As I was waiting for the elevator, among a group of waiters and waitresses, the guy behind me approached me and whispered in my left ear:
- Hey, lil’ one. Are you new here?
I turned back to face him and answered:
- Yes. It’s my first day. And you?
- I’ve been working in the ferry for ten years now. My name is Ruud.
We couldn’t shake hands as we carried our trays, so we bowed. I couldn’t help thinking that Ruud sounded a bit like… “rude”.
- Nice to meet you, Ruud. I’m Nicolette.
- Nice to meet you, Nicolette. How’s things? –he asked-
I laughed and looked down.
- I still don’t know. –I said-
- If you experience any problems with the Big Shots and look for revenge, you can always spit in the milk or pee in the coffee. I’ve done it a zillion times. It won’t solve anything but will help you let off steam. –he suggested-
- Dude, that’s revolting! –I said-
- Not when you see how incompetent they are to do any real work and how good they are at fucking up the work of others, just by smoking too much, talking on the cell phone all the time, telling you what to do and what not to do and getting paid ten times more than you to do so. Apart from realising one fine day that they secretly want to fuck you.
Oops. Except for this last sentence –which would have made me throw up on his shoes immediately-, he could have very well described the performance of the long forgotten, always hated and never missed Big Cheese, my ex-boss.
- But tell me: what have the guests done to deserve spittle and wee in their breakfast mugs? –I asked-
- Wait until you meet them: the vast majority is a bunch of narrow minded idiots. Just wait and see how the posh egocentrical assholes treat you like shit as soon as you enter their suites carrying their breakfast tray.
I was a bit shocked by the ebullient speech. I could see the red glow of his eyes and the swelling of the veins in his neck as he spoke. The guy was getting really worked up. There was no doubt that he had gone through very demeaning experiences in the guestrooms during his years in the ferry.
- Are you from the Unions? I must tell you that I really appreciate and respect your work, but I warn you: you won’t convince me to join, so put a sock in it, will you?
- I’m not a Unionist. I belong to the only genuinely and incorruptible secret workers’ association in this island: the Sandwichian People’s Front.
- And what do you and your friends do?
- We struggle to get decent work conditions for the people in North Sandwich.
As I said: a trade unionist in disguise. The situation reminded me very much of a Monty Phyton’s terrific gag in “Life of Brian”: the Judean People’s Front Suicide Squad –those who stabbed themselves in a proud fit of dignity and patriotism right under Brian’s nose, desperately hoping to be saved from sure death by crucifixion-. That Ruud and his protest strategies appeared to be as lonely and ludicrous as the Judean Squad in the movie.
- Don’t misunderstand me, dude. I’m not exactly a rightie but I’ve had my ups and downs with the Trade Unions in the past and swore to God not to mix with them again. So you can save the commie sermon because it sounds like Jurassic Park to me. You know: collective bargaining, strikes and all. Something I don’t need to hear.
- Uh oh, what have we got here? What a smarty pants! Do you really know what that was?
- I don’t think I even had full use of reasoning at that time.
- You probably were not even at the Great Sperm Race in these days.
I gasped in surprise at his rude remark. He smirked.
- There’s no need to be rude. -I whispered-
- I didn’t mean to be rude, lil’ one. But I can’t help it. I am actually Ruud.
He laughed at the pun. But I didn’t think it was that funny.
- Nice outfit –he said, pointing at my clothes-
- They gave me this one -which is too tight for me- because they say it makes me look sexy. But I can’t even breathe. –I said, pointing in the kitchen’s direction-
- The sods! I’ll get you a bigger one. You can call me if you need help –he said, slipping a piece of paper into my pocket, where he had noted down his cell phone number in big red figures-. And don’t forget that you can always spit in the milk or pee in the coffee.
This was what I call an innovative solution for hard times. It was pretty obvious to me that there was social unrest at the ferry company.
Ruud and I waved goodbye when the lift stopped at the second level, where I had to deliver the tray. But before I left the elevator, he dug in his pocket and took a handful of silvery powder that he gently blew on my face. A soft shiny cloud rained on my eyelashes, cheeks, nose and lips. I protested weakly and tried to shake the powder off my face. I had to leave the tray on the floor, shut my eyes and rub them furiously. All of a sudden I felt a slight dizziness and had the weird feeling that something undefined was blotted out of my mind; something that was definitely missing, leaving a big blank space in my memory. When I took the tray again, he said with an evil smile on his face:
- Merry Christmas, Nicolette.
- Merry Christmas, Ruud. – I answered, still dizzy and puzzled-
I walked down the corridor, looked for Suite nº 20, knocked on the door and waited.
A tall man with long dark hair in a maroon gown opened the door. He appraised me from top to bottom and greeted me with bedroom eyes. His sensual seductive looking glance told me he was in the mood for something romantic.
- Room service. Your breakfast, sir. -I said, putting the tray on the coffee table-
- I thought I would never see your lovely brown eyes again, Leni. You look beautiful as a rose.
His blue-greyish eyes beamed; his smile gleamed. I felt a wonderful mixture of shyness and satisfaction and that butterfly feeling in my stomach. I felt like a queen in that room, though I had never seen that man before in my whole life and didn't really know who that Leni he mentioned was.
"Somerset house" (Tindersticks)