Thursday, 18 August 2016

"Jumpin' Jack Flash, it's a gas, gas, gas."


I bet you didn't start your day by being threatened by a man from Scottish Gas.

At just after 9 o’clock, I lifted the receiver on the security door at my digs to answer the doorbell.
“Hello?” I said.
Nothing.
“Hello?” I repeated.
Still nothing. I would have hung up, but as I missed the post the other day, I thought I’d take the risk and buzz the culprit in.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. I opened it, to reveal a guy in blue overalls on the other side.
“I’m here from Scottish Gas and I need to change your meter.”

I started trying to explain to him that I wasn’t the long-term tenant or the property owner and therefore couldn’t authorise the work, when he spotted the meter above me in the hallway. Before I could finish my sentence, he’d crossed the threshold without my permission and was inside the flat.

He told me that if I didn't let him do the work, he’d call the police. I explained again that it wasn’t my property and that I don’t know the landlord, having booked it for the duration of the Fringe through an festival lettings company. I asked him to leave, but he refused.
“You’ll have to force me out physically,” he replied, tensing his body as if waiting for the push that would give his standing in the property credence, “and if you do I’ll call the police.”

This was not how I wanted to kick off my seventeenth consecutive day working the gruelling, soul-destroying Edinburgh Fringe.

He kept insisting he needed to do the work, and at this point - having already entered the flat against my wishes - said he had a warrant to do the work. I explained I had to leave shortly and didn’t have time to deal with this now and asked if he could do it later.
“No, I can’t come back.”

He was patronising and aggressive throughout, presenting the body language of someone who would lash out physically, if his job would allow it. His assistant appeared at the door, who I tried to reason with, until the first guy – whose name was Murray (employee number 123) – told him that he mustn’t speak to me, and to go and get the tools to do the work. Every time I spoke, Murray butted in with, “I’m not listening; I know what you’re going to say.”

I kept trying to explain that I couldn’t possibly let him do anything until he’d spoken to landlord and been given the go-ahead, as if something went wrong, I’d be liable for it. I was rapidly losing patience in the face of someone who was less than a foot away from me, patronising me, ignoring me, and constantly threatening to call the police (which in reality might have been of help, as at least then, they would have listenrf to me).

Spin forward quarter of an hour and I’d given him the number of the festival lettings company, who he phoned, and proceeded to apply the same aggressive technique. It wasn’t until he’d finally been given the number of the landlord and spoke to them on the phone, that he dropped the pushy persona and began listening to what they said. They told him they wouldn’t let him do anything until he’d seen them in person to signed some paperwork - and finally he left.

It was a horrible experience that felt like it would never end. Scottish Gas will be receiving an official complaint (whatever an official complaint actually means).

Two hours later, I was at the venue, about to cancel my show, as Front of House had told me there were no sales, when a party of four suddenly walked in. Ten minutes of the show passed with barely a single laugh, save for when I signposted the awkwardness.

“Have you heard of Clinton Cards?” I asked, launching into my Clinton Cards material.
“No,” they replied. This surprised me.
“Have you heard of Marks & Spencer?” I asked.
“No.”
“Seriously?!”
“No; we’re Australian.”

A couple of interactions later, I'd ascertained that they’d been given papering comps by one of my flyerers, and therefore hadn't paid. We decided mutually not to continue with the show, which was a blessed relief. I dread to think what the rest of the day will hold; I only hope the man from Scottish Gas doesn’t fancy checking out some lesser-known comic talent on the Fringe as, if he comes to see me, the resulting awkwardness will beggar belief.

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