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Rear View Mirror: Hanging on the telephone

Beware the mobile silently spilling your secrets, says Tony Schumacher

Written by . Published on March 15th 2012.

Rear View Mirror: Hanging on the telephone

I ONCE spent a winter working for a roofing company, back in the days when health and safety extended as far as steel toecaps and one pair of gloves a week.

Complaining about roofs being too steep to walk on did you no good, these were macho times and macho men. To show fear invited ridicule.

I got a lot of ridicule.

How about the misplaced text declaring: “I’m
not going for a pint if Idiot Brian is going!”
to the idiot you’ve just called Idiot Brian?

On one job Chris, or “Bone ‘Ed” as we used to call him, slipped down the slates with a “rat tat tat” that sounded like bones in a galvanized bucket. We all turned to see him hanging by the slender thread of a cast iron gutter, which dipped slowly like a flower wilting under the weight of morning dew, before he dropped, silently into the yard below.

I crept to the edge of the roof, took a deep breath, and looked down to see Bone ‘Ed sprawled on some bags of sand and a tarpaulin some 20 feet below,

“Is he alright?” called Peter, the foreman on the job, who was peering  over the ridge also.

“I think so, he’s just stood up.” I muttered in shock.  

“Tell him to bring up a roll of felt then,” came the callous reply.

Like I said, macho men.

Later, during tea break, when I asked Bone ‘Ed what had flashed through his mind as he’d started to slide, he replied,

“I thought I was gonna die and there was nothing I could do about it. I s**t myself.”

I used to worry a lot about falling off the roof. I imagined that for the briefest of moments there would be a feeling in your stomach that would be like no other feeling you had ever felt in your life. A clench of guts as you dropped out into space, no way back, plummeting to your doom. Life flashing before your eyes.

Obviously this was before the invention of the mobile phone. Because now we all know, the worst feeling in the world is when you look down at your phone and realise the person you’ve been slagging off for the last ten minutes has been quietly listening in your pocket, like a tiny earpiece imp.


We’ve all done it, and you must have felt the grip in your stomach as your mouth falls open and you recognise the name on the screen to be the same one you’ve been talking about. 

Or how about the misplaced text declaring: “I’m not going for a pint if Idiot Brian is going!” to the idiot you’ve just called Idiot Brian?

It’s that feeling... the feeling of doom.

Which brings me to last week...

“I’m gonna sack her off lad, I’m sick of her moaning.”

“Yeah lad, sack her off.”

“I shouldn’t have let her move in when she asked, lad. She’s doing my ‘ed in.”

“You can do well better lad, she’s not even good lookin’ lad.”

I glanced in my mirror at the two “lads”, sprawled on my back seat, having a heart to heart, I didn’t know the girl but if the one who was doing the “sackin’” could do better I’d be astonished.

The cab reeked of skunk weed and lager and their black nylon tracksuits were giving off enough static to stick a zeppelin to the wall. I’d picked up these two “catches” in deepest, darkest Norris Green, and my heart had sunk as they swaggered towards me. They looked like Noel and Liam Gallagher on a cat walk but in slow motion. One had even had his hand on his crotch and they were scowling more than vegans in a KFC.

Tough guys.

(Click here to add text)These two wanted the world to think they were real deal gangstas not to be messed with: Dr Dre and Sean Coombs, back before someone told him what a “Puff Daddy” actually was.

I’d decided even before they opened the doors I couldn’t be bothered engaging beyond, “Where to then?”, and I’d already opened my window an inch or two before they got in. So listening to the macho conversation that was going on behind me was making my eyes roll so much I could have passed for Marty Feldman.

“I’ve been giving it to that Carla, lad.”

“Have you lad?”

“Yeah, lad. Soon as I kick this other one out, lad, I’m gonna get on her.”

“Sound lad. Birds need to know lad, they can’t be on your case. Bad move lettin her move in lad.”

“I’m gonna get on top of this one, lad, show her who’s boss.”

They paused, then one said: “You got a bird, lad?”

I stabilised my eyes long enough to notice they were talking to me.

“No mate, just me and the dog, quiet life.” I replied, maintaining my vow of never using the term “lad” in any form of conversation.

“Best plan lad, saves the grief, saves ‘avin to slap them down.”

I nodded in reply, and considered switching to Radio Four to see if we could catch the tail end of Women’s Hour which was celebrating International Women’s Day.

A moment passed as we sat at lights, then a tiny, tinny voice broke the silence. I checked the mirror as Dre and Puff exchanged glances.

I wondered if one of them was doing Rob Brydon’s small-man-in-a-box routine, but they both looked towards me with confusion. I glanced at my phone as the tiny voice seemed to grow louder, like a wasp banging on the window, but it was off, same as always.

It was then I heard the rip of Velcro as Dre whipped out his mobile phone and the voice got louder. I looked in the mirror where,  in horror, Dre held the phone up to Puff so that he could read the name on the other end of the line. His jaw dropped like a stone.

The tiny voice sounded angry, furious. A woman scorned.  She’d heard the whole conversation. If she was getting sacked, she wasn’t going quietly. This wasn’t the Apprentice.

Dre looked at me in the mirror, and I thought “Bone ‘Ed”.

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

BurnsyMarch 15th 2012.

Nice one, Lad!

Call to prayerMarch 15th 2012.

Oh yes indeed I recall a work colleague had just phoned a local church about an event that was being organised with some high profile attendees and he was the lead for organising our role. He had to phone the local church minister who had an answer machine that played an Hallelujah chorus type greeting with and awful message. My colleague left a message about the event and asking them to get back asap. But he was so impressed that he dialled the number again to play it for everyone in the office until it got to the tone to leave your message and he put down the receiver. Of course being on hands free, that did not end the call and so the message left was "What a f-ing idiot fancy putting that on soft get......ooh f*ck is that still on?"

Darth FormbyMarch 16th 2012.

I might have missed out on this entertainment, as I would have been sorely tempted to drive on and leave them juggling their nuts.

Liverpool WagMarch 16th 2012.

I cringe when I remember the time a bachelor friend of mine, who kept house like a pig (sorry pigs), bought a cooker.

That he had lived in his house for 10 years with no cooker whatsoever - and had survived on two takeaway kebabs a day, all washed down with fine malt whisky and 80 Bensons, perhaps gives you some idea.

He rarely did the washing up, preferring instead to throw away the dishes and buy new when things in the kitchen started to go bump in the day - as well as the night.

Once he got the cooker he decided to dive straight into cordon bleu cookery which meant pots and pans in the sink now, along with all the other detrius. The kebabs, the fags and the whisky continued to flow like a tsunami through a beach resort.

Naturally, he wanted to try this new skill out on all of his friends. He rang me first, suggesting dinner for two and, I am sorry, to say I made some pathetic excuse and said maybe next week.

Of course, I then proceeded to ring a mutual friend of ours. The friend was out so I left a lovely long message on his answering machine explaining that "Kevin" was planning to have us all round for a dinner party, that I couldn't think of a worse idea in the world, and if he wanted to make his excuses not to go, here was a chance. I was giving him the heads up.

I ended the message with the flourish: "Forewarned is forearmed."

At 3am, the hapless "Kevin" and the friend staggered into the friend's flat, bottle of malt. The answering machine light was flashing, so naturally....

It was another year before "Kevin" spoke to me again and, 16 years later, things are still rather frosty

mrsmarsaMarch 19th 2012.

Bravo Mr T! Glad to see RVM back! :-)

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