If the aliens landed would you get in the spaceship? Would I?
I wonder if I might stop and think, and say “Oh, I’d love to come but I can’t come now because…” and then start with my excuses.
Because… I found this small red tap a couple of months ago on the floor next to my washing machine. And I thought to myself, “That’s odd, I fixed the taps to the leaky washing machine and replaced them months ago. So how come this spare red plastic tap has appeared? Is it the old one?” And both new taps had their plastic turny things, one red and one blue, so I moved this spare one to the kitchen so I could think about it later. As you do. And then I threw it away without solving the mystery. I think I did. I was tidying up for the person coming to value the property and… anyway it’s gone.
Would the aliens wonder if that was worth worrying about?
Would they wonder if I told them that a couple of weeks ago I checked the water pressure in the central heating boiler and it was a little low but still within tolerance levels at around one atmosphere pressure in the system but I thought I’d top it up with a little more water from the mains. So I went to turn the tap underneath it that I always turn. And there was no tap there. I looked and it was gone. Just pipework. I scratched my head and looked around and down at the washing machine underneath, but no tap.
Would the aliens think it strange I had thrown away that little red tap that allows me to add water to the central heating to stop the whole system blowing up? Would they scratch their glowing heads and communicate the telepathic thought that I should get a plumber? Even though the pressure in the central heating system is actually fine?
“I can’t get in the spaceship today,” I would have said earlier, “because I’ve still not solved the incipient central heating problem that I created and the flat could be reduced to a smouldering pile of rubble.”
“Are you insured?” they’d ask using a music chiming language.
“Not for stupidity,” I’d reply by strumming my guitar really badly.
“Then solve it!” they’d insist with a sound like bursting bagpipes.
And I would have to tell them about today when I tried a different little red turny thing that didn’t quite fit on the knobbly bit of the pipe and it would only turn partway. Then it got mangled. Then I tried a pair of pliers but they were too big and I couldn’t turn them because they hit the wall so I used some smaller pliers. Then I tried a plumber’s wrench because that seemed the ideal tool to use on water pipes and somehow I stabbed my finger with it and made it bleed. Then I realised I was merely removing the flat bits from the knobbly bit that fits in the tap bit and to no avail.
“Call the plumber!” the glowing alien faces would implacably and unmistakably communicate. Then they’d get straight back in the spaceship and take off to report no signs of intelligent life on Earth.
I wonder if I’d wave?
Some time later…
I go out and buy a set of spanners that fit on the various parts of the central heating system. I find one that fits where that red tap once lived. I turn it all the way. No water comes through. I turn it back to its original position and I re-examine the pipework under the boiler. And there, right there, is a small black tap exactly where there has always been a small black tap. I turn it and water flows into the system topping the pressure back up. I turn it off.
There was no little red tap on the boiler. It was black, always black. The red one came from somewhere else–one of two taps on the washing machine plumbing (under the boiler) that I replaced earlier in the year. The red tap’s existence on my boiler was a mirage, an illusion, a thing that never was. I think the aliens would have pointed that out…