It is official, we are in the grip of a heatwave. Those nice people on the BBC have said so. Yes two consecutive days with temperatures over 30 degrees constitutes a heatwave here in good old blighty!
So it was with this in mind that I donned my body armour before entering work today. You see the heat has a decidedly nasty effect on the morally challenged. They become increasingly more irritable, increasingly more drunk and increasingly more dangerous. The heat brings out the worst in them. Ok so I accept that we can all get a little irritable when we are hot, but remember that these people already live on the dark side of society.
So I headed down to reception with not a little trepidation, but hey ho, I'm a grown woman I can handle this. As the lift opened I just knew that this was not going to be a good day. Two young men had already succumbed to the heady delights of too much sun and alcohol, it was 10.00am. They were laid face down in the foyer. Don't worry, I checked, they were ok, so I stepped over them and headed through into reception.
"Did you know you have a couple of bodies in the foyer?" I asked Betty the receptionist.
She stood up and leaned over the counter, sighing, she nodded. Yes, she knew as well as I that today was going to be fun.
"Still breathing?" she enquired as she sat back down.
"Still breathing." I replied.
I looked around the seating area, the usual array of shady characters, each trying not to make eye contact, checking out the detritus under their fingernails, contemplating their navels, picking their noses. Armed with the trusty swipe I let myself into the reception office. The phones were ringing off the hook. Always happy to help I picked up the phone nearest me.
"Hello how can I help you?"
Thirty five minutes later and several cancelled appointments with miscellaneous excuses ranging from mum not leaving the bus fare, ah bless, to not being able to get their backside out of bed, and the absolute top of the league,
'I woz out wi me mates last night when some bloke broke me nose', hmm, the bloke in question broke the aforesaid nose whilst being head butted by the nose owner!!
Heading back to the lift I was pleased to note that the foyer ornaments had managed to crawl away somewhere less conspicuous. Unfortunately one of them had left a rather yukky deposit before departing. Once again I headed back to reception, now half full, and the bucket cupboard. Copious amounts of lovely lemon scented detergent was the order of the day for this little job. Just as I finishing up my Mrs mop routine, I felt a shadow fall silently across the foyer. Turning I saw a huge giant of a man looming large in the doorway. I smiled nervously.
"Hello," he said smiling benignly.
"Hello. Reception is through those doors," I motioned with my marigolded mit.
"Are you the cleaning lady?"
"Well at the moment it would appear so wouldn't it." I collected up my assorted cloths and bucket and went back into the reception office. Betty looked up, distracted again by the phone. Back in the foyer waiting for the lift, I noted the familiar shadow once again.
"Hello nice lady."
"Hello there," I replied
"Where are you going now?"
"I work upstairs. You need to go and check in with reception dear, and I need to be getting back to work." I hit the lift call again.
Oh goody, I'm having a conversation with rainman's best friend.
Suddenly the shadow was a presence, rather too close for my liking. I stepped to the side a little, I felt arms length was in order.
"I'm not supposed to talk to ladies," he announced suddenly
gulp, "well then maybe you should go and sit down and wait for your officer to come and get you,"
"I don't want to, I want to talk to you... you're nice aren't you."
I could hear the lift coming, I could also hear the words of my Manager ringing in my ears, 'don't let anyone you don't know into the lift, gunman, rapist...' I decided the lift might not be the best idea. So once again I turned toward reception, rainman's pal following. I looked over to Betty for a little moral support, no joy she was deep in discussion with a rather inebriated young woman. Who, despite her condition and the situation, brought out the Grandma in me, I pushed a hankie in front of her, and motioned that she might want to wipe away the milk moustache she had acquired while trying to sober herself up a little before her appointment. Giggling she swatted her lip, Betty glowered, the girl must have been no more than seventeen.
I turned and headed to the door leading to the back stairwell, Rainman's pal a few paces behind. As I reached the door I could feel his breath on the back of my neck.
"Where you going now nice lady?"
"I've told you dear, I have to go back to work. Now go and sit on a chair and wait for your officer. You'll get into a lot of trouble if you don't behave yourself."
"I'm not supposed to talk to ladies. They make me feel funny. I like feeling funny." At that his hand descended to the depths of his trousers.
Alrighty, a new tack was definitely in order, "Right, plonk your arse down on that chair now or you'll be in BIG trouble, do you hear me," I ordered.
His eyes hit the floor and he scuttled away to the nearest chair. Out of my eye corner I could see a young man frantically re-engage his nose in a picking frenzy,
"and you stop picking your bloody nose, your head will cave in one day."
With that I bustled out into the stairwell with the reassuring clunk of the door as it locked behind me. As the day proceeded to heat up so did the tempers of those in reception, only a minor riot, a couple of broken chairs and a lot of shouting and door slamming. I suddenly discovered that I have a new respect for Betty the receptionist, her cool, seemingly offhand manner, her lack of engagement with the 'clients'. We all have to learn the tactics that will protect us, they may be physical, verbal, or when you are on the front line emotional.