Do you ever feel like there’s more to life? Like you’re just coasting through time waiting for something to happen? I see it almost every day: people close to the end of their lives, given up when there’s nothing left to live for. No matter if you’re hard working and successful with a wealthy life full of joy; you end up in the same state as the lazy and poor when death finally comes anyway.
That’s the kind of crap I think about while on my rounds delivering meals on wheels from the lowest rung of the career ladder I think a thirty year old should be doing. But I keep telling myself it’s a job, and it’s putting a roof over my head. And Mei’s of course. I can’t help thinking, though, that I should be up there in the offices looking down on the workforce and not working as a slave, as it were. It’s my own fault. I should have paid more attention at school. All through my life I’ve only done enough to get by without going the extra mile for myself. I often see this picture online of a bird on the top rung of a perch shitting on the birds below with the words: When the top look down all they see is shit; when the bottom looks up, all they see are arseholes.
Remember when you were young? I think to myself. When you walked through those school gates to junior school with mum. I remember seeing the adults and thinking how far away that was for me, how I said that I would never grow up, and how mum said ‘I know you’ll never grow up’. She said it sarcastically but I think she was right. I never have done, not really. But does anyone? We get older and wiser, but there’s always some immaturity that never really leaves us. That’s what I think anyway.
Enough reminiscing, you’re at the wheel of a car. Concentrate you idiot.
The round I’ve been given is the same round I always do: the Leyland round. Using my own car, I collect the meals from the depot, load them up and take them out to our customers. The meals are hot so time is of the essence.
I enjoy the job as a whole, the only minor, and it really is minor, niggle I have is the sign I have to leave in my car window. It shows the name of the company: Meals to your Door, with the slogan: ‘Food in your mouth, Warmth in your heart.’
What the hell is that? It sounds like some of the corniest shite I’ve ever heard. But I have to display it, and I see it every time I take a meal from the boot of the car.
The clock on my dashboard shows 12:54. I approach my last drop: Mrs Mellor. I’m making good time. She lives on Royal Avenue near a school. She’s the last one on my round of twenty. And then I head home.
Mrs Mellor is a nice lady. I see her every day. One of my regulars. I leave her until last because sometimes she can talk for England and I think I’m the only person she sees all day.
I step out into the murky and cloudy British weather and open the boot of my eight year old Renault Clio with that stupid slogan staring at me the entire time. I put on my gloves and take an extremely hot chicken in gravy and rhubarb crumble out of the box. I close the boot and head up her drive.
I go to knock but she opens the door ready for me. She looks at me through wrinkled eyes beneath a thick head of white hair. I think it’s a wig but have never questioned her on it, though sometimes it is at a slanted angle.
There’s an expression on her face. She doesn’t let me in right away, not like she usually does. She looks unhappy, and I think I know why.
I ask, ‘Those kids playing up again?’
She nods. ‘Kids these days are horrible little creatures. Sometimes I wish I had never moved near a school.’ She moves aside to let me through.
I enter and ready myself for a long conversation, all the while thinking that I just want to get home. I know it sounds selfish, but I go through this five days a week. Sometimes seven when my mother in law comes to stay, but I don’t want to talk about that just yet; it’s something of a sore subject. A cloud that’s currently hovering above my head. I just grin and bear it for as long as I can.
I put her meal on the small trolley she has ready for me. There’s a plate and cutlery set out ready and a tea towel to keep it warm. Then I wait for her to speak.
She takes a seat on the sofa, which in itself has seen better days. The carpet could do with renewing too. I can see thread on some parts. Anyway, enough about the décor.
Mrs Mellor tells me: ‘Those little imps keep knocking on my door and running away. I can hear them laughing. I cringe every time I hear their footsteps on my path.’
‘You know you can call the police? There are things they can do.’
She closes her mouth firmly and shakes her head. ‘Fat lot of good they will do for an old woman like me.’
I don’t really know what to say to her. I think that if she won’t call the police then there’s nothing I can do about it.
She offers me a cup of tea and I refuse politely. Too much tea and I’m peeing for the rest of the afternoon. She makes one for herself. I offer to make it for her but she would rather do it herself to keep from turning into what she calls a vegetable.
When I get back to my car thirty minutes later, I feel sorry for her. I look over to the school children going inside after their dinner hour. Those little shits are responsible for tormenting a frail and vulnerable old lady. I want to go inside the school and tell someone. But I shouldn’t interfere like that. I just hate kids. Although I know I have never grown up, I’m happy that I’m no longer a child. I’m reminded of a line from the movie Airplane where Lloyd Bridges’ character says something on the lines of ‘I don’t like kids. Glad I never was one’. That line always makes me smile.
I let out a long sigh and call the office to tell them that Mrs Mellor is having problems with the children in the school. And guess what I’m told? ‘That’s not our problem. We’re paid to deliver meals not get involved in their business.’
‘What about her next of kin?’ I ask. ‘Can’t we tell them?’
‘We don’t have any next of kin for her. She’s in and she has her meal. That’s the end of it.’
I put the phone down and start the engine for my fifteen minute drive home in anger. What happened to duty of care?
I drive down Fox Lane passing the speed camera that clocks cars coming in the other direction and turn right then left and right again and end up on Schleswig Way towards Preston. Then I just head straight. On the second round about, I go straight again, passing a Centurion tank. A tank, I tell you. A sign on a post in front of it reads: Made in Leyland. I get that it was made there but the first time I saw that thing was in my rear view mirror and it didn’t half give me a fright. I had to do a double take on it.
Ten minutes after that I make it home.