I’ve had a row with someone about a door. This has never happened before and I can only assume it’s because I’ve hit middle age and have so little going on in my life that I’m starting to get het up by the most insignificant of matters.
Let me explain what happened. At the place I work, there is a small room containing a kettle, microwave, fridge, and a sink with a tap that is like Mrs Canavan – temperamental and sometimes it works, but most times it doesn’t.
After many months of research, I’ve deduced if you lightly tap it with the palm of your hand five times in quick succession, it spurts into life and water comes out.
A plumber came to mend it before Christmas and spent several hours fiddling with pipes before departing with a cheery, ‘that won’t be giving you any bother again’. I turned the tap on the next day and absolutely nothing at all happened.
Anyway, this room – I refuse to call it a kitchen for that would be too grand a title for what is effectively a broom cupboard with a kettle plonked in – has a keypad on the door, so you have to tap in a five-digit code every time you want to enter.
I have always been confused by this. I mean, I assume it is a security measure, but why? The most valuable item in there is a microwave built circa 1994, which reeks of stale milk and has an unsightly tomato soup stain on one side which even Janice the cleaner – despite repeated and vigorous attempts using her very best J-cloth – has been unable to budge. Any thief wishing to steal it would have to be some distance beyond desperate.
Myself and my colleagues go in this room dozens of times a day to make brews and so on, so to have to type in a five-digit code every single time we enter is hugely exasperating.
There is a way to avoid this however – on the inside of the door is a little lever, which, when twisted, puts a bolt on to prevent the door from closing.
Simple. 'Problem solved,' I hear you cry. Well no, because there is an unidentified and seriously annoying staff member who consistently takes the bolt off, for the door is, more often than not, shut.
Now before you lose complete interest and do something more interesting like clean the cat litter tray, let me cut to the chase.
On Tuesday, I went to the kitchen to find the door closed. So, a bit irritated and muttering under my breath, I typed in the five-digit code, went in and then, as usual, flicked the bolt on, before putting my lunch in the microwave to warm up and hitting the tap five times so I could wash my hands.
As I was in there, a lady who works along the corridor and who I exchange polite ‘hellos’ with every morning entered and we had a normal exchange of ‘hellos’.
I then exited to stand in the corridor directly outside to talk to another colleague.
A couple of seconds later, the lady departed the kitchen and as she did, took the bolt off so the door would slam shut, meaning I’d have to enter the code to get back in, so I caught the door with my foot and began to put the bolt back on.
She stopped dead in her tracks, turned with a look on her face that suggested I’d hurled a really personal insult at her, and announced in pious voice: ‘You can’t put the bolt on, it’s a fire door’.
'Oh,' I replied, looking closely at her face to see if she was joking before realising that, remarkably, she wasn’t.
'Okay, but my food is in the microwave and I’m stood right outside the door, two feet away, so there’s no point me having to put the code in again.'
She appeared not to have heard what I said, for she repeated: ‘But it’s a fire door so it needs to be shut, in case there’s a fire.’ I’m not sure why she felt the need to add that last bit. I’m aware of the purpose of a fire door.
'I understand,' I repeated, speaking slowly and clearly, as if addressing a child who can’t do his times tables by the time he gets to secondary school. 'but I’m stood right here, so on the off-chance the microwave does spontaneously combust and burst into flames, I promise I’ll shut the door.'
With the charm of an SS soldier, she said: ‘Well, I’m sorry but if you don’t close it fully I’ll have to report the matter to HR.'
By this point I was getting slightly unnerved that anyone would have the time in their life to get upset about a door being ajar.
But she’d annoyed me and I was determined not to back down, so I replied: 'Okay, go ahead.'
A slightly tense stand-off followed when I thought for a moment she was going to head-butt me and then step over my unconscious body to shut the door, but instead she turned and walked away.
I’ve spent the last 48 hours worrying about the whole encounter and am fully expecting an email informing me I’ve been fired.
But if they do sack me, I’m nicking the kettle before I leave.