Bottling or battling?

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Maybe I pressed the wrong button. Or maybe a mean monster was playing tricks on me. But suddenly the woman in my cellphone spoke. If you are an Apple user, that would be Siri, who has a less infuriating voice. My cellphone is not a fruit, though. The voice that speaks drives me up the wall.

The screen told me in very small letters — that I have to wear my glasses to read — that to turn her off or shut her up all I have to do is put two fingers on the screen and keep them there for three seconds. I had done that twice before and both times it worked. So I tried it again once, twice, 10 times, moving from the count of three to 30. She still spoke.

“Go to hell,” I said. She spoke more. “I’m sorry,” I said. “Go to heaven.” She gave me the precise time of day and the temperature outside, which I did not want to know. Outside it was raining hard. When I was younger it was called “bed weather” and we working girls looked out of our office windows with longing. It will never be 16 degrees, which is what she says to me and which I do not believe.

Usually before I go to sleep I charge my cellphone. I plug in the converter and then turn off the phone because I don’t like to hear any ringing at night. Also I changed my ring tone. Once it was me singing You Go to My Head until that drove me to insanity. I changed it to the chirping of a canary but I put the volume on too loud. I tried to lower the volume but, like that woman, it would not respond. I should have left my cellphone in the living room but I was too lazy. So I decided to not charge it so it would run out of energy and, when I turned it on again, it would tell me that that woman was gone. So I put it on a chair and covered it with pillows.

But first thing in the morning I heard her again telling me the time. I tried and failed to shut her up again. I knew I had to go and have her fixed. I rushed back to the store where I bought my phone and they shut her up in less than five minutes. “That’s Talk Back, ma’am,” the fixer said. “It’s there for blind users.” “I know,” I said, “but I’m not blind. Can’t we get rid of her forever?”

“No, ma’am,” he said. “Just go to Settings, then look for Talk Back and shut it off.”

I sighed.

So now she is finally quiet. Intellectually, I am grateful, but my heart, from which I write, is still in a bad mood. I do what I do to calm down. I call it “bottling,” though this time it should probably be “battling.” I will get hold of that woman and sew up her lips so she can’t ever talk to me again. Bottling means I take my big bottle of shampoo that used to be full, but now has just a little left, but still good for a few more shampoos, and mix it into a smaller bottle. I take another with leftover shampoo for dry hair and mix it up with my leftover gugo shampoo. I mix my oil concoction in the glass pig bottle I have had for years. I pour the baby oil into a glass bottle and my astringent into another glass bottle. I now have an assortment of smaller bottles that are quite full.

Why do I do this? Once upon a time around 32 years ago I lived in Pasay. Every time we passed Vito Cruz I saw a vagrant man whom I suspect lived on the sidewalk. He was always surrounded by bottles of shampoo, hand and body lotion. They were often upside down. I thought: he inverts them to clean out every single drop left over in the bottles. He touched my heart.

Since then, I always peep into my shampoo and lotion bottles that are opaque, trying to see how much more content they have. If they are running low, I use a funnel and transfer it to a smaller bottle, but I make sure there is something left inside so, just in case they’re found by the children or adults who sort out the trash, they will find something that they can use. Not too much, because then they would wonder why someone would throw away so much, but just a bit that would make their day.

I don’t know why or from where I picked up that habit, but it pacifies me when I am upset — like when I want to throttle a recorded voice.

It’s a good thing to do during the quarantine.

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