Tales From The Alarm Industry, Part Thirteen

Image by tonodiaz on Freepik

Stories from my time spent working for an alarm company.

This Time: Time to go

When the end came, it was a swift departure.

The job, I loved, it was the setup and the reliance on myself and Stevie that was getting me down. Because we were always being called off to sort out other people’s problems our own areas were suffering because of it. It had now become a perpetual race towards the end of the month to get all the service calls done that were due. Colin, as well as helping on fire alarms and two man jobs, was now doing domestic service calls to help out. The problem was that he couldn’t fault find to save his life. He admitted that and if he came across a fault, I had to follow up and remedy it. His son Stuart had been a sub-contractor doing installations when times were busy, he had his own one man alarm business and doing subbie work helped him out. It was through him that Colin got the job helping out the engineers on fire alarms and two man tasks. He knew how I felt and one day when we were working together, he asked me if I was still looking for something else. I said I was and it was left like that. He said later on that Stuart had packed in his own business and was now working for an old school friend where he had gone to set up an installation section of a commercial ironmongery company. I ask if he was busy and Colin said it had been slow to start with but was now picking up. “Sometimes he is in a suit, other times he is in his work gear, he said he is enjoying it.” I thought no more about it, it had just been a conversation we had while working.

Sitting in the café one Monday morning, I said to Stevie that I really had now had enough and I was actively looking for something else. He knew how I felt, but he would never leave, he was going to be there until he retired. I carried on with the jobs I had planned and around lunchtime, my phone rang. It was Stuart, after the usual pleasantries he said “Colin said you might be looking for something else,” he always called his dad by his first name when working, I said I was and asked what he had in mind. He told me what I already knew about him setting up a new installation section, “I need another engineer who knows what they are doing and can learn new skills quickly.” “What does the job entail,” I wanted to know, “Installing door entry systems, intercoms and CCTV.” I had done a little of each but didn’t have a lot of knowledge of any of them but I’m sure I can blag my way as usual. “What money are you offering,” was my next question, “it depends on who we appoint to the job. Are you interested,” “I’m always interested,” I replied. “Can you come to an interview on Wednesday around lunchtime,”  “I’m sure I can, but I need to discuss things at home before I make any commitment. I will call you in the morning and let you know. I went home that night and once the children were in bed we sat down to discuss and weigh things up. We now had a son and a daughter who was just nine months old. On the plus side was there would be no callouts and I would be doing more challenging work. On the negative side was we didn’t know what the pay would be and how secure the work would be. We worked out what I earned in a year including the callout money and overtime and then added another £1000 and this was the amount I was going to ask for. I was also going to ask about job security. I knew nothing of the company other than the name and address. We decided that there was no harm in me going and seeing, so in the morning I phoned Stuart and said I would be there at 12.00 on Wednesday and that depending on the workload I may be a bit late. The address was on my area and during the Tuesday I drove round to check out the parking and where the entrance was.

The next day, I judged the timing wrongly and it was 12.10 when I parked up outside the building. The reception area was all wood panelling and I said to the receptionist who I was and that I had come to see Stuart. I was asked to wait and not long after I sat down a door in the wood panelling opened and Stuart appeared. He was dressed in workwear, we shook hands and he said to follow him. We went off up a set of stairs and into the board room. Sat at the top of a long table was Stuart’s friend from school. He stood up when we entered and I shook his hand, Stuart introduced me and I sat down on the next chair down from him, Stuart was on the opposite side with papers spread out in front. His name was Ashley and he started off by telling me about his company. It was principally an Architectural Ironmongery supplier, their work mainly came from architects who were designing large projects and would send out specifications for all the door and window furniture, (knobs, knockers, hinges, door closers, locks etc.). The work ranged from hospitals to housing estates, tower blocks  to schools. Some of the parts they manufactured themselves in the factory adjoining the offices. They also had a handrail and balustrade department, and in Waltham Abbey they had an office that dealt with electronic locking. He went on to explain the setting up of the installation section was to be another revenue stream for the business. He then went on to ask about me. “Stuart has told me a bit about yourself, you tell me more.” I always hate having to big myself up at interviews, it doesn’t come naturally.  “I said the usual things about enjoying a challenge and how I worked to complete tasks and was good working on my own and as part of a team. All the usual things interviewers must have heard a thousand times. There was a bit more of an explanation about the job and that there would be a vehicle supplied. Eventually it came to the question of money. “What rate of pay do you expect to earn for this job.” “Before I talk about money, I would like to know what commitment you are giving this new project, I want to know how long you are prepared to wait for the business to take off.” He was slightly taken aback by this but answered saying that he hoped it would be profitable by the end of the first year, he said it would be reviewed after 12 months and a decision made then. I thought that if it wasn’t profitable in twelve months I would probably be off before then. “With regard to pay, I’m not looking for an hourly rate, this is what I need to earn in a year,” I then quoted the figure Mrs 10210 and I had worked out. I looked at him to see if I could see a reaction. “Would you mind waiting here a minute while Stuart and I step outside for a moment.” “Well,” I thought, “at least it has not been dismissed out of hand.” They both got up and left me sitting in the board room. They were gone for what felt like ages and I was trying to read upside down the paperwork that was in front of Stuart, it looked the specification for a job. When they returned, they sat down and there was a pause, “we would like to offer you the job at the salary you stated, your start date would be a week on Monday, will you accept the offer.” I would like the opportunity to discuss this at home and let you know in the morning.” It was agreed that I would call Stuart in the morning with my decision.

That night we talked for ages debating the pros and cons. The fact that I had a secure job was the main factor for not moving. No longer having to do call out and more money were on the other side. Eventually it was decided that I would leave and set out on a new adventure. Little did I know how much of an adventure it was going to be. I phoned Stuart the next morning and confirmed my acceptance. “Can you come in this afternoon and sign some paperwork and bring your bank details and national insurance number. That evening, I wrote out my notice letter, I thought about saying thank you and how much I had enjoyed working there but in the end I just put that this was a letter giving one weeks notice and I will be leaving on the following Friday. I went in and handed it to Billy, he wasn’t surprised but was a little disappointed. I said that I was going for a new challenge, less hours and more money. He said that he hoped it all worked out for me.

The person I felt sorry for was Stevie, he was now going to get even more pushed on to him, but he will just take it carry on. I felt quite sad to be leaving something that I enjoyed and had worked hard at but things change and sometimes you just have to move on.

The following week, I had one night on call and thankfully nothing much came in.

On Tuesday Stuart phoned, “do you have half an hour to come in and see me, sooner rather than later.” “Is anything the matter, is the job still OK,” I wanted to know. “Yes and yes,” were his reply. I quickly worked out when I could get there and said I would be there in an hour. I finished off the job I was on and made my way over to see Stuart. This time we went into an office he sat behind a desk and I sat on the seat opposite him, Ashley came in, he didn’t sit down, “it’s nothing about the job offer, that’s all sorted, it’s just that an issue has come up and we need to change plans for next week. Do you have a passport?” “Yes.” “Can you work away next week?” “Where,” my mind was all over the place trying to figure all this out. “Hong Kong.” “Pardon.” “Hong Kong.” “Are you joking,” I said in a concerned voice. “Can you work away next week,” Ashley again asked me. “I need to make a call before I can commit to that.” “There’s an office next door, dial 9 for a line.” I went into the office and rang home. There was a stunned silence on the other end of the phone, Mrs 10210 was struggling to take it in as I had just a few minutes earlier. Her being able to cope with our baby was my main concern. There was a lot of hesitation and thought before she said yes. Back next door I confirmed that I would go but now wanted to know why. The electronic locking division in Waltham Abbey had supplied the magnetic locking to a British company who were working on a new railway station in Hong Kong. The locks were 24volt DC, the Chinese electricians had miss read the instructions and put 240 volts onto the locks. The result was around thirty locks had all gone bang. New locks had been sent out but the company wanted UK engineers to install them. They would pay whatever it cost as the penalty clause for not completing on time was huge and increased every day.

It was back to work after the quick meeting, my head was spinning and I just muddled through the rest of the day. More conversations took place at home that evening about how it was going to be a struggle without my help with the kids.

On Wednesday I was ‘told’ rather than asked to go to Mrs. West, she is the one who always asked for me and the one everyone else avoided. I was to carry out a service, I knew this wasn’t due until the following month but I was doing as I had been told to do. “Why are you here early,” was the opening remark from Mrs. West. “Do you mean time wise or date wise,” I asked. “You shouldn’t be here until next month.” “If you wait until next month then it won’t be me, I leave on Friday.” She looked at me, “but I like you, you tell the truth and don’t talk to me like I’m stupid.” “I’m sorry, I love the work, but the job has changed and the new people are not the same. I have had a better offer from a company in a slightly different line of work.” She then wanted to know who was going to replace me. I said I had no idea, “Ask for Alan to do the servicing, he’s the chap in the blue overalls who does any of the alterations you have had.” She nodded and let me get on with the service. When I had finished, there was no coffee or biscuits, “I hope you hate your new job,” I looked at her a bit open mouthed, she repeated it, “I hope you hate your new job and come back again.” “I’ll take that as a compliment,” I said. “Seriously, I hope everything works out for you and that you are happy.” I thanked her for all the coffee and biscuits she had provided, and then I was off.

On my final Friday I really couldn’t be bothered. I decided to finish as I had started, working with Stevie. I had rung him the night before and we had agreed to meet in the café. We didn’t leave there until 10.00, he had planned some two man jobs up at the university where we could fill up our time sheets without having to do much work. We talked about engineers who had come and gone, strange jobs we had done, arsey customers and many other reminiscences. It was the sort of chat that if you were in the pub, you would be legless by closing time. By 16.00 I had done enough and left Stevie with a handshake and a hug. I headed back into the office. I handed in my time sheet, my ID badge, pager and van keys. There were no handshakes or hugs, there were no thanks for the years I spent giving my all. Just a goodbye. I walked out the front door with my tool box and into the street. They didn’t even offer to give me a lift home, I was going to have to get the bus. I sat on the bus feeling quite down about how I had just been treated, not even a thank you. “F*ck them,” I thought, “I’m off to a better place.” I hoped!!!

This is the last instalment, having taken up the Saturday morning slot since the beginning of April, I think you have all probably had enough of my tales. I have enjoyed writing them and I hope it has entertained you. The early tales from working in a hotel at sixteen reminded me of a simpler time, of a bygone age, of a time we will never have again. We always think that previous generations had it better, in some ways, I think they did. My time trade plating showed kindness and nastiness in equal measures. In every job that I have done I have always given my all, sometimes it was appreciated, other times not. I am now retired, well semi-retired, (I just can’t give up work) and trying to enjoy life in these unsettled times. The children have flown the coup are being successful in their chosen careers. Mrs 10210 and I can now pick and choose what we want to do and I hope we will continue doing that for many years to come.

I have some other writing projects on the go at the moment and if they are good enough, hopefully I will be able to share them with you.

Once again thank you for the time taken reading my ramblings and a safe journey to you all wherever you may travel.

© 10210ken 2023