Monday wasn’t too bad as far as Mondays go – the phones were being gentle on me, I hadn’t had any taxing customer enquiries and there hadn’t been any neighbour disputes to mediate, which left me plenty of freedom to start catching up on the paperwork from the weekend’s exhibition.
There were certificates to mail out, prize winners to chase up and couriers to arrange so I could forward the winning artworks to the next stage of the competition.
I am not, as you might think, the curator for a gallery, a school teacher or an artist. I am, in fact, the Secretary of the Planning and Environment department at my local Council.
For some reason – probably because we take care of the landfill – my department runs the Recycled Art competition; a program designed to encourage people to use rubbish to create art – functional, wearable or purely visual – to challenge the ways we generally see rubbish in our society.
I get to organise, curate and sometimes officiate the competition – which would be wonderful, if I didn’t have to do it whilst still being the secretary for six people in a busy planning department.
This particular Monday had been kind to me through the morning, but just before that glorious lunch hour commenced, disaster struck – a flood of phone calls from irate townsfolk, annoyed that their bins hadn’t been collected or the neighbour’s dog had kept them awake at night. Some were concerned that the tree next door was dropping berries onto their lawn and wanted us to fix it. Others wanted their neighbour’s lawn mowed because it looked horrendous and some wanted to know whether they were allowed to build a shed in their backyard without getting approval because old mate next door has done it and they thought you needed approval for that sort of thing, so why is he allowed to do it?
This flurry of calls became an avalanche after lunch and I had a constant stream of people coming in to pick up their art works which hadn’t made it to the next stage – I would just get upstairs to my office when the front desk would phone again – someone else was here to pick up their works.
Back down the stairs I would trudge and wander out to the Town Hall, where I would repeat the same smalltalk I had undertaken with the six or seven people who had preceded this one, while they collected the egg-carton monsters and pipecleaner people their son/daughter had put together.
At the end of that exchange I would return upstairs to sit at my desk and try and remember where I was up to – and then the phone would ring again – a dog was running around someone’s street, could the Ranger please come and get it?
By 3pm, my patience was wearing thin but my smile was just as plasticly plastered across my face as I greeted each and every person I had to speak to.
He arrived late in the afternoon, on his way from one bar to another, to collect the non-winning cereal box creations he had entered in the competition. These were extremely important to him and he needed to show them off to his friends – and why wasn’t his picture in the paper yet?
My plastic smile might still be plastered on, but my patience wasn’t deep enough to humour his monopoly of my time – I hurried him through the collection and told him I didn’t have time to stay and chat.
He told me another terrible joke and once again said we should have a beer together at the pub.
Again, my non-committal reply: If I see you around, I will say hi.
When I walked back into reception, one of the women standing there asked me how I can stand to even speak to that horrible man. She made a disgusted face and said she refuses to serve him when he comes into her shop. I wished I could do the same.
Especially the next day, at 3pm, when reception phoned me to advise he was standing in the foyer – he had come to pick me up, to take me to the pub.