(No.5) "DORIS"

(No.5) "DORIS"

Extract from 'Confessions of an Electrician'

A little background...

At this point in my "career" I worked in residential doing predominantly remedials which involved visiting tenants & updating/upgrading their electrics including DB changes, earth bonding & replacing switchgear.

Now this particular day I was in Maida Vale manor. As per normal after finding parking for the day (the bane of all 'jobbin' sparks) I got my crowns out & made way to property that was on my pre-arranged appointment list. Having pressed buzzer, I spoke to a lady on intercom, after she buzzed me in, I made my way up the stairs with all my kit & entered flat. Luckily it was clean & tidy...(unlike some, where you'd walk in & your feet would stick to gunk on floor whilst you had a feeling of yuk or some who were hoarder types with a drum filled with random rubbish)... I was greeted by a very nice 30 something lady who was the daughter of the woman who actually lived in this pleasant abode. I outlined the work I'd be undertaking & got the go ahead to turn off power & move furniture for access etc.

She explained that her mum wasn't up yet but knew I was in attendance & seemed to be somewhat concerned about me &/or what I was doing. Asking if I could keep the noise down. Obligingly I put her mind at rest, assuring her of my "extensive experience" & the more or less straight forward nature of the remedials that were required because the local council were bringing all their housing up to 16th edition standard by law. Distribution Board change was usually 1st job & the lady showed me the cupboard where fuse box was & said she had to go to work & hoped all went well... I thought to myself...am I picking up on something here? But dismissed it as understandable because her mum would be waking up to a some unknown stranger in her gaff. I started by isolating supply & usually a small DB upgrade would take about an hour or so. As I was disconnecting cables I heard some movement from down the hall. I turned to see the mum (let's call her Doris) she was 60 ish, somewhat dishevelled & didn’t look particularly happy whilst attired in a slightly bedraggled dressing gown & slippers.

 May I explain that when working for the council & housing associations, a few appointments would be in sheltered housing often for recovering alcoholics, drug addicts or those who were "care in the community" under council ward. So over time you developed a patience, empathy & understanding of the inherent issues involved in such situations & treated people with more care & attention. This job wasn't one of those or so it would seem... Doris then irritably asked; who I was, why I was there, how long would it take & the her most worrisome query being WHY did these "remedials" have to be done in the first place? Because she'd had no problems with electrics in 10+ years she'd been resident. To put Doris at ease, I once again carefully outlined the necessity of the planned works & reassured her that I would leave her home as I found it. This even went to extent of a thorough clean-up, hoovering & wiping down of all surfaces during remedials & after completion.

 (many younguns will be thinking, 'WHAT ARE YOU MAD BRUV?!?)

Anyway, she then made return to lounge leaving me to finish DB replacement. Maybe another 20 minutes passed & as I was buttoning up board, Doris came shuffling down hall to ask the same questions as previously in a rather vexed manner...I thought, errrrrhhh... I better tread carefully because we had to avoid causing any offence to a tenant who may complain. Thus maintaining the 'gold standard' the company had attained who I was affiliated to.I was also a 'preferred & trusted contractor' & earnt highest recommendations grade which equated to standard of work & good customer liaison & feedback. This in turn predominantly led to me garnering the nicer jobs. Not so, this day... So, I went through the priorities with her & also made sure that she understood I was there to ultimately help, would work around her & cause as little inconvenience as possible.

If anyone's done domestics especially occupied. When updating a DB the dreaded outcome can be a 'nuisance trip' of RCD or RCBOs due to sensitivity of of breakers. This can create angst so is to be avoided whenever possible. This fault can often be down to an old fridge or other appliance & worse an intermittent short circuit on wiring that hadn't caused any problem to old rewire-able fuseways. The latter was the case, so I couldn't turn power back on until I traced & remedied fault. Luckily, short circuit was a neutral to earth in the back of socket in hallway & easily rectified. Unfortunately, this added another hour from when I'd promised her that power would be reinstated. This led to Doris asking the same 4 questions as before & me calmly reiterating the answers. A very uncomfortable moment then ensued & should've been a 'red flag'... It came about as a result of whilst admonished me her gown opened up to reveal all with me looking everywhere else but there. It wasn't pleasant but her rant ended & she made her way back to the sofa. I breathed a sigh of relief & continued. By now it was near tea time so I had a clear-up, put tools out of the way & I took my leave for my Friday full English. Upon my return, there was no answer to buzzer. Fortunately a neighbour was leaving & let me into building. I went upstairs & knocked on door. I heard a bit of hushed cursing on other side. Doris cracked open the door with security chain in place & I was only allowed back in after ONCE AGAIN reminding her of who I was & what I was about. Now... While I work, (if in good spirits) I'm one of those who likes a sing-song to myself. I wanted this job done as quick as poss so got all the pendants, sockets & switches changed in the next couple of hours which seemed to please Doris because she liked the fact all this brand new kit was being fitted & she said she liked my voice too.

Happy days? Erm... No...

I also had to install a equipotential earth bond off gas & water main which involved mini-trunking run around skirting & made to blend in to woodwork by using filler & painters mate. I was pleased with end result although her repeated questions continued & she was slowly but surely getting more agitated despite my best attempts at appealing to her better nature. By now it was lunchtime so with some measure of relief I popped out for a coffee & sarny. That done, as I expected, I wasn't let in by her again so buzzed another flat & eventually went up to hers. Again, she was somewhat confused & I went through the same motions & she let me in. With the same gown being wide open now (no underwear) & me averting my gaze to a suddenly very interesting connector block I decided I'd inspect. Phew, couldn't wait to knock this job on the head. Seriously the atmosphere was abnormal but I'm a professional so reapplied myself. By now last job was cross bonding in bathroom which involved taking bath panel off & me lying down on dust sheet whilst underneath.I'd already explained that despite the earlier hiccups this last bit of install wouldn't take more than an hour to complete. Doris wasn't impressed by bath panel removal although it was refitted & I 'made good' leaving panel in a better state than it was to start.

It was nearing 3pm & during the day she must v come to question me easily a dozen times & her manner became progressively more erratic which I put down to possible dementia so made allowances plus I had only 2 cross-bonds to fit under sink. Few minutes & I'm done. Thank goodness!

Or so... I thought...

I had to shoot out to get another couple of Tenby earth clamps & crimp lugs. Leaving front door ajar. I came back to find Doris stood at the  top of stairs on landing with a twisted grimace on her face as she asked the whys, the when's & the wherefores again with the same dressing gown totally undone with reckless abandon. She blocked my entry but after additional apologises I managed to get past & endeavoured to get this effin' job finished quick. I was under sink affixing clamps & heard her coming down hall yet again expecting another bout of questions & agitation. Still calm but a tad miffed I looked up from a kneeling position to see her shuffle into bathroom & rambling angrily... Then to my disbelief quicker than you'd expect she lunged at me with her hands around my neck & gown all akimbo & commenced to strangle me! I was genuinely shocked & it was all I could do to get up & then push her away. She was an older woman but uncannily strong. That said I managed to pull her hands away & exclaimed

"what are you doing???" & "please please calm down Doris!?!"

Having thankfully heard me, I gently yet forcibly moved her out of the bathroom whilst beseeching her to not worry as I would be finished in minutes if I was left alone!

I KNOW!

I KNOW!!!

I should've done a bunk there & then but didn't.

To this day I truly don't know why...

There was a moment of clarity in her eyes & she apologised for trying to choke me but how I HAD been in her home all day & she just wanted me out!

Doris said "please finish & leave".

Even though it was unnerving I decided to just get done & be out of her place. I was in the midst of clean up & had most of the gear out of flat onto landing outside when I went back to grab dustsheet & hoover from bathroom. I turned round to make way back down hall & as I looked up Doris was stood at other end of corridor angered & muttering again, with her lils & jack out on show, rocking slowly from side to side...

Oh....... & also with a rusty 2 foot machete in her hand which she was moving in a chopping motion whispering over & over & over...

 "get out of my house or I'm going to kill you"....

 For what it was worth although dumbfounded I grabbed hoover as menacingly as I could & shouted...

 "What are you doing???"

 "PUT THAT AWAY!"

 "YOU F¥€#ING CRAZY BITCH!!!"...Yep, I did lose it a bit! Not the best choice of words perhaps...

 Weirdly the last words yelled had the desired effect & she slowly shook her head & moved back toward her bedroom doorway & quietly said...

 "get out - now"

I obviously obliged, rapid like. Chucked gear out & left, slamming front door behind me as she attempted to follow out. WOW!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Doris didn't come out. I got downstairs & after loading up I called my governor & told him what had happened. I was strangely calm yet angry about how the whole thing had occurred???

You see...

It turns out Doris was bi-polar & on heavy medication. Her property was also marked on council list as a DOUBLE ASTERISK which I was later informed meant ANY/ALL jobs undertaken must have 2 Tradesmen attending because of previous physical attacks on postmen, bin men & council officers alike...

I was furious afterwards realising how "tits up" it really could’ve gone. I was going to make a formal complaint against the housing association officer that had organised the job. I spoke with him & he suggested that he thought I'd be OK as a seasoned veteran. He was obviously VERY wrong... & was made aware of what an utter shitc¥#t he was!

And that, my friends was the end of me EVER working in social housing again. I jacked that week. To clarify this was 3rd rather unsettling event I had experienced over a 4 year period. I'll tell you about the others sometime. Oh &  please be kind enough to forgive the long winded unnecessary detail but I just told it like it was.

Final thought...

LET'S BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!

Thanks for listening :)

Regards M.N.E

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