Thursday, April 05, 2012
High Rise To Hell - Thursday
‘I’ve not been to this block.’ Says trainee F, as we cruise the meagre car park for a sought after visitor’s space.
‘You’ve not missed much.’ I tell F as I look at the temptingly empty disabled bay, then see a suspicious face at the lobby window and think better of it. Reversing out, I sense the watcher still following my movements. I know him and he isn’t the most welcoming, especially since the bean counter boss stopped me claiming for supplying bribery bottles at Christmas.
‘How old is this place?’ Asks F, as ten minutes later and parked in a resident only street, we head back towards the gloomy lump of pre-cast concrete. I glance up at the looming building, one where at least two elderly owners and a clumsy window cleaner have plunged into the undersized car park, then tell him about the mid-sixties heritage, the short lease and the expensive service charges. ‘Plus you have to pay for a cantankerous little live-in Hitler.’ I tell F as we get to the entrance door and see the Porter looking at us in distain.
‘You lot got an appointment?’ Asks the man with a uniform from the Army and Navy surplus store and a hat worthy of camp 1970s disco combo, The Village People.
‘Number 45.’ I tell the man, waving my clipboard in confirmation. He’d have opened the door for a resident and even pushed the lift button but he’s pissy because we no longer hand out festive whisky. Rumour has it several less scrupulous – or financially flusher – agents give him a backhander for every probate sale he funnels their way. The Porter is usually the first to know of a death in the block, they see the doctor, the undertaker or hear the dull thud on the car park tarmac.
‘You know those parking spaces are only for visitors don’t you?’ Presses the man ungraciously, waving at the two occupied slots I couldn’t use. ‘Not for tradesmen.’
I could engage him in a fractious conversation about just who is lower down the service industry ladder but I’m already running late, plus I’m not sure I’d win.
‘He was a bit of an arse.’ Comments F as we move round the corner and I press the call button on one of a bank of ancient lifts, warily.
‘Give someone a little power and it goes to their comedy-hatted head.’ I tell F distractedly. I’m still contemplating the chilly stairwell as the lifts here have a habit of breaking down. Apparently one of our competitors spent ninety minutes between floors with an incontinent pensioner before the engineer came out. It wasn’t pleasant – or entirely spillage free. The trouble is, we’re talking fourth floor and I don’t want to arrive flustered and wheezing, like an actual resident.
‘I don’t like lifts much.’ Confides F as the carriage sways upwards accompanied by ominous creaking sounds. You and me both pal, I think as we come to a halt with a judder and the doors part unevenly. I grab F’s arm and motion towards the indicator light. We’re only on floor 2. An elderly man, with one of those shopping trolleys on wheels, moves forward and asks. ‘Are you going down?’ Faster than you think sir.
He gets in anyway, for the company I guess, and we continue heavenwards. The awkward silence doesn’t last long as the old codger enquires brightly. ‘Undertakers or estate agents?’ I enlighten him and think perhaps I should really loose the old school fabric tape and go digital, but he presses on with some sales lead gold.
‘You should get in with Charlie on reception.’ Suggest the garrulous pensioner as we reach our floor. ‘He could tip you the wink when another one croaks.’ I make a non-committal answer as he adds perceptively. ‘He’s a bit of a chancer though. Probably want cash in hand.’
‘Not sure I could live in one of these blocks.’ Says F as we reach the door and I swiftly jot down the two flat numbers, with owners in hospital, our lift companion mentioned. ‘Mind you,’ F concludes as I ring the bell. ‘If the price is right.’
He’s getting the hang of it.