Chinese water torture

Chinese Water Torture

Water is leaking our of our skylight. It has been leaking for a few years now. I never realized how horrible incessant dripping can be. I do now.

Chinese water torture

Chinese water torture is a form of torture where you tie somebody up, then let cold water drip on their head. It is a form of torture. And, despite the name, it is not a Chinese invention. At least, we don’t know where it came from. The first person to have documented it is Hippolytus de Marsiliis, in the fifteenth century, and he was from Italy.

This method torture apparently works best if you randomize the dripping. That way, the recipient cannot anticipate the drops, and that helps to break them.

You’d think dripping water on somebody’s head wouldn’t be so bad. But, it really is.

Leaking skylight

Now, a leaking skylight is not Chinese water torture, of course. Unless you tie somebody up below the leak, but that kind of thing doesn’t happen in my home.

However, water is leaking into my living room when it rains and the wind is in a certain direction. And it has been doing that on and off for some five years now. I have to say: no it is not torture, but it is nerve wracking. A number of possible repairs have been attempted, from breaking open the wall to replacing part of the skylight. So far, it has only gotten worse, and now we’ve come to the point where the professionals are scratching themselves behind the ears in befuddlement.

So, as I write this (which is not the day it will be published) I’m listening to the sound of water dripping into the middles of the living room. It used to be slightly less bad, with only dark stains appearing on the ceiling. But that was bad enough. Whenever it rains, I’d find myself looking at the ceiling. Especially after the last round of repairs. Will a new stain appear? Will it start dripping? I’ve found myself anxiously staring at the ceiling at the first drops of rain, or going downstairs to check at night because I was woken by rain. After five years… It gets to you.

The bigger picture

Now, of course, my skylight isn’t your problem. You might be able to relate, or even feel sorry for me. Thanks for that. Or you don’t give a hoot, that’s fair. Maybe you even think it’s karma for perceived slights — I get the occasional hate mail, and yes, you are a a*hole for wishing me ill.

However, zooming out, I have a better understanding of people in situations like this. Because that feeling of being powerless is not unique to me or leaking roofs. And I’m lucky, I have money to make repairs. What if you have no money, or the damage is much worse. We have an ongoing crisis in the Netherlands because of earthquakes caused by gas mining in Groningen. Those people have been having problems for some fifteen years or more. I’d be jumping at every noise, fearing it would be the next earthquake. And what’s worse, the government has been actively frustrating compensation and financial support for these people.

What if you live in the US and have to fear for your job all the time because there are no laws to protect the higher-ups from kicking you out on a whim? What if you live there and can’t afford health insurance? Every cold and ache is scary, because it could be the prelude to your bankruptcy.

And worse still, imagine if you live in Kyiv, fearing bomb raids every time you go to sleep? Or if you’re a transgender person in the UK seeing the government slowly bending its laws to make your very existence illegal, cheered on by one of the richest writers in the world and her ilk.

Powerless and erratic

And that’s of course the core of the Chinese water torture: the victim is powerless and is continually awaiting an irregular annoyance coming their way.

So, while the experience with my skylight has been hard on my nerves, and my wallet, it has given me more appreciation for just how horrible other people have it.

Think about that. That idea of a relentless, erratic attack on your peace and person.

And maybe you can find some extra understanding yourself. Now, I’m going to end this post and go to a different room to be away from this incessant dripping.

Martin Stellinga Written by:

I'm a science fiction and fantasy author/blogger from the Netherlands