Thursday, December 05, 2013

Loan To Value - Thursday

‘Long time no see.’ Calls a familiar voice, as I battle through the lunchtime workers, clutching my low-calorie meal deal. I can walk on and feign deafness, or turn and manufacture delight at the recognition. Neither is a great option. I’ve only just agonised over another thankless decision - albeit a culinary one - that left me feeling empty, and that’s before I tear open the joyless packet of reduced-fat chicken/no mayo sandwich. I’ll be starving again by mid-afternoon. I stop and wait. The Boots bag with my lunch inside feels like my head, almost lighter than air. Either one could float off at any moment.

‘Thought it was you.’ Continues the disembodied voice, as I stare at the oncoming tide of barely-washed humanity with the distaste my flavour-free lunch is going to provide, once I shake off whoever wants to talk to me. Then I spot the rolling gait and the florid face. It’s the hobbling banker. I thought they’d operated on his hip, so either the other one is failing, or he’s been uncomfortably shafted recently. It would make a pleasant reversal of roles. He stops and flashes the sort of insincere grin I trained myself out of – after several days in front of the shaving mirror – soon after I started in sales. It’s a wonder he shifted so many worthless Payment Protection Policies with a smile like that – but then the public can be pretty gullible. Fortunately.

‘You got a couple of minutes?’ He asks, nodding towards a bench just vacated by a pair of whiskery, equally unsteady, Tennent’s Super lager drinkers. I look conspicuously at my watch, something you should never do in a sales pitch, but then I don’t want to share my brief re-fuelling stop with a charisma-free moneylender, and anyway I’ve a feeling he’s the one pushing product. I nod and we hurry, as fast as two middle-aged men with medical history can manage, towards the seat. I may not be that agile any longer and the back condition can only worsen, but I still ensure hop-along banker-boy gets the bench-end spattered with dried pigeon shit. I search for the small victories.

‘How’s it going?’ Ask the man, perching uncomfortably on the only exposed bit of timber that isn’t mottled white and black with droppings. The culprits are just rats with wings as far as I’m concerned, and the ancient woman who feeds them is the same mad old bird who comes in to the office every few months looking for a bungalow she and her husband can afford. She’s on benefits and he’s dead, so not a lot I can do. If I’m feeling mischievous I occasionally refer her to S, our lettings lush.

‘Not bad.’ I answer neutrally. Never give away your position lightly. I wait, silence being a strong weapon. Frankly, unless he’s got some corporate freebie tickets to handout for a major sporting event, I’d actually rather eat the, seemingly helium-filled, bag of not-really-crisps but so much better for you baked nibbles, which came with the meal deal.

‘Did I tell you I have a new boss?’ Says the man mournfully.
‘Yes.’ I say abruptly, thinking The Samaritans’ phone number is in the last un-vandalised phone box in town. Just go there instead, pal.
‘And that she’s a f***ing woman?’  He continues, with unreconstructed venom. I suppress an unhelpful giggle as the wannabe writer in me thinks, the punctuation in that last sentence changes everything. I nod, not daring to risk anything more for fear of a laugh escaping.

‘She’s on my back every day.’ He says with anguish, as I try to picture that position without clutching my hand to my mouth. And to think I was feeling down earlier. This is fantastic. Go on ask me for some referral business.
‘I tell you, I need to jump through hoops to satisfy her.’ Informs my entertainment for the day. I might have to feign a sneeze in a moment. I’m almost ready to weep with mirth.

‘You seem happier.’ Says S, my negotiator, ten minutes later.

You can bank on it.


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