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Friday, 21 November 2014

Evidence that having the gas man in throws one into awkward social dilemmas

The Gas Man has Beeneth.  He came today to check our gas appliances and it was my day off work so I was here to let him in.

Only people of a certain age will understand that cultural reference to Flanders and Swann singing 'The Gas Man Cometh'.  If you've never heard it, it's only 2 minutes long and it's very funny. It's all about what happens when you have people 'in' to do jobs and things go wrong.




By the way, that's the first time I've ever learned to post a video link into a blog post, As I've now written 560 posts according to my stats, I don't think I could ever claim to be a fast learner.

Talking about technology, I suppose the modern equivalent of The Gas Man Cometh would be The Computer Man Cometh.

'Twas on a Monday morning
I rang Computer Man.
He said, 'I am an expert.
I'll help you if I can.'
But he couldn't come 'til Thursday.
I tried hard not to mind
'cause I had to use a notepad
but not the modern kind.

Anyway, the gas man came because we rent the house and he was asked by the landlord to check our cooker, boiler and gas fire.

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it the height of awkwardness, having someone in the house doing a job?  This was my inner monologue while he was here:

Should I make friendly conversation after the initial hello? If I do, and he's here for longer than an hour, will I regret it?  What will I find to talk about?  Would it make me seem like a desperate housewife? Or should I leave him alone to do the job? If I do, will I seem supercilious and cold? Is it okay for me to sit here typing on my laptop or will he assume I spend the day on Facebook when actually I'm writing? Should I say, 'Oh, I'm writing a book' or would that sound as though I were trying to recruit fans and get him to say, 'What about?' When I do check Facebook, should I turn the volume down so he can't hear the bee-doop of a message arriving?  When do I offer tea or coffee? As soon as he arrives, or will that seem forward, as though he's popped round for a social chat? After ten minutes? Twenty? If he says, 'Oh, I'd just finished the job, actually,' what would I do then, with the kettle half-boiled? Do I give him biscuits, and if so, is one variety enough or should I offer two in case he hates coconut cookies but loves dark chocolate digestives? Do I ask him how the job is going or will that seem as though I'm questioning his ability?  What if I need the loo? Can I disappear upstairs, leaving him in the kitchen, and do I need to announce where I'm going? What if I didn't announce where I was going and then he needed a spanner? What if he needs the loo? Should I say, 'By the way, if you need it, the toilet's upstairs,' or do I wait for him to ask?  When I said, 'My husband's at work', did it sound like an invitation? Should I have added, 'But he'll be back very soon' just in case he thought it was?

The gas man was here for two hours, and the monologue above only represents a quarter of the dilemmas I encountered. As you can imagine, I got very little writing done, which is the bad news. The good news is: the cooker, boiler and gas fire are all in good working order, and he liked the dark chocolate digestives, which I don't. That left the coconut cookies for me when he'd gone and I needed comforting after all that stress and awkwardness.

Fortunately, he won't cometh again for a whole year.






29 comments:

  1. The gas man only comes to read our meter, which is outside. If he ever asked to come inside I'd call the cops.

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    1. Would you offer him a biscuit, though, while he waited for the cops to arrive?

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  2. Brilliant! I love your version of the song, though I am slightly offended that it's only for 'people of a certain age'. I'm pretty sure I'm below that certain age, but I know everything F&S ever wrote, mainly off by heart. I'm always cracking related jokes, quoting them or breaking into song whenever somebody mentions a London bus or an armadillo. No-one ever gets it, though, no matter how old they are.

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    1. Just keep doing what you're doing. It's people like you who will make sure they don't get forgotten!

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  3. I don't like strangers in the house. I don't like them outside the house, either. I don't like much of anyone or anything--except the gas man cometh. Your version is great.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. On the other hand, by the time he'd been there for two hours, he didn't feel like a stranger any more. There's something about sharing biscuits with a man in a gas engineer uniform that created a sense of intimacy.

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    2. That's so romantic. It's difficult to resist a man in a uniform.

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    3. I'd have preferred a fireman, if I'm honest.

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  4. I would begin by asking how long he thought the job might take, anything under a half hour probably doesn't need more than polite conversation if he seems inclined to chat. More than an hour, I would offer tea or coffee after about 45-50 minutes, then just continue with your regular routine. Point out the bathroom location if it comes to tea or coffee time.

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    1. ...except that had I said, 'How long will this take?' and he'd said, 'Could be a couple of hours' I wouldn't have been able to hide the horror on my face.

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  5. I've never heard that song before, it's quite funny. My dad was a gas-fitter/plumber.

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    1. I am glad to oblige. I bet your dad would have heard it.

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  6. Loads of culture points from me. Not for the Flanders and Swann reference - as magnificent as that was - but for the picture of Eddie Hitler and Richie Rich from Bottom. The Gas Man is one of my most favourite episodes. If you've never seen it you must watch it. You'll never offer a gas man a cup of tea in the same way ever again...!

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    1. I didn't even know who was in the picture, so was completely unaware of my own cultural reference! Ha ha! I will watch it. Thanks for the tip.

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    2. Hm ... I'm not sure it's my sense of humour, although I can see the appeal. But here's a short clip. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5p-YQkbe_s

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  7. Haha! I have exactly the same experience, usually erring on the side of being too friendly so I get an unstoppable run-down of their day, the stress of gasmanship etc. Loved it :) :)

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    1. The stress of gasmanship! I love the way you say that. Gosh, yes, combined with the stress of personwhostaysinforgasmanship as well, it's all a recipe for panic!

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  8. Very insightful as ever, Fran, and I fully understand the stress that you were under! However, speaking as someone who's often on the other side of the equation - visiting people in the homes (though not as a gasman) - I would like to offer my own insights...

    I have devised a system which places 'customers' into one of four categories. There are the Uninterested, who leave you alone to get on with it - usually the best sort, as long as they are around when you need to ask something. Then there are the Watchers, who say nothing but scrutinize everything you do. Creepy, but essentially harmless, and you learn to ignore them. Thirdly, you have the Chatterers, who talk non-stop, usually not about anything relevant. Sometimes interesting, but it does make it hard to concentrate sometimes. The trick is to nod and make non-committal noises whilst tuning them out. Finally, and by far the worst, are the Advisers, who know more about your job than you do, and who are generous in sharing their knowledge, so that you don't make any mistakes.

    So, the best way to act in such situations is to be polite, give any relevant information concisely and accurately, offer light refreshments (I rarely except - old age, weak bladder, etc.) and then stay out of the way!

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    1. This is brilliant advice, Paul! It's like one of those psychological tests, working out which one I am, and I think I am an Uninterested who is worried that I should be a Chatterer but now very pleased to find it's not necessary. I am certainly not a Watcher and even less so an Adviser. Thank you. This is actually very reassuring!

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    2. You're very welcome, Fran! (Please excuse my poor editing - 'except' should of course have been 'accept'! My fault for doing things in a hurry because I'm supposed to be doing something else).

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  9. Exactly what goes through my head , too .
    It would be seen as appallingly bad manners not to make coffee for visiting workmen over here , so I do just in case . Then if they refuse , I drink the whole pot and bounce about for the rest of the day .

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    1. You make me giggle. You paint a great picture there!

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  10. I always feel obliged to hang around and chat, and the responses vary considerably. Sometimes, answers come in one syllable. Sometimes they engage to such a degree that I find myself starting to plan my escape, or even consider taking notes!

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    1. Well, Paul T gives some very good advice in his comment above, so perhaps that might help you!

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  11. It's like an invasion of your home & a relief when it's over. It always makes me giggle when they want their tea with two sugars !

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  12. I leave them to it apart from offering tea/coffee. I would hate to be watched. But on the other hand I feel obliged to look busy (in a different room) and not as if I'm a rich housewife who lies on the sofa reading magazines all day - should they need me for anything.

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    1. That's what makes it all so jolly awkward!

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