Friday, March 17, 2017

The Invisible Man - Friday

I’m early to the office again, so decide to pick up the post from the DX drop-off point. Document Exchange is a private postal system favoured by lawyers, accountants and a few quasi-professionals, like estate agents. Our collection point is round the back of a local solicitor firm’s rather gloomy offices. There’s a dank alleyway approach, where you sometimes find rough-sleepers and always hope it’s nobody you’ve evicted from their home.

As I near the venue, dodging the detritus of last night’s takeaway leftovers scattered across the road, the door is just closing. The drop-dead gorgeous receptionist from the law firm at the far end of town, is just leaving, arms full of bulky brown envelopes. I silently curse my luck, just being in the same confined space as her while we unlock our boxes, would have been a guilty pleasure.

‘Morning.’ I say breezily, flashing her my best smile - one designed to convey a friendly, non-threatening in a sexual way - bonhomie. She looks at me struggling for recognition. I tell her my firm’s name and who I am.
‘Oh, yes right.’ She answers flatly. ‘I didn’t recognise you.’

Great. I’ve turned into one of those middle-aged women who no longer turn heads in supermarkets and who would actually welcome a wolf-whistle from a building site, if they hadn’t been banned by the joy-stealers. The last time I was on a construction site the list of health, safety and welfare rules ran all down one side of the portacabin and the only pin-up was a boast about the zero accident rate tumbling from scaffolding.

‘No worries.’ I say to the fast departing girl, who looks as good from behind as the front elevation. It took me all this time to gain some confidence talking to the fairer sex and now all they see is an old bloke who might just be leching inappropriately….

I shrug and punch the four-digit code into the door entrance panel. Turning the handle and thrusting forward I nearly break my nose on the peeling door surface.
‘What the f••k?’ I bellow rhetorically, juggling the knob angrily. The door rattles but stays firmly locked.

‘They’ve changed the number.’ Says negotiator S, once I’ve rung her mobile phone.
‘Why didn’t they tell anyone?’ I ask grumpily. ‘ Did they send a f•••ing fax, or something?’
S laughs, knowing only too well some solicitors still communicate by the ancient shiny copy-paper system, then admonishes me for the expletive which will cost me another visit to the office swear box - and gives me the new number.

Inside the gloomy ante-room there are two walls covered in banks of square wooden boxes, each with a wider than average letterbox hole and a lockable door. I ignore the dank, slightly decomposing aroma, briefly wondering if another wino has pegged it behind the industrial-sized wheelie-bins outside, and open the company cubby-hole.

As I sort through the bulky manilla envelopes, keeping a keen eye out for any familiar franking marks that might be a lawyer’s firm I recognise, sending me a completion commission cheque, the door swings open again.

I look up to see another young woman, I don’t know come breezing in. She’s multi-tasking, by scanning her phone messages, frantically tapping some sort of response  - thumbs moving in a blur - and chewing gum. I can’t see any visible tattoos as she has a long-sleeve coat on, but if I was a betting man…

She might be another junior legal employee or even a negotiator for the latest bunch of cut-fee shitesters to open up in town. After all, in UK estate agency no experience or qualifications are required.

‘Morning.’ I offer, with the same smile that has failed once already.
She looks up startled - I swear she wasn’t even aware I was there until then - and gives me a scowl. I’m just passing pleasantries, I don’t want to shag you, I feel like bellowing, but spooling the scenario forward I can envisage a complaint, some sort of offenders’ record and a police caution, so I leave hurriedly.

I’m too old for this lark.


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