Part of my weekly job involves me going out to large flat groups and just sitting there in the hopes that something might happen, or that someone might want to come in and talk about something more than the stench that cat urine gives off in the summer, or those pesky neighbours, you know the ones I mean, those people (or as we now say across the board, "Those people? What? People from Salisbury?"), the latter always reminds me of the bigot in Love Thy Neighbour who I am now convinced is one of our tenants as he constantly calls about the problem's he's having with various 'darkies'. I put it to him last week, "Do you think that you might be contributing to the problem?" Silence. Come on down Snowflake!
A few weeks back I had the joy of spending a couple of hours in a small unit, waiting for something to happen. The police came to arrest a tenant, that was fun, but sadly the guy in question wasn't home, so it was over as soon as it began. With the excitement in mind I sat down to read some notes on the complex I was in. The first thing that leapt out at me was the high number of reports of car theft and vandalising in broad daylight. I promptly went to the car and moved it into plain sight, good thing too as a few likely lads were admiring the duco. Once I'd finished reading the report for the fourth time (hoping to find something positive in amongst the tales of woe and crime) I looked about and found the famous biography of Weary Dunlop. "Self," I said, "there's nothing else to do, and words are words and reading passes the time, so why not." With that ringing in my mind I sat down and quickly became absorbed in the book.
Then it happened. An elderly man decided to walk in. I placed the book on the table, stood up and introduced myself. He seemed pleased that someone was in the unit and alive (or so he said) and sat down to tell me, in detail, the history of the units and the problems with everyone contained within. I felt like say, "I've read the novel," but asked the right questions and at least looked and sounded interested, although my eyes must have looked as if I were nodding off after a nice dose of heroin. Then it happened. He spied the book. He'd been talking about the Asians that had moved in, well, to use his words, 'the filthy bloody Jap bastards,' but let's not split hairs.
MAN: "You read a lot?"
ME: "When I can."
MAN: "Weary Dunlop eh? Now there's a man. He knew what to do with those bloody Japs. I wish he lived here."
ME: "That'd be a tad difficult."
ME: "For one thing he's dead, and the second he wasn't born here, meaning he'd have to wait a very long time to be housed, if he wasn't dead, which he is, which means he's not moving here in a hurry."
MAN: "He's not dead."
ME: "Ummmm, yes he is. Died a few years back. It was in all the papers. State funeral, TV specials, newspaper coverage, the lot."
MAN: "Oh, that'd have been when Howard was the PM. He had the right idea, he hated those bloody wogs too."
ME: "Well, that's neither here nor there, but deep down I don't think Howard hated wogs."
MAN: "He knew how to deal with the bloody Japs he did. Killed them all."
ME: "Who? John Howard??"
MAN: "No, Weary Dunlop. Killed millions of Japs he did. With a fountain pen."
ME: "No he didn't."
MAN: "Are you saying that Weary Dunlop was a coward?"
ME: "Not at all. Look, if I had to pick ten guys to go into battle then he'd be right up there. From what I've read and heard he was one of those guys who'd lay down their lives for the people he was with. Great guy, a true hero, and a terrific doctor. He went through a lot and I admire the guy. But I don't think he killed millions of Japanese people."
MAN: "Yes he did. In World War Two. I was alive then, you weren't."
ME: "True, but Weary Dunlop was a doctor which meant he was dedicated to saving lives, and plus which he was locked up in a POW camp for the bulk of the duration and didn't see as much action as others did."
MAN: "No he wasn't. Who told you that crap?"
ME: "Well, I read it in Weary's own published diaries."
MAN: "Well he was lying."
ME: "Weary was lying about himself?"
MAN: "You calling Weary Dunlop a liar?" At this point he stood up and thundered this question. I also stood up and attempted to calm him down.
ME: "I'm not calling anyone a liar. I wasn't there. I've just never heard of Weary Dunlop killing millions of Japanese in World War Two."
MAN: "Well he did," his chin was quivering, " and what's more he killed more of those slanty eyed bastards than anyone else in history." At this point I had a vision of Weary Dunlop riding the atomic bomb down onto Hiroshima, ala Slim Pickens in Dr Strangelove. I grabbed my phone out of my top pocket.
ME: "Whoops, sorry, I have to go. I've got a call."
MAN: "I didn't hear it ring."
ME: "It's on silent mode?"
MAN: "Ok, I'll leave you to it then." With that he wandered off back to his flat, muttering all the way. I drove back to the office in silence. Two days later my phone rang.
MAN: "You know you're wrong, admit it."
ME: "Ok, John Howard killed more people in World War Two than everyone else combined."
MAN: "You're bloody crazy you are." The phone hung up. At least he hasn't called me back.
The things we deal with.