I thought I would be home in plenty of time. But as I round the corner of our road, struggling with several shopping bags banging painfully against my legs, I can see the van from British Gas already parked outside our
house. It's Annual Service Time!
The Gasman sees me coming. I'm not sure how he knows it's me but he gives me a thumbs up as I motor towards him. I must look like
someone who wants their boiler and gas fire serviced. Or, more likely, someone who is a Trifle Late. It must be the wild hair and anxious eyes.
I booked on-line,
a two hour “window” between 12 and 2 p.m. Fortunately the Gasman had phoned ahead and been informed by Mr B that I was on the bus on my way home. It is a pity that I failed to warn Mr B that we are expecting such an important visitor but he seems
to have handled the situation perfectly.
The Man from the Gas Board shows me his identity badge so I can check he is who he says he is before I let him in.
I cannot help commenting that the large van outside is a bit of a giveaway, too. I apologise for my late arrival but he says not to worry, it gave him an opportunity to make a few phone calls, only I arrived before he'd finished. I almost find myself apologising
for not being as late as I might have been but I stop myself when I realise this would be perfectly ridiculous.
He starts with the boiler, as this will be
the quicker of the two tasks, and I make him a cup of coffee. Milk and one sugar, I know how much you like me to go into details. My children never understand why I make everyone who comes to our house a hot drink, regardless of who they might be, but I don't
see why the Gasman should be made any less welcome than a friend or family member. Oh, well, okay, he won't be treated to a kiss and a hug - but a cup of tea or coffee is just a Small Gesture of Appreciation. Isn't it?
Having finished with the boiler, which is pronounced in tip top condition, he moves into the living room where Mr B is keen to let him know just how good a job was carried out by the Gasman who
serviced our appliances this time last year. I hope this year’s engineer doesn't take umbrage at the implication that he might not do likewise or take this comment as a threat that Mr B will be paying close attention to the care he takes in replacing
all the artificial coals in exactly the right order.
I'm busy unpacking the shopping, cooking Mr B’s lunch and making preparations for my weekend trip
to beautiful Southbourne, to stay with my sister and brother in law - when I suddenly tune into the conversation going on between Mr B and The Gasman. Mr B, as you know, is a sociable type which makes it doubly hard for him being virtually housebound.
Today he has a captive companion and, moreover, one who appears to be delighted to hear all about our family, as related by a proud father and grandfather. He asks sensible
questions and listens carefully to the answers, even as he tends to our gas fire. By the time he leaves he knows everyone’s names, where they all live, the jobs they do, the ages of the grandchildren and at what stage they are at in education or career.
He has been shown the photos and heard all about the length of time we have been married. I feel bound to interject that I was, of course, a child bride, plucked from my cradle as a mere babe. He looks at me with kind, but doubtful, eyes.
I am immeasurably grateful to him, I tell him as I see him out - he has quite made Mr B’s day.
Now that's what you call really good service.