Thursday


The safety valve


Saleh Al Shaibany

I was waiting near a construction site looking at builders going about their business. The noise of the machine they were operating was deafening. I wished the racket would stop and I was not the only one. 

Barely a minute later, the huge cement mixer coughed up, spluttered and just stopped working.  
The relief was immense. One shopkeeper raised his hands to the heavens and probably his prayers were answered. The workers stopped and their boss hurriedly went over to enquire. I watched him frown as he was taking a closer look. Then he threw up his arms and said to his subordinates, "it is the safety valve. It is not working and nobody checked it."

Safety valves, in my former engineering experience, if unchecked, do untold damages to machines. When the heat builds up, the valve releases the steam or just shuts off the equipment to protect it. I wondered who was going to pay for it for the maintenance negligence among the builders. An hour later, I was resting on a seaside embankment when another terrible noise made me look up. Two cars collided and we all rushed to the scene. God exercised his mercy there and spared both drivers from harm.

Instead of thanking, they got on each other's throats and began to fight. Like good Samaritans, we parted them and they soon accepted what happened and let the police do their job. They opened up their "safety valve" to let out their frustrations. When the steam was gone, they felt better. Not all of us know how to operate the valve. Unlike in big machines, human valves are not physical. They are part of our thoughts controlling jittery nerves. How many times do we see people reacting violently when unprovoked? Usually the reaction is unconnected and the person on the receiving end is just on the path.

One evening, my wife commented about a man who smiled like a lunatic while standing alone near a door of a busy shop. He was bothering no one and unlike violent men lashing out at innocent victims, he let out the steam gently. Who cares what people thought of him? He would go home happy and wake up the following morning fresher than ever. As long as it harms no one, you could crack jokes, do good or exercise to let the demons out of your system. 

A couple of my cousins have the habit of talking non-stop not really caring who is listening. Different people have different ways of taming their inner turmoil. You just have to find yours. Fear of being misunderstood contributes to the bottling up of emotions.  Like the cement mixing machine, the body organs just pack up and the rest of the system gives up. No wonder more than half of the population of the world suffers from irreversible illnesses before the age of 40.

After a long day from work, many people these days don't want to talk about it. Instead, they become easily irritable and make everyone miserable in the family. The problem is that children pick up these habits and they grow up never learning to express their frustrations in a peaceful way. 

The use of the safety valves in children has to be nurtured and the best way to learn this is at home. In my observation, it is usually men who are mostly inclined to be affected. In our world, men do not "crumble'" in front of their wives to update them about their private difficulties. They battle on leaving their women to figure out. Remember, only you know where your safety valve is located in your system.

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