During the thirty years I’ve worked as an office cleaner various mishaps have befallen me on odd occasions, fortunately none of them too serious and most of them quite amusing when thinking about them afterwards, and one such incident happened to me last Saturday. While on an errand in town I decided to do my Monday morning’s cleaning while I was there as the offices are close to the town centre, so following my usual procedure I parked at the back of the building then because the gate has a padlock which is difficult to deal with I walked round and let myself in by the front door.
With all the cleaning eventually done my last task was to mop the kitchen floor, pour the mop water down the front steps – with a bit of bleach in the water it helps to keep the steps clean – then return the bucket to the kitchen. Except on Saturday things didn’t quite work out like that. Normally the inner front door sticks and never closes properly but as I poured the mop water down the steps a huge gust of wind blew in and slammed it shut behind me – and not only was it closed but it was also very firmly locked.
So there I was, stuck in the 4ft square front porch with my jacket, bag, office keys, van key, money and home door key all on the other side of the locked door, and unable to go outside as it was pouring with very heavy rain. At least I had my phone in my trouser pocket so I turned the bucket upside down and used it as a seat while I pondered how to get myself out of the situation I was now in. With no windows open anywhere I couldn’t go out and climb back in somewhere, there was no point phoning the boss as he was on holiday abroad somewhere and I didn’t have anyone else’s number, neither could I ring Michael and ask him to bring me the spare van key from home as he was at work. Just on the off-chance though I phoned Richard, the painter and decorator who had been painting the offices last summer and was a good friend of the boss, to see if he still had the door keys – he hadn’t, but he did have the number of the boss’s son so he phoned him and told him of my predicament then phoned me back to tell me the guy was on his way to unlock the inner door for me.
It was about half an hour later when the boss’s son arrived, he knew I would be behind the front door but I don’t think he expected to see me sitting on an upturned mop bucket! He couldn’t stay as he had his child in the car so he just unlocked the inner door for me, and once I was back inside properly it only took a few minutes to gather my belongings together, set the alarm and lock the front door as I left the building. Thinking back on the experience it’s a good thing I had my phone with me and could contact someone, otherwise I would have been sitting on that upturned mop bucket until the rain stopped, and that could have been quite a long while!
Some of you may remember that when I wrote about my Ireland trip in early December I mentioned that I’d left my van with my friendly neighbourhood mechanic to sort out a bit of a problem with it while I was away, but unfortunately it hadn’t been done before I got back and I couldn’t leave the van with him any longer as I needed it for work and a 4-week pet sitting engagement, also he was going away himself for a month. The problem was an intermittent squealing noise coming from somewhere at the front of the van, and though initially it wasn’t too troublesome it was a noise which has gradually got worse since early this month.
On the Wednesday two weeks ago, as I was coming home from work early that morning, something under the bonnet ‘went’ and a banging noise developed – instinctively I knew there was something seriously wrong but luckily I was only three streets away from home so I put the hazard lights on, slowed right down and managed to get back, calling out the AA once I was home. The guy said that two of the three front belts had snapped, with one having wrapped itself round something it shouldn’t be wrapped round ; it was a problem which couldn’t be fixed at the roadside but he knew where the mechanic’s workshop was when I mentioned it – fortunately not too far away – so he said if I took it easy I could drive the van down there and he would follow behind me to make sure I was okay. So that’s what I did, and resigned myself to walking to and from my various jobs while the van was out of action.
By the Saturday I hadn’t had any news on the van so I went down to the workshop to check, only to be told that they couldn’t get the right belts for it – they’d had belts from four different local car accessory places but none had been the right size. The ‘problem’ is that the van is a Japanese import and though it’s based on a common Toyota body and chassis it’s a luxury version with an odd name and not many people in the car trade know what it is – even many insurance companies have never heard of it! Back at home I rang a Toyota breakers in the next town, only to be told “ring back on Monday” which I did, and was then told that they don’t sell belts, however the guy I spoke to was quite helpful and gave me some good information on how to get the correct ones.
So on Tuesday last week I went to the Toyota main dealer’s with the information I needed and the very helpful guy in there looked it up on the computer and ordered the belts I needed – luckily the Toyota place is only round the corner from my evening job so I collected the new belts on my way to work the following evening then dropped them off at the mechanic’s on Thursday morning. Late last Friday afternoon I got a text to say the van had been done and finally, after ten days of it being off the road, I collected it on Saturday – the mechanic’s mate who had done the work was rather derisive when I said how much the belts had cost, saying he could get them for only £8 each, but then the generic ones he’d got didn’t fit anyway whereas the genuine Toyota ones I got did, so I don’t mind paying a bit more for something that’s right.
It seemed however that the broken belts hadn’t been the only problem – the one that had been making the banging noise when it snapped had actually gouged a hole in the power steering pipe and while the van was at the workshop it had been leaking power steering fluid all over the place. The pipe had been fixed though and the power steering fluid topped up, and though I’ve only driven the van four short distances since Saturday everything seems to be okay with it, and at least the squealing noise has stopped.
Work-wise my main problem has been that two of the places where I work aren’t on direct bus routes so I’ve had to do a heck of a lot more walking than I usually do. Here’s an example – Tuesday morning : home to work 2.5 miles, work to Toyota dealer’s 3 miles, Toyota to town 1 mile, (town to home on the bus) total 6.5 miles. Tuesday evening : Job 1 to Job 2 – 1.25 miles. Thursday morning : home to work 2.5 miles, work to mechanic’s 2.5 miles, mechanic’s to home 1 mile, home to boss’s house and back 2 miles, total 8 miles. Friday morning : home to work and back 5 miles. Luckily, for my evening job I’ve been able to go most of the way on the bus but I’ve still had to walk three quarters of a mile from the bus stop to work and back again afterwards from Monday to Friday. So over the five days last week I did a total of over 28 miles of brisk walking, and that’s not counting the three days walking I did the previous week or all the walking about I do when I’m actually at work – no wonder I ended up with a blister on each foot and a worn out pair of trainers!
I must admit that in the nine years I’ve been driving the van that’s the first time I’ve ever had something major go wrong with it, so for a vehicle that’s 24 years old this year it’s done well so far. A broken fan belt or two is something that could happen to anybody due to wear and tear so I’ve just put it down to being one of those things – at least now I’ve got the van back I can get to and from work a lot easier, and it’ll save on blisters and trainers!
Or in my case, a watched dishwasher doesn’t do anything.
To put you in the picture, at my evening job it’s usual for one of the girls on reception to put the dishwasher on late in the afternoon then switch it off again before leaving work at 5pm, so all I have to do later is remove the clean pots and put them away, which up to now has never been a problem. However, when I got to work this evening the boss’s secretary told me that one of the girls was on a day off and the other had gone home early as she wasn’t well, so as the secretary herself had put the dishwasher on late and it was still running I needed to make sure it was switched off before I left for the evening.
I got all my usual work done and left the kitchen till last but when I went in there the light on the dishwasher said it was still in drying mode ; I could hear a faint humming sound so while I was waiting for the machine to finish whatever it was doing I wiped over the work surfaces and draining board, but even after I’d done that the ‘drying’ light was still on. Now there’s a notice on the front of the dishwasher in capital letters, DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR WHILE DISHWASHER IS RUNNING, so not knowing how much longer this thing would take I stood there watching it and waiting for the ‘drying’ light to go out and the ‘end’ light to come on – and I watched and waited and watched and waited a bit more but still the light didn’t go out. And then it dawned on me….
The humming noise I could hear was coming from the small extractor fan set high up in the wall near the ceiling – the dishwasher was actually completely silent and when I tentatively opened the door I found that the machine had actually finished its cycle ages before and was just sitting there quietly, waiting to be emptied. I don’t know why the ‘end’ light hadn’t come on but I’d just spent all that time watching something that wasn’t going to do anything because it had already done it! Needless to say, I emptied it quickly, turned the main switch to ‘off’ and made tracks for home – I’d had enough for one evening!