Danny Wallace is a Man

Danny Wallace is a Man

Handing over 20 quid ahead of time

There’s a knock at the door, but the person I’m expecting to come round this afternoon is already here. It can’t be them. The only way to solve this mystery, I decide, will be to answer that very same door.

“Hellomate,” says a man, in all one word. “Clean your windows for 20 quid.”

He hands me a professional flyer that says much the same.

Well, you know what? I happen to have 20 quid on me. And these front windows need washing. I’ve been thinking for ages we should get them washed.

And I admire the casual nature of this business encounter. This is all working for me.

“Why not!” I say, gregariously, rooting around in my pocket and fishing out the 20. “Let’s do this!”

The man seems delighted and I hand him the 20 and close the door.

Back in the kitchen, I rejoin my wife and friend.

“We’re getting our front windows washed!” I say, and I sit down, like this is nothing at all. I must seem pretty cool.

“Really?” says my wife.

“They must have been doing someone else’s front windows and just thought they’d try their luck. I admire their tenacity. I am happy to support this very British form of industriousness.”

I sip my tea, patriotically.

“So is it a proper company, then?” asks my wife.

I shrug. I hadn’t thought about that. “It was just a guy,” I say.

“A guy?” says my friend.

“A guy,” I say. “But he had this.”

I produce the flyer. It suddenly doesn’t seem quite as professional as it seemed in the doorway. It doesn’t seem like a fresh flyer. Somehow, it seems like a flyer that a lot of people have handled before me.

“How much is it going to be?” asks my wife, eyeing her bag.

“Twenty quid,” I say, defensively. “But it’s fine. I’ve already paid him.”

The words hang in the air.

“You’ve already paid him?” she says.

“Yes,” I say, as I begin to feel unsettled.

“So a man turned up on our doorstep and asked you for 20 quid?”

“That’s right,” I say.

“And you just gave him 20 quid?”

“I did,” I say, but then, sensing this attack, I feel I need to be specific: “In return for him washing our windows.”

We all turn to look at the windows. There are no signs of life.

“He’s probably just moving his van,” I say.

“Cool, so he’s got a van?” says my wife, relieved.

“Well… I’m guessing he’s got a van,” I say, defensively. “I didn’t actually see a van. I just saw a man.”

“What was he wearing?” asks my friend, trying to be helpful, looking at the flyer, which is pretty much just a mobile number.

“He was wearing a T-shirt?” I say, faintly. “I think maybe blue?”

We all go quiet. I can’t hear any vans. The sounds of squeegees are noticeable only by their absence.

It was a scam.

“Look, it can’t be a scam,” I say, sensing the elephant in the room. “Most people would have waited until after the guy had cleaned the windows before handing him 20 quid. I must have just been confused by all his fancy talk and jargon.”

“What did he say?” asks my wife.

“He said, ‘clean your windows for 20 quid’. But he said it like a statement, not a question. And remember, he had this.”

I point at the mobile-number flyer. They go silent.

These people must think me a fool! But I have done nothing but place my trust in a strange man in maybe a T-shirt who showed up at my door without an appointment. Is that a crime? At worst, whatever he has planned, I am a mere accessory. I am only funding his crime.

“Thing is, you’ve taken away his incentive,” says my friend. “Imagine if all jobs just paid your annual wage at the start of the

year. How much work would you actually do? Probably just a bit at the end of December.”

“Bullrubbish!” I want to shout, as I see these awful looks of uncertainty. “You would work January to December because you would be grateful to be trusted!”

And then… the sound of a van!

“HA!” I say, standing up and pointing at my wife and our friend. “I hope you are ASHAMED!”

I run to the door. There’s the man! He’s got a van!

“Do you need to use some water?” I ask, so pleased.

“I got special water in the van,” he says.

I don’t know what that means, so I leave him to it. And I am the winner! My faith has been rewarded. I have arranged and completed a deal based entirely on trust.

Roughly three minutes later, he’s finished, packed up and gone.

I look at the windows. I take in his work. I wait a moment.

“No one EVER answers this door again!” I shout.


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