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Danny Wallace on playing it cool with the workman

“Biscuit? Would you like a biscuit?”

Danny Wallace on playing it cool with the workman
21 February 2018

There is a workman in my house and I can’t leave him alone.

“Do you want a cup of tea?” I say. “Coffee? Juice?”

He says he doesn’t. Then I’m back moments later.

“Biscuit? Would you like a biscuit?”

I’ve put lots of custard creams on a plate. I’ve made it look lovely. I want this guy to take a biscuit. But he doesn’t want a biscuit.

I casually whip the plate away, like we always keep our custard creams on a plate, and that this is no problem.

“Actually, can I use your toilet?” he suddenly calls out, shifting his tool belt.

“YES!” I say, delighted he wants to use my toilet, and I run back. “It’s just through there!”

I walk him part the way to the toilet and watch him go in.

I hope I haven’t seemed too keen for him to use my toilet. I hope he doesn’t think I’ve put loads of cameras in there. Because I haven’t. It’s just that I want him to feel I am totally relaxed about him being here, and that he is welcome, and the best way to make someone feel relaxed and welcome is to constantly hover around them asking them questions.

While he’s behind that closed door, I potter about in the kitchen, making it seem like I’m busy, so that I’m immediately on hand when he comes out in case he wants a biscuit or some juice or has any questions about the toilet.

But out he glides a few minutes later and walks straight to the job he’s doing.

I’ll leave him alone now. He will continue his work unbothered.

“Do you want the radio on?” I say, peering around the corner. “Or the TV?”

Maybe there’s some football on he wants to catch up on! He looks like the type of man who talks in football phrases. But, “No thanks,” he says. What an own goal.

“Well let me know if you change your mind about the tea or whatever.”

“Yep,” he says, not looking at me. “Will do.”

I know what not looking at me means. It means he wants to get on with his work. Well, I’m going to show how just how astute, intuitive and professional I am. The time has come to let him work!

And so I check the cupboards in case we’ve got anything other than custard creams, just in case he doesn’t actually like custard creams.

For a few minutes, I hear a drill. And when it stops, I hear his phone vibrating.

“Yes mate, about half an hour,” he says. He’s telling his boss how long he’s going to be. “Yeah, fine.”

Fine? I hope his boss is asking how the job is going and not something else, like, “Are you having a nice time?” Because “fine” would not do in that circumstance.

And then I hear him say something weird.

He sighs and says, “I’m just really hot.”

I frown. He’s too hot? It’s not that hot in here. And who complains to their boss about being hot? You complain to your partner about being too hot, or the coach driver, not your boss. What kind of baby is he? Plus, of course he’s hot; he’s wearing a jumper!

Still. This is not something I can raise with him. Because a) that would show I was too interested in his comfort, and b) that would be weird. No. I must leave it.

“Did I hear you say you were a bit hot?” I say, poking my head around the corner.

He looks shocked.

“No, I’m fine.”

“I can open a window?” I say. Or you could take your jumper off.

“I’m fine.”

“I can turn the heating down?” Or you could take your jumper off.

“It’s OK.”

“Are you sure you don’t want a cold drink?” I say. Or to take your jumper off?

I am smiling, but underneath, for some reason, I am mortally offended that this man is too hot. It’s like he’s saying I’ve let him down. This is what he would have been slating me in the pub with his real-men mates later for: “Nice guy, but his house is too hot.”

But maybe I have just hit upon the problem. This is a real man, with a tool belt. Doing a job he secretly thinks I should be doing myself. And what are my tools? A kettle and a plate of biscuits. He probably considers me namby-pamby because I apparently live in an incubator. He probably takes great delight in rebuffing my hospitality.

Well, it’s time for me to take charge. To prove myself the man of the house.

So I make him a cup of tea. I don’t care if he wants it or not. He says he isn’t too hot, so he should be able to take a cup of tea, shouldn’t he? Like a real man!

“Oh,” he says, when I place it gently next to him. “Thanks.”

Yes mate. One-nil to me. I can do football talk too!

He looks at my other hand, expectantly. He’s looking for the custard creams.

Well, not today, my friend. It’s too hot for custard creams.


The Danny archive:

The curious case of the public burper

The strangeness of texting with an unknown friend

Accidentally gate-crashing the winners’ circle

The shame of quibbling a bill

The joy of a surprise free gift

The unsung glory of the Great British Wimpy

The Very British Christmas Miracle

The Curious Incident of the Spatula at the Pub Crawl

Making the most of room service

Beginning my new life as a yoga devotee

(Image: David Siglin)