Even before I opened my cupboard I unlocked the fire escape door; fresh air is vital in my job. Today the cupboard was tidy, as always after Val’s shift. A reassuring smell of bleach meant she had left the mop to soak. By the mirror was a vase of fresh flowers from her garden. I would do the same for her; the others didn’t bother but we knew our patrons appreciated it. I felt ready to start my day. All was quiet, no coach parties yet.
I went both sides and did the refills, checked everything was working then went over to have a quiet coffee with Dave at Costa before he opened. He was moaning, someone hadn’t cleaned the coffee machine last night. I walked over to Chris at Smiths to get my newspaper. She was in a good mood; the weather forecast was promising and it was the start of the school holidays, a busy day lay ahead. Judging by the cars outside I must have had some visitors already, time to get back to work.
I checked all the notices were in place.
A male attendant operates in these conveniences.
That was me; not a man, not even a person, better than being called a bog cleaner though. It was a busy day, dashing back and forth between the Ladies and Gents.
When asked, I am diplomatic, both as messy as each other, you wouldn’t believe the things some people do, hence the plethora of notices. But most people respect the facilities, even if they don’t respect us.
Don’t notice us would be more accurate. In too much of a hurry on the way in and thinking of other things on the way out; what to eat or which junction to exit, that’s life at Grimley Park Happy Break.
I’ve worked for lots of companies, but I’ve always been here doing the same job; only the name of my employers changes. At the moment it is ‘SpeedClean’, not an accurate description of most of their staff, but I take a pride in my job, at least I’ve always earned my living. Not on disability allowance.
Now days at school, a kid like me would have his own lap top and personal teaching assistant. I didn’t get assessed; they didn’t notice one problem, let alone two. They figured out the hearing eventually, but dyslexia wasn’t bandied about like it is these days; it was easier to suggest I was thick.
Modern technology, no one would notice I’m hard of hearing and since I went on that adult education course I can read and I’m on the internet all the time; just needed a bigger screen and the right colour cellophane over it.
I wouldn’t grumble, we’ve had a good life; Nicky isn’t one of those women always wanting things. She works hard at Sainsburys; she knows what we earn and what we can afford. We’re Housing Association, not Council; with the ground floor flat we get the garden. I love gardening and the other residents admire my plot. Of course if we’d been council they would have moved us to a three bedroom, once David and Becky got to a certain age. Luckily the living room’s big enough for our double bed and the kids are glad to have their own bedroom each.
My busy day never let up, so I didn’t know how long the bag had been hanging on the back of the cubicle door. For the first time that day the Ladies was empty, at least if it was a bomb there was no danger to the public. I didn’t need security to tell me the bag was safe; a quick glance inside the plastic carrier bag revealed wads of money and nothing else. I needed to act quickly before anyone saw me.
The kids were still out when I got home.
“You won’t believe what happened today,” I said to Nicky “this could change our lives.”
I started to tell her the story.
“Did you tell your manager?” she asked.
“No way, he’d probably have kept it for himself, but I was worried I’d be caught with it on me. So I called Joe from security.”
“You handed it over to him?”
“No, I used my brains, he was my escort.”
“You shared it out between you?” she asked, aghast.
“No, we took it straight to the Happy Break manager; I insisted he counted it out in front of us, write me a receipt. Joe signed as witness.”
Nicky was looking very nervous now. “What have you got involved in?”
“Then he called the police” I reassured her. “What else could he do with me and Joe standing there?”
“So who’s got the money?” she asked puzzled.
“The police of course.”
She sighed with relief. “For a moment I hope… thought you had been tempted.”
“Of course not; honesty and responsibility go with my job.”
“But I don’t see how this will change our lives.”
“Recognition, respect, that’s the most important thing. If they identify the owner perhaps there might be a little reward. It will be hard to identify her with just a carrier bag, have to wait till she comes forward.”
“If no one claims it, I think you are entitled to it, you could enjoy it with a clear conscience” she said wistfully.
I didn’t hear any more, didn’t really expect to, well not for a while if it was unclaimed. A few weeks later Val said our SpeedClean manager was going to be on the local news, some award or other. Nicky and I watched the news that evening and sure enough, there he was, smiling. SpeedClean at Grimley Park had won Motorway Services Loo of the Year Award for an excellent standard of cleanliness, patron service and impeccable honesty.
For more short stories of people and places dip into one of my collections.