Grandpa's Window Cleaner
My grandfather on my mother’s side was a hard man but fair and would not suffer fools or laziness. He was also a man of his word. When he made a promise he always kept it. I know these things because even today people come up to me, people I have never met, and they tell me what an honest, hard working man he was, and how proud they were to have known him. They remembered his steadfast integrity, whereas I remember how he used to fart during dinner and blame Tico, whose only crime was to lie patiently beneath the table hoping for some careless scrap to fall his way. Everyone knew it was really Grandpa, especially me because he always gave a little wink when he did it. My mother said he had the devils humour but an angel’s kindness. Which once led to a falling out with his brother.
Great Uncle Joseph and Grandpa ran a small haulage and scrap metal business which was successful enough to allow each of them to live in a large house in the much sought after west end of the city. They were also the first businesses in the county to try local television advertising. It was an experiment that met with mixed results, possibly due to Grandpa’s choice of slogan: No need to strain. Use your brain. Hire a Becket’s Crane. As with all businesses though, there were bad times as well as good. It was in the middle of one of the bad times when they had, as they called it later, their handbag moment.
It began when my Great Uncle drove into their yard one morning to see one of their crane drivers with his feet up in his cab, reading a newspaper. Not pleased, Great Uncle Joseph confronted Grandpa in the yard office.
‘We’re not paying him to read the sports pages. We’re paying him to work,’ he said. Grandpa, seemingly unperturbed, nodded in agreement but explained there was no work for the man to do.
‘We could lay him off, til things improve,’ Grandpa explained.’But he’s our best operator. We might lose him to a rival.’
My great uncle humphed and hawed in annoyance but insisted the man should work for his money.
‘Tell him to clean the office windows. That’ll keep him busy for a while.’
Grandpa shrugged and went out to relay his brother’s instruction to the incumbent driver. When he returned he did not bear good news.
‘He refused. He says he’s a crane driver not a window cleaner.’
On hearing this, his brother’s face turned the colour of a ripe plum.
‘Then you can tell the bugger he’s sacked. There’s plenty of others would love to have his job.’
Grandpa tried to protest.
‘But he’s our best man with a crane and he’s been with us for years. He’ll be hard to replace.’
‘Rubbish. Mobile crane drivers are two a bloody penny. If you’re so damned fond of him, you can be the one to sack him. And when you’ve done that you can put an ad for his replacement in the Evening Herald.’
Reluctantly, being the younger of the brothers and therefore the junior partner, Grandpa was forced to agree. The crane driver was duly sacked. But Grandpa had the last word. In the local paper that evening, the ad he wrote appeared in the situations vacant column. It was short and to the point:
WINDOW CLEANER REQUIRED
Ability to drive and operate 30 ton mobile crane an advantage
My Great Uncle was livid. He and Grandpa didn’t speak for almost a month. It was the only falling out they ever had. In the end, no suitably qualified ‘window cleaners’ applied for the job and Great Uncle Joseph had to go cap in hand to the man he had sacked and offer him his job back. The offer was accepted, along with a substantial pay rise and my Great Uncle’s promise to hire someone else to do the windows in future.