Photo: An old Polish matchbox cover (from the Polish People's Republic)

The installation would be easy and quickly done – a trifle, really. This is what the man had told me. The one who had sold me the appliance – the thing that I had always been missing, and posessing which would free me from any want or trouble whatsoever. Just two little screws into a wall of my choice and a quick pro-forma check by the authorities, and I’d be set.

These were his words. The man’s words, I mean. He wore a dark grey suit, had a thin moustache (the type you always tend to take for a line of black shoe polish), and he looked through a pair of perfectly round glasses. I reckoned he was to be trusted. How could he not be?

It’s been five weeks now that I signed the order form, four weeks and four days since they came to install the thing. Two alert and adroit mechanics in petrol blue boiler suits appeared, each of them carrying a neat leather bag from which they took a surprising variety of tools (not few among them whose purpose I could not even remotely guess). Those tools were clean and gleaming and looked like taken from the workbench of a clocksmith or doll doctor. I was fascinated and could already nearly feel the salutary effect upon my comfort and general well-being that the appliance, once installed, would provide.

The two gentlemen set about working forthwith while I for my part went to water the flowers on the balcony after having told them to call me when the apparatus was attached and ready.

Oh, unsuspecting me …

My venerated readers will already have guessed that trouble lay ahead, and right they are – for: the two mechanics are still here. Four weeks and four days gone, and here they still are. And not only them, but also a motley crowd of more than twenty other people whose number is still growing.

A team of three bawdy workers (of no recognizable trade) who arrived on Monday have pitched a tent in my parlour and started to remove the parquet and the screed. When I politely asked them for their commission and objective they kicked me and threw pieces of parquet at me. At that time, I already knew that it was no use turning to the eight emissaries from the municipal authorities for help. They have been busy noting down things right from the moment they arrived (which happened in pairs over a period of four days). What exactly it was that they were interested in and how it related to the wonderful appliance I had bought, was a mystery to me. They counted, they gauged, they took samples, they shook their heads ponderously. They stamped my furniture, the pages in some of my books, the apples on the kitchen table, the framed print of Gauguin adorning the dining room wall, and they stamped, too, every single leaf of toilet paper that could be found in my bathroom. But at least they were rather polite (as long as I did not interfere with their bustling activity).

Maybe the moment when everything went off course was right in the beginning, when one of the two gentlemen sent to install the appliance died. I did not witness what happened. I was sitting in the kitchen, reading the newspaper and having a tea, when I heard a short shriek. I rushed into the dining room (where we had agreed the appliance would best be attached) and found the man lying on the floor. His colleague, though, was busy drilling and did not mind the lifeless body next to him. He kept drilling and drilling and drilling. He’s kept drilling up to today – for four weeks and four days, just the one single hole. I came to the conclusion that his colleague must have been responsible for the second hole and that his untimely demise somehow confounded the whole procedure which I had been promised would be just a matter of seconds.

It dawned upon me that the supposed trifle was just about to grow into a rather protracted affair. But patience, thank God, I had a good stock of, and so I called the company (the one that had sold me the appliance) to inform them about the unfortunate state of things and request support.

Only two hours later, the doorbell rang and a very tall and stout lady rushed by me right into the parlour. In her wake was a miniscule gentleman with a bowler hat whose countenance was that of an artistic genius of supreme sophistication who, by sheer economic necessity, was forced to give lessons to the grossly untalented offspring of rich parents. He apologised for the lady’s stormy entering and introduced her as an opera diva whom the company had sent to cheer me up and help me while away the time. And indeed, the very next second the lady began to sing some aria and did so with an ear-splitting loudness and in a hair-raising pitch.

My next visitors, quite consequentially, were the police, called by an incensed neighbour.

Once again, I took the phone and called the company (the one selling … – well, you know). This time, however, the person who picked up at the other end informed me, affecting a screeching falsetto and a ludicrous pseudo-Chinese accent, that I »must have dialled a long numbel«.

The police, in the meantime, had come to fisticuffs with the opera diva and it did not look too well for the powers that be. The sturdy lady gave them quite a sound thrashing. Which again was a fresh cause of chagrin to my neighbour (for the officers’ howling and wailing could be heard all over the block).

Thus another force of constables could soon be heard stampeding up the staircase and seen rushing into my dwelling; and besides them, two journalists and, lo and behold, a notary of the company (selling the … yes).

The notary, though, very quickly realised that the situation was beyond his powers and so he turned to headquarters and called for reinforcements. And reinforcements they sent: the press officer, a translator, the porter, another notary, the janitor, two office boys, and a bunch of other functionaries began dropping in. But, naturally, instead of clearing up the whole affair, they added to the turmoil. (The surviving mechanic, by the way, kept drilling and drilling the one single hole without the tiniest intermission.)

The company now resorted to playing their last trump card: they sent the chairman of the executive board himself.

I think it was a Thursday morning when he arrived. And he did not take the matter lightly. Far from it, he was in a deplorable state, utterly inconsolable and all in tears. He shook my hand softly and tried to stammer an apology but no sooner had he crossed my doorstep than a nervous breakdown struck him. I put him onto the sofa where he’s since been lying in a twilight of mind and, alternately, is either shaken by heavy sobs with tears running down his rosy fat cheeks or ejecting grim curses against life and humankind and fate. His deputy came for succour the same evening and some days later his chief secretary arrived as well – both instantly joining him in his fits of crying and ranting. A peculiar trio they are. I see to it that they do not run out of tissues and otherwise leave them alone.

My dwelling has become a busy place and I have long given up trying to figure what the motives of the people populating it might be. The hum of voices never ceases, the staccato of steps never ends; and always there’s the buzz of a certain untiring drilling machine.

The wondrous appliance, meanwhile, has been lying on the sideboard in the kitchen untouched and unnoticed. The marvels it could do are printed on its packaging. As is the little notice saying that it could be fixed to the wall (with only two screws) – or simply placed on a shelf or another flat surface of one’s choice.