Saturday was the day for the man who needed to clean out my currentheating system, to get ready for the new product, due to be installed on Sunday. When I first heard about the work to be done, I had assumed that all these people would be working together on the same day. But that was not practical, as the cleaning of the system on its own took several hours – and there was no point in the others hanging around and doing nothing, as their work couldn't be done until this first job was over.
I had a phone call from Jack (not his real name) about 10, saying he was on the way, coming
from Sussex, and hoped to be with me by 2 or so, but the traffic was bad. I had a second phone
call at 3 saying, he hoped to get to me by 5, but he had been on the M6 and the speed limit was way down, and there were holdups all over the place.
Jack finally arrived at 5, and was very pleased when I gave him some tea and a biscuit. Jack was not your typical young salesman. He had been in the merchant Navy and spent years going to various places in the States, and not only knew where Bismarck was, he had been there. When I was working as a dietitian for the United States Public Health Service, our patients were either from the Coast Guard or they were merchant seamen. So I had stories to tell and he had stories to tell, and somehow the system didn't get started until at least an hour later.
Jack flirted with me the whole five hours he was there. He knew I was a widow (he asked) and he knew how old I was (he asked). I would have guessed him to be 75 – but he told me he was 64. He had been working for this company in its various guises for the past 15 years or so, and was fully
convinced as to the merits of it. I told him I was worried about all the negative comments on the internet. He said they were written by the competition – because their company was so successful, and there was a concerted campaign to try to keep people away from buying it. But somehow, he convinced me that I was doing the right thing, and I felt better after talking to him.
The procedure meant choosing a radiator near the front door, and attaching some hoses to drain the water from the current system. Then a huge pump machine was connected and this pumped water through to wash out the gunge (the colour was very rusty) and to clean it out completely. He asked me to help with a few of the things, partly I think to keep me talking and I enjoyed it as much as if it had been a date. In fact I asked him to eat with me, and cooked us a nice meal and we even had a glass of wine. He would only have a small glass, because he was worried about getting stopped by the police and being over the limit. He said he had had speeding penalities and been disqualified recently and he sure didn't want that again. "Are you lonely?" he asked, and I firmly said "No." But I must admit that I was expecting a follow up on the question.
Now it was during this long meal time (the machine was busy pumping away, so I wasn't taking
him away from the job) that the subject of nuclear power stations came up. My husband was an environmental chemist, who made his reputation as one who fought against the nuclear power stations because of their pollution of the rivers and seas. Jack came from Thursk which is a little town near Dounray, which was one of the places where Philip had been involved in trying to get compensation for someone whose land and beach was full (well maybe not full) of hot particles. As soon as I mentioned this Jack lit up. “I know him. I 'm friends with the man who your husband was working for, and I met your husband. When I heard your name, it rang a bell, and now I know why.”
So the next half hour or so were spent sharing stories about our mutual friend. His mother had been friends with his man's mother and the tales went on and on. Later when I was telling my daughter about the conversation, she said, “No wonder you are so excited about this. You have heard a voice from above,” and we all laughed. My daughter was very nice to me, during that visit, and kept most of her thoughts about my stupidity to herself.
When the job was finally done at 10 – I helped Jack with directions for getting to his motel, but I must admit it did cross my mind that I could have invited him to stay with me.
p.s. Since I wrote this, I have had a phone call from the liaison person from the company. I mentioned what a coincidence it was that Jack and I had a mutual friend – and she said she and the
other women in the office tried very hard to avoid him. She also said when the company was selling solar panels, he was a salesman and he is now married to one of his old customers. Never mind.