate seeking an explanation for the daft thing that their software appears to be doing? That I know what it means but I can't explain?
The week began with a death and spontaneous resurrection.
I jumped in the car, turned the key, heard two slow chugs followed by... nothing. For no apparent reason and without warning, the car battery had committed suicide. Damn it, we pamper this bloody vehicle with regular servicing and checks, so what was it playing at?
I tried again and again but there was no life in that startup battery, not even one chug. It had ceased to be. It was an ex-battery. So I walked to the supermarket.
A couple of hours later, laden with shopping bags and heading through the snow back to the house, I persuaded myself I must have dreamt the whole thing. Dumping the bags in the hall, I popped back to the car in the driveway and tried the starter.
The car came to life instantly, as usual. This cannot be explained, which proved to be the theme of the rest of the week.
Mischievous magical forces quickly began interfering with my trainees' computers from Monday onwards, provoking more application freezes, system crashes and BSoDs during the first morning than I would normally expect in an average month.
They have also been making my lovely trainees do crazy things against their will. Lots of them seem to be clicking their mice like frantic Morse Code during a Stuka bombardment, and flicking interface components all over the place with all the random glee of a toddler in an Ikea ball-pond.
It's very frustrating. I feel like Eddie trying to teach Richie the fundamentals of chess.
I engage all the tricks I acquired from my extensive professional experience and well-thumbed copy of Training For Dummies. I try speaking softly and reassuringly but, in a room of women delegates, I sound borderline creepy with more than a hint of an attitude of the worst kind of patronising mansplainer.
Talking of mansplaining, the vehicle rescue engineer I called in to look at my car is having a go at this very moment. My happily resurrected car has suddenly and inexplicably dropped dead for a second time and I need help.
He tries the usual teeth-sucking "How long have you owned this car, sir?" while shaking his head, looking at the revealed battery under the driver's seat. I bought it new, I tell him. Yes, 19 years ago, what of it?
"The battery is too small for this car," he bullshits. That's funny, it has been just fine until this week. And then I remember there may be unexplained forces at work. Perhaps the battery is just "too small" this week. For seven days only, it has interdimensionally shrunk in relation to the car.
"Look, if I do this," he says forcefully rocking the battery back and forth on its mounting, "it moves." Stop doing that, then, and it won't. What an odd man. Do I have to explain everything?
Anyway, I digress. Back to my difficult training session. Giving up on the soft voice, I try changing pitch, only to hear Mickey Mouse talking from my larynx. I try to slow things down by speaking slowly and drawing out my vowels but just end up sounding like John Paul II after nine pints. The training's not going well and I can't explain why.
One delegate is having particularly challenging problems with the software. She calls me over because she has lost her way in the application. Leaving someone behind is the worst thing you can do in a training session – well, apart from mass slaughter of the participants I suppose (and I admit to having come close to this on occasion) – so I am mortified.
I set an exercise to the rest of the class and walk over to help. It's at this point that I discover she has been stacking floating interface panels in front of each other so they mutually obscured. Funny, I remember specifically explaining how not to do such a thing but she has inexplicably taken it as an instruction to do precisely this.
She can't find her open documents. That's because she has moved each of their windows so they are almost completely off the screen, apparently in a bid to locate the aforementioned interface panels. I help her guide them back and close the 27 other empty documents she has been creating for no clear reason throughout the morning's session.
Surely there's a solution. I'm good at finding those. Like when Mrs Dabbsy took last weekend off the Nordic Noirs to watch a couple of art-house films rented from our local lending library: Blue and The Naked Island.
Neither had any sex in it, despite their titles, but there you go. The first comprises 80 minutes of an unchanging blue screen while an actor recites Derek Jarman's prelude to death; the second is a visually arresting Japanese drama without dialogue. Solution mode kicks into gear and I determine that we can save time by watching one movie while simultaneously listening to the other. This would then free up enough time in the same evening to watch another couple of episodes of Haerïbutøks.
Sorry, yes, back to my training session again.
I gently ask my trainee to click on a menu. In response, she clicks her mouse frantically 279 times on random things all over the place before grabbing the title bar of her one remaining document window and dragging it four fifths of the way down her screen. Only then does she click on the menu I suggested.
Now she can't edit her document because most of it is no longer visible. Indeed, the bulk of it, in virtual terms at least, is hovering several inches below the surface of her desk.
I ask her why she did this. She tells me she doesn't know. It can't be explained. I nod, helplessly but sagely, understanding that nothing can be done about it, not this week.
Car recovery man is still complaining about my battery until I admit that I bought it cheap from a motoring supplies store and fitted it myself. Five years ago. Without a single problem until this week.
Ah, that'll be it, I realise. Everything this week is doomed to be sucked into the void of The Unexplained.
So I give in to the unseen forces and ask the man to fit one of the expensive new brand-name batteries that he stocks in his van. "This one is guaranteed for five years!" he gleefully assures me, perking up. Oh whoopy-do. This means it'll be precisely as reliable as the cheap one he's replacing.
It makes no sense. Dizzy in the head, and I'm feeling blue. The things he said, well, maybe they're true.
I can't explain.