One morning I was at work, delivering letters and the like down Hindmans Road in East Dulwich. It was approaching noon and I still had a good hour and a half of work ahead of me. My cellphone rang and I guessed it would be Marian, my girlfriend at the time who, enjoying only sporadic employment, rarely rose from bed before 11:30AM. It was common for her to call me at work and ask favours, usually could I pick up something on the way home and if so how long would I be?
I was correct. It was indeed Marian. How long would it be before I was home, she asked.
'Hours,' I told her truthfully.
'I need you to come home right now,' she said.
The request was not so bizarre as it may seem given that Hindmans Road was a mere five minutes walk from Marian's house, in which I was living as a lodger. She explained that she was unable to open a tin of tuna for Pringle, one of her three cats. Pringle was not allowed to eat cat food for reasons I never fully understood, and so lived on a diet of tuna, and sometimes rice - however the fuck that works.
'You can't open a tin of tuna,' I repeated. 'You want me to come home to open a tin of tuna for you?'
'Yes. That's what I said.'
'What's wrong with the tin?'
'I can't get it open.'
'So you want me to stop work and come home and open a tin of tuna for you?'
'Yes,' she confirmed testily, like I was some slow learner who had failed to grasp a very simple point. 'Pringle is really hungry and he's meowing,' she added for emphasis, letting me know that I now had an important decision to make, and I had better make it fast otherwise my selfishness (etc. etc.) was soon to cause the universe to explode. I decided it wasn't worth arguing. I locked up my delivery trolley, walked home, opened the can of tuna like any ordinary functioning human being would have done, smiled and said nothing when asked what the hell my problem was? Usually in these situations Marian would wheel out oh - so now I'm not allowed to ask you to help me out!, thus pre-empting any eyebrow I might dare to raise in respect to a fucked-up situation.
I still don't know whether Marian was so genuinely physically weak as to have been unable to open the tin of doom - given that she once had me carry a sandwich for her on the grounds of it being 'too heavy', this is possible - or whether this was just one more weird control exercise, one more sledgehammer effort at compensating for being four foot something tall and having a lousy personality. I don't know, and I no longer care, and it feels good.