‘God he really depresses me.’ Contributes negotiator S with a shake of her head. ‘How do you get to be that miserable?’
How long have you got? I think, as I spot the middle-aged guy trying to cross the road without being taken out by a bus. At least I think that’s what he’s attempting to do. Judging by his demeanour he might just be calculating how to toss himself under the No.3’s wheels for maximum effect, minimum pain. I decide to wait and watch.
There but for the grace of God go I, I think morosely, as he finally leaves the pavement and darts across the road with surprising alacrity. I so nearly fell for the Home Information Pack hype, despite all my experience and the inner voice saying it would end in tears. But if I trained as a Home Inspector, the internal argument went, I could get away from the public, do something with a little more kudos, raise my standing in the community. Sap.
Of course history tells us homeowners wanted Information Packs and the associated costs about as much as they wanted subsidence. And buyers treated the cumbersome paperwork with suspicion, or at best indifference. Now we are left with Energy Performance Certificates which only eco-freaks and cavity wall insulation salesman take any notice of. And this guy spends his life doing them.
‘Keys for number 27?’ Asks EPC man with no attempt at pleasantries when he comes through the door, slight smell of diesel fumes in his wake. We all look at him blankly. I wrack my brains for a road name, or flat block, to match the number but I come up blank. Then I look at lettings lush B’s equally empty desk and make the connection.
‘Is it a rental property?’ I ask nodding towards where the tipsy trollop should be sitting if she wasn’t in another stranger’s bed. Distractingly I wonder if the gloomy EPC man might have more fun issuing performance certificates for B’s efforts to help mankind. Probably not - wrong type of global warming.
‘How’s it going?’ I ask reluctantly, as S moves to find the keys. It’s an enquiry more out of latent politeness than interest but he takes it as an invitation to unburden. I should register as a charity.
‘I thought this would be a proper career,’ he grumbles face drawn and disillusioned. ‘Considered it a step up from home sales.’ Should have spoken to a proper surveyor before you signed up for the home study material, I think callously, being wise after the event a key skill-set of mine - at least once I realised a skill-set wasn’t an all-in-one tool kit from B & Q.
‘Now,’ continues the one-man weather front. ‘I just spend my time checking cavities.’ The opportunities for a witty comeback are endless, but instead I hand him the keys and ask him to sign the register. It’s a while since he’s done sales so he doesn’t recognise the brush-off signals. ‘We should have sued the government for conning us into taking the exams.’ He dribbles on pointlessly, as I resist the very real urge to conspicuously look at my watch.
‘Do you know how many of these I need to do to make a halfway decent living?’ He questions angrily, waving the Performance Certificate paperwork at me as if I was the latest Housing Minister to fail to get a grip of their portfolio before they’ve mastered their expenses.
Fortunately it’s a rhetorical question and I can pass it off with a non-committal nod.
‘I’ll tell her you were in.’ I say by way of an exit strategy, nodding towards B’s still vacant desk. She seems to have more need of his services than I do most weeks, the letting market being reasonably buoyant, even with a dipso nympho stretching the interpretation of “fully managed” to dictionary-challenging lengths.
‘He makes you look chipper.’ Chuckles T as the A-G rating man goes to guesstimate energy use, carbon dioxide emissions, light, heat and hot water costs, on an ex-local authority shoebox.
I take it as a compliment.