Monday, August 27, 2007

Memories of Dennis...

I'd like to dedicate this post to Dennis Creasey, a service engineer of note that I once employed for 15 years or so.

He hasn't died or anything, or at least I don't think he's died since he retired five years ago, now you come to mention it he may have died and not told me, but not to worry, carry on...

Dennis was unique.
Dennis had Tourettes Syndrome.
Dennis interspersed most sentences with the word "fuck", or a fizzing noise, or a noise like an alarm clock spring breaking when under full tension, and like that alarm clock Dennis would make these noises when under tension.

Its not funny laughing at peoples afflictions, Dennis couldn't help his Tourettes, but lets all be honest, if you're going to pick a disability to laugh at, in a totally inappropriate and un-PC manner, then Tourettes is the disablement of choice.

And of course the fact that he was a service engineer meant that he spent all day long visiting our customers premises, swearing at them and making noises like an alarm clock spring breaking under full tension, at totally inappropriate times.

Fortunately Dennis came from Hull and Hull and the East Coast was his service patch, so such behaviour is not seen as being particularly unusual or anti-social there.

For instance I recall being with him on a job at a large office complex where I was configuring the software in one of those "goldfish bowl" offices, an office with glass walls in the middle of a large communal office with thirty or so women busy tapping away at keyboards. There I sat in the goldfish bowl puzzling at the computer screen whilst on the floor underneath the desk, unseen to anyone outside of the goldfish bowl, sat Dennis, puzzling at a bunch of cables that all needed to be connected to the computer - and the more puzzled he got, the worse his Tourettes became.

Eventually the string of "fuck", "brrrrroing", "fzzzzz", "hup", "fuck", "hmmmmp" and another "fuck" for good luck attracted the attention of all of the women in the office, all of whom were staring straight at me wondering how I made those obscene noises without moving my lips, if I kicked him under the desk then he'd stop for a minute or two but because he didn't know that he did the Tourettes thing he didn't know why I kept kicking him, and I kicked him for nearly half an hour until we finished the job, me in tears of laughter, him with a puzzled look on his face and covered in bruises.

But it wasn't just the Tourettes that made Dennis such a weird character, he was just weird.

He once came to me and explained that he had had his van broken into and all of his tools stolen, I told him to replace his tools and send the receipts to me and I'd claim off our insurance. A week later I got a bill for £12.58, the total sum of his replacement tools, and that included the toolbox as well.

When I asked him how the hell you could replace a toolkit with just £12.58 he showed me a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, his total toolkit, and he was happy with those. He did explain however that he hadn't been able to find "one of those battery drills" and asked me to obtain one for him. Now at the time you couldn't buy battery drills, they were a thing to be yet invented, we only used mains voltage drills in our work, I told Dennis that there was no such thing as a battery drill and what did he mean.

He insisted that he had a battery drill and even made the motion of someone drilling a hole in a wall, swearing, just to prove that he had once had a battery drill, I insisted that we had never purchased such an article, he demonstrated the drilling mime again, "a 'fuck' battery one, 'zzzz-ip', you know" he said, unconvincingly.

After twenty minutes discussion we finally arrived at the conclusion that he meant the Black and Decker battery screwdriver that we had given him to try out, except that he didn't know it was a screwdriver, he'd been using it to drill holes in brick walls with, sometimes for hours on end he'd stood there with the battery screwdriver whirring slowly away making not the slightest indentation in the bricks - he thought it was so good that he wanted another one.

Shortly after that I found out why his van had been broken into - he'd taken a very long set of ladders to work with him that morning, why I do not know, they weren't our ladders, and in order to get them inside the van he'd had to leave the back door wide open - and he had then left the van parked in a street for an hour while he went and called on a customer - Dennis was the only person who was totally flabergasted at the damn cheek of these theives when they had casually opened the already open van door and removed all of his tools, and the ladder, I didn't bother to inform the insurance company of this anomoly in our working procedures.

The advent of the mobile phone was also a red letter day in our catalogue of Dennis-isms, we had set up his mobile phone so that all he had to do was answer it, press the green button and answer it is what we told him, we didn't explain anything else to him, keep it simple we thought, don't let him start pressing buttons and things, press the green button Dennis and talk into the phone.

Three weeks later he came into the office all excited, he'd discovered that he could actually dial his home number, using these buttons on the front, and Eileen his wife would answer the phone at their house and did we know that we could do the same ?

"Why would we want to ring Eileen at your house" we asked.
"No, no, 'fuck', 'brrrring', I bet you could 'hmmmmp' ring your home number and 'fmmmp' speak to your wife" he explained, still excited at the theory of the telephone.
"Why would I want to do that ?" I asked, and indeed, why would I ?

Three months later Margaret, our secretary and general "does everything in the company, or likes to think she does" apprehended Dennis and mentioned to him that she'd just rung him and left a voicemail message and so to ignore it.

He looked puzzled.
It was the "voicemail" bit that was puzzling him

Margaret explained again that she had left a voicemail message for him to ring the office, as she did on four or five occasions throughout every day and that seeing as he had just turned up in the office he could now ignore the message.

"Voicemail" he asked, "what 'fuck' is 'hrrring' voicemail"

We explained the practice of leaving voicemail mesages on mobile phones and at the end of the explanation he told us that it sounded like a good idea and why hadn't we been doing it for the last three months.

"We have been doing it for the last three months" we all told him in unison, and indeed we had, four or five times every day.

I took his mobile phone off him and pointed to the little symbol on the screen that indicated that a voicemail message was waiting for him, his face lit up with some sort of recognition,

"Ah yes" he said "the ring the office indicator"
"Pardon ?"
"The ring the office indicator, whenever I see that I just ring the office"

We checked his voicemail, he had over 300 unanswered messages, all of them being Margaret asking him to ring the office in various levels of frustration, some of them going so far as "for gods sake Dennis, will you ring the flipping office" this being extreme swearing in Margarets books, it took nearly an hour for us all to take turns at deleting all of his voicemail mesages.

But the reason for not letting him into the innermost secrets of the mobile phone became apparent the day that he managed, by pressing random buttons, to divert all of his incoming calls to Hanson Electrical in Hull, a wholesaler that he visited on a regular basis.

He managed to do this with such frequency that Hansons would take messages for him, we'd ring up our own service engineer to pass a call on to him and Hansons would answer the call, take a message and then pass the call to him the next time he called in, which sort of obviated the whole point of having mobile phones in the first place.

I have fifteen years worth of Dennis stories, the story of how as a boy, his parents sent him to work on a farm but didn't tell him to come home on a night so he slept in a barn with the cows for six months until his parents came to find out what had happened to him, his only ever trip abroad on a ferry to Amsterdam where he never got off the boat because he hadn't been told about the theory of passports, the incident at the funeral of one of our sales reps when I had to bundle him out of the house at the wake before he upset the widow beyond suicide point, the time when he lost his paycheck out of the sunroof of his car on the M62, and then went and did exactly the same thing the following week - these and many more Dennis-ism tales remain as yet untold, for now...


Maine said...

This was hilarity. I'm in my office audibly chuckling, so if I get fired, I could use a letter of recommendation from you - thanks.

And, for the record, speaking as a guy with mild Tourrette's (no cussing, but the occasional random shimmy or humming sound), it is easily the funniest disease you'll ever come across. Feel free to taunt without boundaries. It's like a comedic gift from God, that one.

Gary said...

There are a hundred and one Dennis stories, he was/is a unique character and five years after he retired we still get his customers ringing up and asking for him by name, seemingly none of them minded him "fuck-fuck"-ing all over their premises.

But Why? said...

My housemate Badger has Tourette's, recently diagnosed. She clucks like a chicken and miaows like a cat. She has fantastic motor tics, which evolve over time. The most recent tic of note involves her left arm slapping herself on the head. Most of the time these things blend into the background havoc of home, but the sight of Badger trying unsuccessfully to not slap herself on the head is truely a special and memorable sight. I must video it some day...