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The door man.  (or  The parable of the talents.)



The front door lock failed.  I turned the knob to go out and it just spun around in my hand.
A few more turns and there was a feeling of something locating inside, the latchbolts withdrew and then the knob just spun.   Damn !!

I pulled it open and tried the key in the lock.  It was solid. 
If the door was closed, just to the click of the latch, I couldn’t open it again inside or out.  Damn !! Damn !!

I rang the number for repairs.  After 10 mins on “hold” I rang the number for emergency repairs.  Likewise, all their operators were busy and they would speak to me as soon as someone was available.
Being put on hold when you’re on a PAYG phone is half like waiting for a bus. 
You feel that the more time goes by the greater the chance of a bus showing up / yr call being answered. 
The unlike half is that waiting for a bus only costs you the weather, whereas on the phone money is dripping down the line to their recorded message.

Three and a half quid later we were talking.  I explained the details and gravity of the situation and the call handler said they’d send someone round straight away.


An hour later  (getting on for 5pm) there was a tapping on the ajar door and there stood a stocky, grey haired, beery scruff with a can of WD40 in his hand.
Usually I’d demand to see some ID from someone in this situation but his appearance ruled a request irrelevant.


I told him his can of WD 40 wasn’t going to do the trick.  That the lock had failed once before, at a time at the edge of living memory, and then they’d fitted a new lock.
He said they didn’t make these big, metal, security doors anymore so you can’t get the parts.  Even the country they got them from doesn’t exist anymore (Czechoslovakia).

“Usual failure is the bottom of the letterbox dropping into the inside of the door”.   
I told him that had already happened and that’s why the bottom of the letterbox is now a bit of hardboard.

“Oh what, your divorce papers have been lost in the bottom of the door since 1977 ??”
I told him he had an uncanny knack for historical accuracy in certain respects.

“Oh sorry, no offence meant.”
“None taken.” ( at least not by me though I expect still by the other party.) 

We discussed the security options and I expressed concern that my mate in a nearby block had “bulgarians” roaming through the building at all hours.
“Oh that’s nothing.  You should see what it’s like in the high rise.”  Said in a tone that implied it would be unwise to enquire further.


He asked if I had a rag and there was some near to hand.  I gave it to him and told him he could keep it when he was done.  It could come in handy.

And I went to make my dinner, leaving to the sound of a drowning man dousing the front of the door in WD 40.


He called me back and said he’d have to take the door apart.  Did I have a pair of pliers??
All this was through a cloud of effing and blinding, every curse followed by an apology.  
I felt much the same m’self.

I found him some pliers and left him to it.

Two hours later he called me again.  He demonstrated the door was fixed so’s it could be locked from the inside and out. 
The door was the skeleton of its former self.  Only the outside panel remained,  plus the lock and the bolts it operated.  All the other security bolts and mechanism had been removed.  A large pile of metal levers and rods, and the wooden inside panel, were stacked up to be taken away.

In more temperant mood he explained that he’d had to do some sawing on the metalwork and that the problem had been that a grub screw had dropped out of the lock mechanism.
“I found it in the bottom of the door” he said, “so I put it back in and it’s alright now.”

It seemed inappropriate to ask him, if he’d found the solution to the problem why didn’t he rebuild the door ??

I thanked him and said it must be long after his usual knocking off time.  He said not to worry, he’d sort it out with them at work.  He didn’t have far to go home, he lived in a block just across the way.


I asked him, if he had a mo, was he direct labour or a subcontractor ??  He said he was an employee.
Then he just opened up.
Said he took home 340 quid a week.  His rent was 200 quid.  He had a missus and a kid.

Said a lot of the people living in these flats were junkies.  He did work in their gaffs and saw how they lived,  lying around.  Saw them sitting in the park drinking.
Made him think about what was the point in working ??  It really did.

I can see his point.


His job, I’d rate as semi skilled.  He knows how to use a range of tools and what’s the appropriate tool. 
He has to have a practical outlook, which is something you learn, and be good at problem solving.  He also has to have experience.
I mean, it’s a proper job for a regular guy.

He’s got a family, lives in social housing, and at the end of the week has little more to spend than the “junkies” he sees.  And they are living on what the State considers the minimum necessary.


The gap between what the State considers the minimum necessary to live on and the wages of a wide range of “regular guys” has been narrowing since the late eighties.  The dislocations within the economy have been obvious to anyone on the ground.
The gap's been close since the turn of the century.

Now it’s too close to “what’s the point ??”.

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