A few very short stories
Tits like coconuts
Working on a system with Ray in Armley Town Street, I was sent out to buy sandwiches and drinks, as I walked back clutching these a very attractive young woman walked past, everyone was looking at her as she was wearing a T shirt which said in large letters on the front “Tits like coconuts”, as she passed, the back of her shirt said, “Sparrows like peanuts”.
I arrived back at the site and my colleague was hanging out of the doorway. Did you see that? he said. Ray had obviously noticed her too.
Great Dane ate my dinner
One day, I was sent out with a service engineer David. At lunchtime he suggested we buy fish and chips and go to his house nearby to eat them. He failed to say that he had a pet great Dane dog, the second I entered the house, the dog reared up and put one paw on each of my shoulders knocking me to the ground, then ran out of the house with my fish and chips.
The engineer chased him, but it was too late he had already eaten them. Apologetic, he made me a drink and shared his portion with me, I suppose that was the least he could do.
Supervisors broken indicator
One day in the stores, Peter the supervisor was looking a bit shaken up when he arrived, it was immediately apparent that he was carrying a piece of his car, the indicator stalk.
It turned out that as he neared the stores, he had stopped for lights at the nearby junction, suddenly another motorist banged on his side window, shocked at this Peter had wound the window down, at which point the motorist reached into the car and snapped off the indicator stalk saying, “if you aren’t using your indicators, you don’t need this” throwing the stalk into Peter’s lap.
How Clancy got his nickname
Gordon would never say how he had been given his nickname Clancy, eventually at a drunken night out one of the old service engineers let the story out.
Many years earlier, Gordon as an apprentice himself had been in the pub with several more engineers, being an inexperienced drinker at the time, several pints saw him collapsed and out cold under the table.
An elderly gentleman on the next table, with a flat cap, pipe and sheep dog for company leaned over and said to the engineers, “ay lad, tha reminds me of my old dog Clancy '', from that day forward, Gordon was Clancy.
Andrew fish n chips
Once whilst I was assisting the signalling changes, I was in the alarm receiving centre (then called the central station), located on Park Square in Leeds, now the fashionable location for lawyers and barristers to have premises.
Fish and chips had been sent out for and when they arrived wrapped in newspaper they were handed around to all present, including Andrew, who, due to a sudden urge, was sitting on the toilet with his trousers around his ankles, his fish and chips on his lap and the door propped open.
After Andrew left, the alarm centre staff were a bit shocked at how disgusting this was, I have to say, it was an odd sight, looking into a toilet to see someone sitting on the pot, doing their business whilst eating fish and chips.
Cable confiscated on the bus
One day, I was at the stores when I was told by a supervisor, I was to assist an engineer in the centre of Leeds. I was given a length of MICC (mineral insulated copper sheathed) cable and a large bag of other parts to carry to site, I pointed out that I had a motorcycle, not a car and was told, get on a bus.
So, I duly caught the bus, the roll of cable was very heavy and approx. six feet in diameter, making it very cumbersome. The bus driver was not happy when I climbed aboard and put the cable in the rack for luggage and pushchairs.
Next an inspector joined the bus. He was seriously concerned that I had this huge roll of metal cable, he called the police who threw me off the bus and confiscated the roll of cable. It fell to the supervisor to recover the roll from the police station and explain why I had been sent on public transport with an inappropriate item.
The boudoir – service engineers terrified
One Monday morning, in the stores with all the installation and service engineers meeting to be assigned work, or collect parts etc. Martin piped up that the house he had just completed a new installation for, had a boudoir master bedroom, with mirrored ceiling and two walls, red bedding, whips and bondage clothing hanging from the wall, wardrobes full of sex costumes and gimp masks etc.
The service engineers realised that they may be on call when the lady of the house decided she needed an out of hours engineer, they started to talk with the union rep about whether or not they could refuse to attend, or demand that if she called, two engineers be sent etc.
Initially it looked like a strike was afoot, however a few days later they received letters with the relevant sections of their contracts of employment highlighted. It seems they would have to attend, should she call.
For the benefit of the deaf
College day came around again, it was often dull but sometimes things occurred which lifted the day out of the dull category. One such occasion occurred when we returned for the evening class, this was to be held in a portacabin and we all piled in when the lecturer arrived with the keys.
Within a few seconds we all piled back outside, as one of the students had dropped his guts and the smell was intolerable. Standing outside waiting for the air to clear, the lecturer said, do you know why farts smell?' We started to think but after a minute or so he told us, it’s for the benefit of the deaf.
Jewellers ‘lost’ diamond ring
Whilst working in one of the oldest established jewellers in Bradford, I found a large diamond solitaire ring under one of the counters, I pointed this out to the engineer I was working with, he said, do not touch it, just leave it exactly where it is.
Later over lunch off the premises, he said, the ring is an honesty test trap placed there by the store management, if it goes missing we will be held to account, even if you pick it up, you could be accused of intending to steal it.
When we returned after lunch the ring had gone, no one said anything but it came to light later that some years ago in the same shop, a pearl necklace had been discovered down the back of a wall unit by an engineer working on the alarm, foolishly he took the necklace and was subsequently dismissed from the company never able to work in the security industry again.
Tea in jam jars
Chapeltown Road in Leeds was a poor area, the shops were run down and very shabby. Working in a store selling clothes which looked like it had not seen any changes for seventy years, we were disappointed when the staff made tea for all, excluding us.
After two days, my colleague said, loudly enough to be heard, “I would love a cup of tea” when the staff were handing out freshly brewed cups.
Next time the staff made tea, they asked us if we would like a cup, and we both replied enthusiastically, yes please. A few minutes later we were pointed towards a tray by the kettle, on the tray were two jam jars with tea in them, picking the glass jars up, you could see remnants of mouldy jam still in the jars.
We elected to leave the jars untouched and they never asked if we would like a cup again.
At technical college one day we were brushing up on several laws. First up was Ohm's law and Kirchoff’s voltage law. Then we covered Joules law, gouss’s law and Calumb’s law when one of the students interrupted the lecturer, have you heard of Tools law, he asked. The lecturer thought for a minute and said, no I cannot say I have heard that one. To which the student replied, it’s the angle of the dangle multiplied by the heat of the moment.
Control panel on the back of café door Skipton
On one occasion I was in Skipton and called in to the bus station café for refreshment, sitting down with my mug of tea and anticipating the full English I had ordered, I was struck by the Chubb CA45 control panel fastened to the bottom of the entrance door to the café just a few inches above the floor as the top three quarters of the door was glass.
Every time a customer arrived or left; the panel would stop the door from opening fully as it collided with the serving counter.
It struck me that this was a serious fire risk, not only was the door not able to fully open in an emergency, but rechargeable batteries installed in the panel could be heard rattling around when the door banged shut, a short circuit would cause a fire.
Dead animals in panels
On several occasions, I opened locked control panels to find a dead mouse, rat, bird etc. Often these would have something relevant such as a dead mouse at one side and a loaded mouse trap with a piece of cheese in it at the other, or a dead bird with a packet of sealed bird seed.
I often wondered why they were left, and if the customers had noticed the smell as the animal decayed.
Working in the stores I had noticed that one of the service engineers had arrived and been handed several boxes full of polystyrene packing chips, this occurred three times over a period of several weeks, so I asked Mark the storeman, what is he doing with all that.
Mark said, he is insulating his loft space, he has had us collect all we can for almost two years now and as far as I am aware, he is about three quarters completed.
Another nine months passed, and the collection service continued. Then one day in the stores, the service engineer had borrowed the work van over the weekend.
Mark nudged me and said, you know it’s taken him three years to complete the insulation of his loft, well last week a surveyor was employed to check the property as he is selling it.
Guess what, they deem the polystyrene as a fire hazard, he has had to remove it all and fit fibreglass insulation instead. Hence the loan of the van to dispose of all the chips.
Using packaging as a toilet
Working once again with Martin, this time on a building site I was mortified to discover the site had no toilet. I spoke to Martin about this, he showed me his solution.
He opened the external bell box removing the cardboard carton, then took the bell out of the polythene bag, placing the bag into the box, open end up, he gave me this for a toilet.
The external bell even came wrapped with tissue paper, ideal for when you are finished, Martin assured me. Needless to say, I declined.
I hope you enjoyed reading Alarming Stories, Tales of an apprentice intruder alarm engineer. Please look out for the next volume. Tales of an alarm engineer which covers the period following my apprenticeship.