“The 13th has never been unlucky for me. Never. I’ve never had a bad experience with the number 13. Not once. Not ever. I’m immune to it.”
Even as I typed those words last Friday I was reminded of a poem by Roger McGough (can’t remember which one, sorry) where he talks about being afraid to tempt fate in case fate, tempted, one day weakens... but I shrugged it off anyway with a cavalier laugh and got on with cocking my snook at the universe. You can’t touch me, I thought to myself. I’m immune. Y’hear me? Immune! You can’t touch me with your so-called Friday 13th bad vibe!
Somewhere in the very centre of the universe an omniscient mind heard me and had an inclination...
And by the end of the day Friday 13th was going all out to prove just how unlucky it could be.
All was fine until it came time to head home. Of course this is the moment where you desperately want things to run smoothly. You can practically smell your evening meal being cooked. You can almost feel the warm cosy embrace of your sofa wrapping itself around you and calling you to submit to end-of-week TV-soothed slumber.
You just want to get out of the office and escape while the going is good.
Last Friday, the 13th, the going was decidedly not good. As I was literally on my way to the exit doors I was called to the men’s public toilets. A cubicle was occupied and the patron was refusing to respond to all calls to vacate the premises. I had no choice but to force the door. Inside I found a young male slumped over, completely unconscious, his trousers around his ankles and his head face down on his knobbly knees. He absolutely could not be roused by anything we did. It didn’t look good. One of my colleagues recommended we try smelling salts until I pointed out that, given the ever present stench of the urinals, if he wasn’t compos mentis now with the ambient bio-fall-out irradiating his nasal hairs a tiny little smell in a bottle was hardly going to kick-start his cerebral cortex.
So we called an ambulance. And therein the farce truly began. The operator took all the details and then asked some bizarre questions along the line of did the injured party have a history of heart trouble, etc. Now bearing in mind I had already explained that the injured party was an unknown member of the public I found this question rather ridiculous. I think the operator picked this up from the mocking pause that I dropped into our conversation. “I still have to ask, sir” he told me smartly.
Did he? Did he really still have to ask when he already knew I had never met the person in the toilets before in my entire life? I realize that most telephone operators work from a script these days but surely there is room for commonsense? Room for people to think independently and realize that sometimes portions of the script can just be dispensed with?
Anyway. Despite all this guff the ambulance was apparently on its way.
Great, I thought. Blue and twos flashing it’ll be here in 5 minutes and I can get away home.
Not so. 20 minutes later me and my loyal colleagues were still waiting. 25 minutes later we saw a paramedic’s car parked on the other side of the road. Just sitting there. Waiting. What the hell was he doing? Mr Knobbly Knees in the toilet could be choking on his own sputum by now! Why wasn’t he attending to the 999 call I had made? We approached and asked, amazingly politely, if he had indeed come to answer our summons for help. Yes he had, he said, but he couldn’t do anything until his “back-up” had arrived.
Oh. Back-up. A SWAT team was on its way then. Or possibly armed specialist forces. Great.
We had no choice but to back to the building and continue our wait growing more and more sour with each passing minute. We appreciated, loudly, that in today’s world dealing with possible drunks or drug users can be extremely hazardous and a bit of support is probably a necessity but even so... this poor guy could be voiding his entire colon down the bog for all anyone was doing to help him.
And so the wait went on. And on. Made worse by a drunken gang of teens who suddenly appeared and decided to hang around outside the front of the building and empty their bladders over our railings. Charming. The evening was getting better and better.
Finally, 50 minutes after my initial 999 call an ambulance at last sirened into view. Hoo-bloody-ray. At last. Now with two green jacketed body guards flanking him the paramedic boldly stepped into the breach. As I opened the door to let them in one of the teens mumbled something along the lines of: “oh, hey mate, we think one of our friends might be in your toilets...” Cue Beavis and Butthead laughter.
Oh how typical. I managed to marshal my sarcasm (i.e. utilize it) and told him that yes, that was why we had called an ambulance as his so called mate was out stone cold.
“Oh,” said the dazed teen, “is it OK if I come in and watch?”
Come in and watch. Not, how is he? Not, is he OK? Just: can I come in and watch.
I shut the door on him and locked him outside.
15 minutes later the paramedics had got Mr Knobbly Knees up and mobile. He looked as dazed as his erstwhile mates outside. Confused and a little embarrassed too. But I daresay by Saturday he was rather proud of his exploits and was boasting of his advanced state of inebriation to all those of his friends who were not too inebriated themselves to tell him to shut up and go and flush his stupid head down the toilet.
Their job done the ambulance crew melted away into the night, reholstering their standard SWAT team issue revolvers. Don’t thank us; it’s just what we do. Yippee-ki-yay.
Whatever. My colleagues and I headed outside too and wiped the dust from our shoes and headed our separate ways.
I finally arrived home over an hour late, tired, soaked with rain and in a foul mood.
Friday 13th? I shall never mock you again. And that’s a bona fide promise. I have seen the power of the Universe and it scares me.
Postscript: Somewhere at the centre of the universe an omniscient mind wonders perhaps if it has gone too far and decides to offer a little consolation... a small token of recompense.
On my way out to get some milk on Sunday morning I noticed that among the assorted chip wrapping and drinks cartons that the wind constantly deposits on our front lawn a slightly damp but otherwise perfectly intact £5 note.
Why, thank you Universe. Apology gratefully accepted.