It’s the eve of the installation and I’m busy tidying for the man who will arrive to secure our home. We’ve become tired, lately, of scurrying around grabbing things that may or may not be pleasing to a burglar. Stashing them in the car. Rummaging around for them later to disperse back around the house.
There’s a knock on the door.
‘He’s here’ marque 4 squeals running to open the door.
‘The alarm man’.
‘But he’s not due to come ’til tomorrow‘ I say following marque 4 and my sister to the door. He stands there sporting the company’s jacket. An I.D. badge swings from his neck. He announces that he is doing door to door sales and wonders if we’d be interested in an alarm.
‘But we’ve ordered it already’ I say looking at him as if he surely knows this.
‘Oh ok’ he says ‘just we’ve a good deal going at the moment’.
‘Yes, I got the deal, that’s why we’re doing it’ I say. Touche.
‘We’ve a better deal than the deal you got’ he says even though I haven’t mentioned the price. He tells me my deal price and then undercuts it by €100.
All of a sudden there’s a lot more allure to the man in the brand new company jacket, shivering on my unlit doorstep. One hundred euros. Coming up to Christmas. Nice one.
‘But I’ve booked already and they’re coming in the morning’.
‘Have you signed a contract?’
‘No, not yet’.
‘Then you can cancel it, re-order with me and I’ll get an installer out as soon as possible, maybe even tomorrow. I can come in and discuss this all further with you’, he says. One hundred euros. Cold and dark outside.
‘Come on in’ I say.
‘Nice area’ he says entering the house. There’s something niggling at me as I show him into the sitting room.
‘I live in a mansion meself’ he continues.
‘You do?’ one or other of the sisters says as the niggling frizzes away.
‘Yeah. I don’t do this for the money’, he continues.
‘You don’t?’ There’s a door to door salesman in our sitting-room saying he isn’t working for money. The niggling is now frying my already frayed brain cells.
‘No. I do it for the people. For the love of knowing they are secure’.
‘Oh? How long have you been doing it?’ this vocation, this passion.
‘Three weeks’. Oh god.
‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ my sister asks.
‘Yes, milk and one sugar, thanks’.
Wow, I think. Shouldn’t he have declined that offer. Sugar? We don’t have sugar. Or maybe a bit of old congealed caster sugar for baking. That’ll have to do.
Marque 4 sets to making the tea with me in the kitchen. When we bring it back in there’s a different atmosphere in the room. My sister seems to have lost her enthusiasm for helping me to save €100. He hasn’t noticed and continues talking. Talking. Non-stop.
‘I’ve met a lot of burglars since I’ve been knocking on doors doing this and they…’
‘You’ve been talking to burglars about the alarm system?’
‘Yeah, you know and…’
‘How do you know they’re burglars – do they tell you?’ my sister asks.
‘Ah you just know, by the houses, by the clothes an’ all’.
Do you now. The niggling is beginning to turn into some form of behind the eye-ball blind panic. I have before me a guy purporting to be a wealthy salesman who sells alarms to burglars. An image of my husband’s face flashes before me. He doesn’t look best pleased.
‘I’ve never been burgled meself’ he continues ‘I move around a lot, never in the one place for long. But if I was ever burgled I’d get rid of everything’.
Marque 4 watches him slurp the tea. Marque 4, with his little brow furrowed into a worrisome glower. He’s not sure what to make of the man in our sitting room.
‘The rice crispies, the lot, you know? I’d have to throw everything out and start again. You just wouldn’t know what they’ve done to anything. What they’ve put in your coffee’. Full on alarm bells chime merrily in me now. Have we a burglar or a psycho or a bit of both sitting in with us. Why the hell did I let him in? Marque 1 comes in briefly, nods and retreats, leaving a protective glow in his wake. You see, nutter, there’s a guy in the house the same size as you, in case you’re thinking of trying anything on. How the hell am I to get rid of him?
‘That’s the best cup of tea I’ve ever had’ he says to marque 4. ‘I’ll give you a trick. My mother used to always ask me to make her coffee. Then one day I made a horrible cup and she never asked again. So just make a horrible cup and you won’t get asked’. Marque 4 says nothing. Not a word. But his eyes have widened into full scale saucers in an indignant show of mistrust. If only I could do the same.
‘Yeah and the burglars have it all worked out. They call to doors pretending to be selling something and they check out the security system and if there’s a dog. They showed me what they do. They have a sheet with a grid of all the houses and they put X’s and O’s in boxes. They grade the dogs. Small X’s for little dogs and big X’s for big ones’.
They showed you, did they? How very kind of them.
‘You know what, I’m going to stick with what I’ve booked already. I really want to get it done quickly, I’m getting nervous about the prospect of being burgled’. More nervous by the second since meeting you. Feck saving a hundred euros. I do not wish to be signing any contracts with the likes of your good self.
He stands up to leave, slurping the last of his tea, his face crest-fallen. He thought he had us in his bag. Not that he’s doing it for the money, of course.
‘Jesus’ I say to my sister, closing the door.
‘The stuff he was coming out with was very odd. What did you think?’
‘Well, he did say when you were out making tea that he’s been on the wrong side of the tracks himself’
‘What? He said that to you?’
‘Yes. He said that’s why he’s doing it. To make amends for having been on the wrong side of the tracks himself. He said just petty stuff, shoplifting and the like. But who knows’.
Who the hell knows? Don’t ask me. I know nothing. Nothing at all.
‘Oh, and I don’t know if I should tell you this. I don’t want to frighten you’ she says. It’s too late for that. Petrification set in twenty minutes ago.
‘But he said he’d met all sorts of psychopaths and during his time on the wrong side’. Great.
I picture him leaving our house, this self-confessed psycho, filling out his X’s and O’s grid. No dog. Exceptionally gullible adults. On the ball kids. Nothing worth stealing but a piece of piss if you want to get in.
To make myself feel marginally better I phone the company. If they don’t have salesmen out undercutting the telesales team then I’ll phone the police. The man who answers the phone announces my name to me as if he’s expecting the call. I haven’t told him my name. He just knows. Great. Maybe they’re all in on it. I’m standing in Tesco’s, cold and tired, talking to a stranger who knows my name, about a nutty burglar who called to help secure my home. When is it time to just lie down and admit defeat? Soon. Very soon. Yes, he tells me. They do have salesmen in the area tonight. Small mercies. I’ll keep standing so. Did you get the number on his badge? He asks. He obviously doesn’t know too much about me. I’d never have thought of that. No, just the name I tell him. Next time, he says, get the number and when you ring we can run it through the system and see if he’s legit. Good tip, cheers. I stop short of telling him that his man on the street has a screw or two loose. That he is telling prospective customers that he used to be on the wrong side, cavorting with psychos and that this is a vocation to make amends. It may be that I don’t fancy a visit from him. That I don’t want him pissing, or whatever, into my granola when I dob him in. But I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s that I have a soft spot for characters who are more than a little odd, with a shady past, trying to get it together. They can colour up a story no end.
Of course phone calls are made, once the details of the evening are drip-fed over a day or two to himself. His not best pleased face tells me that action must be taken. That this is bigger than my new found empathy with reformed odd bod burglars that might show up in a story. If reformed he is at all. What if he’s scoping the place for his psycho burglar pals? When should a person expect to feel most secure in their home? When a person calls to the door, with a security logo jacket and I.D. A person from the very company you’ve decided to go with. Of course you let him in (phew). Who wouldn’t? (You). This is bigger than us. This is a piece that must be written for the greater good. The safety and good of the nation. At Christmas. Or some such thing. I’m drifting off a little, into lovely story land. And you’re the person to write it. Research a little for it. Do a journalistic piece. Get it out there. People need to know.
But, hey, where’s the fun in that?