In 1984, I had been transferred to Kemure Road Depot in Hackney. It wasn’t a good move as I’d some very difficult past experiences with the General Trades Manager there, a man named John S. I’d knew him to be an egotist, always chasing women. Indeed he confessed to a friend of mine – “My hobby is getting women to have sex with me.”
He obviously remembered me. The first day was bit strained and we could barely be civil to each other. I was the Plumbers Foreman, I had a team of eight there. Over the next week or so, most of the plumbers had the experience of being told to wait outside of the office while he took a personal messages over the phone. “Hello, yes this is John speaking. Just a minute my dear, while I clear my office”.
There were of course all the other tradesmen, assigned to the depot – carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers etc. Bruce was one of the carpenters and he was remarkable. He was an educated man, well spoken and very intellectual. Amazingly he’d started a Master’s degree. I found out later that he’d been expelled for breaking their rules. Bruce was a member of the communist party and had contempt for John S.
Some months later, I was in the general office, when an address came up in conversation. John S. was moaning that several carpenters had gone to this address in the past year trying to cure a noisy squeaking flooring.
Bruce, entered the office and John S. saw his opportunity to both confront and belittle him. “Go to this address and sort out this complaint, please Bruce”. With that he turned and walked into to surveyors office, leaving Bruce standing there, with a bemused look on his face. Clearly Bruce had talked to the other carpenters. The job was well known because the tenant was emphatic that he would not have his fitted carpet lifted, without a guarantee that the Council would reinstate his flooring.
Bruce waited by the desk. John S, eventually returned to his desk and the show began. “Why are you still here Bruce?”
“Because you haven’t explained how I’m to carry out the job. Sir!”
“It seems perfectly obvious to me Bruce, that you go to the flat and stop the flooring from squeaking!”
“Just how Sir? You and I know at least three carpenters have returned this job, because the tenant refuses to have the work done without a guarantee on his carpet. Do you really think I can attend to a floor problem without disturbing the tenant’s carpet.”
John S. clearly hadn’t realised the extent to which his staff were talking to each other. After a lengthy exchange where Bruce finally asked if it was John S’s belief that the work could be carried out by osmosis? (A word John was unfamiliar with). John said.
“Give me the order back, I’ll authorise you to get the carpet removed!” Which led to another exchange.
The upshot was, a carpet fitter was engaged to remove the tenants carpet. Bruce attended the job at an appointed time and John S. turned up at the flat about a half hour later.
Not a squeak was heard. Bruce had sprayed the plywood floor with water, the floor had swelled, and no matter how many times John S. walked back and forth, he had to sign the job off as completed satisfactorily. The carpet fitter reinstated the carpet.
You should have seen John S’s when a week later the same complaint was made.