Friday, October 01, 2004

Fan fall-oing

Art Spiegelman’s recently published graphic art compendium In the Shadow of No Towers has as its central theme a paranoia of things suddenly collapsing; of the fragility of objects that one has always taken for granted. Spiegelman’s own illustrations on the subject are about his inability to come to terms with the collapse of the twin towers on 9/11, but he also includes eight plates of newspaper comics dating from the early years of the 20th century -- one of which, from the whimsical "Bringing Up Father" strip, has the porcine-faced protagonist unable to sleep during a vacation in Genoa because he is afraid the leaning tower of Pisa will fall on him.

My own paranoia of the moment is more mundane and has much less to do with world events and structures. It has to do with the ceiling fan in my room.

After long years of use, do ceiling fans ever lose their moorings and collapse whilst in operation, thereby decapitating/otherwise maiming unsuspecting sleepers? I ask only because in recent days mine has been creaking more than one might consider reasonable. I sometimes get so freaked out at night that I switch the thing off -- which causes great personal discomfort, the weather being as it is.

I’ve lived under this fan since I was 10 and I wouldn’t want it suddenly killing me. Actually, I wouldn’t want to be suddenly killed by anything. It’s getting so I wish I had paid greater attention during my physics classes in school, for increasingly my thoughts turn towards the mechanism of the ceiling fan -- how the things operate, how firmly they are attached to whatever it is they are attached to, what is the exact meaning and purpose of those clustered wires one sees in the hole in the roof? Things that were once quotidian now seem sinister. Can one ever really trust a ceiling fan?

If anyone knows the physics of these things, or knows anything about ceiling fan tragedies of the sort I have hinted at here, please write in. Otherwise I won’t get any sleep and will spend all my time posting blogs like this one.

"You gotta call me man, I’ll be the biggest fan you’ll ever lose."
-- Eminem (from "Stan")

"The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"
- Chicken Licken


  1. We had a fan in Africa once.
    (Actually, it was in a humble suburb of New Delhi, but this just sounded like a better opening sentence.)
    It was the only working fan in the house, by which I mean the only one that didn't make alarming creaking noises and then go into long sulks when we attempted to get it to work. And it was in the kitchen, which was a smallish room that some insane architect had ensured was very far away from the rest of the first floor flat. So we got used to entertaining friends in the kitchen, but never more than six at a time after one friend's husband threatened to sue us for nonconsensual adultery.
    Anyway, one afternoon there was the kind of noise comic book writers less gifted than Spiegelman describe as "Sppprrrroooing", and the fan creaked, gurgled and lurched downwards. "Oh look," said one of the (six) people who had been inside and who were all now rapidly heading outside. "It's still sort of attached to the ceiling, by those two wires."
    That's when the ceiling caved in. No doubt you'll be relieved to know, though, that the fan stayed connected all through, attached to a chunk of concrete by two wires.

  2. I came across this discussion after googling "ceiling fan hurt!" At work we have a ceiling fan that is creaking and wobbling which prompted the search. At least we know that there are others who share similar paranoias!