Doesn't that sound like fun?
...Yeah, okay... it sucks. A lot. But occasionally there is a high point to the process. Strangely, my inspection high points seem to, quite often, involve The Terror. (For more information on The Terror, please see my blog entries titled "Introducing The Terror", "The Inspector and The Terror", and "Terrible Hunger")
This was no exception.
My last inspection was in January, so it was pretty deserted when I got to the old-age housing I have on my route. Theses are people who keep the heat cranked in their homes until the outside temperature reaches 90 degrees, and even then they may turn the heat off but they're wearing a sweater. They could catch a chill, by God!
This time it was May, with beautiful weather, so there were a few signs of life about the complex when I arrived there with my Inspector in tow. A few windows were open a crack to let some fresh air in, some ancient people were out wandering about wearing down parkas galoshes and three pairs of pants, and handymen from the Housing Authority could be seen on people's front stoops putting fresh tennis balls on the feet of the tennent's orthopedic canes and walkers.
In other words, serious signs of octogenarian springtime.
When we arrived at the 4-unit building that houses The Terror she was sitting in a chair outside on her stoop, catching the springtime sun. What I mean by that is she had her parka unzipped to the waist and a thin sliver of her thick cable-knit sweater was catching the sun. What she thought she was doing I have no idea. My theory is that she was wearing so many layers of clothing to ward off the bitter 70 degree temperatures and the cutting 1 mph breeze that she had exhausted herself when she left the house, and that front stoop was as far as she got.
I, by the way, was wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt. But what do I know -- I'm just a kid.
As we approached the building the Inspector saw the old bundled form sitting by the door and he hung back to let me enter and make my deliveries. The Terror, however, looked right past me and saw the stranger with the clipboard lurking on the walkway. She perked right up (well, relatively perky) and started asking questions.
Now, for those of you who have never read about The Terror, I'll have to describe her voice for you. Picture a crow. A big one. Now, take that crow and seal it inside a 50 gallon drum -- one of those metal ones, so it's nice and echo-y. Have you got that so far? Good. Now, take a chainsaw and start to cut the drum open to release the crow. The crow, shrieking in fear as it tries to escape as the chainsaw whines and screams and cuts through the metal side of the drum, all amplified and given a kind of loud, hollow sound to it by the big near-empty drum... this all gives you a rough idea of the voice of The Terror. It's close enough. There is only so much I can do with mere words.
Yeah, if you can force that crow-in-a-chainsawed-metal-drum voice into the kind of Boston accent they make fun of on TV, you're one step closer to understanding the full terror of The Terror. Wincing, somewhat at tone but mostly at the sheer volume of the din blasting out of that big empty cave on the front of her head she calls a mouth, I pointed back at the man with the clipboard.
"Him? He's with me, Ma'am."
"What?" she yelled.
"He's with me!" I shouted.
"With you?" she hollered.
"Yes Ma'am!" I hollered back.
"He's keeping an eye on me."
"I can't heah you," she fog horned at me.
"He's keeping an eye on me!" I bellowed.
"An eye on you?" she screeched.
"Watching me, yes Ma'am," I roared.
"Watching you?" she bawled.
Out of breath, I merely nodded vigorously.
"Why?" she brayed.
I tried for levity, but fell far short.
"Because I'm so good-looking!" I cried.
This she heard, but was so astoundingly baffled by my answer I would have been insulted if I hadn't been so exhausted from my efforts at communication. She blinked several times, reminding me of that little 'thinking' icon that your cursor turns into while your computer is processing something, then shook her head dismissively, as if having processed the hell out of it she still couldn't believe it.
The Inspector finally stepped forward, holding up a hand to me.
"I'll handle this," he said. "You can keep working."
I gazed at him, slightly stunned that he would throw himself upon this strange social grenade for me. The Terror bounced her gaze between the two of us a bit like a very weather-beaten scarecrow watching a tennis match. I finally smiled, shrugged, and went through the door behind The Terror to begin sorting the mail into the boxes for the building. The door closed behind me, closing out the Inspector's voice entirely though it barely muffled the Tones of The Terror. I listened to her half of the conversation.
"Who ah you?"
"But... but why?"
"So you think you know his job better than he does?"
"Well I don't understand. They're paying both of you to do his job today?"
I stayed in that hallway for as long as I could. I sorted the mail into the boxes. I set up the mail for the next building. Then for the building after that. Then I simply stood and listened for a little while, grinning and reflecting on that fact that while the Inspector had his clipboard, hand-held computer and rules that seemed to change minute by minute, I had The Terror. Using her was a little bit like winding up a tornado, or a hurricane, and turning it loose on someone. You couldn't control it, you could only dance around and anticipate its movements, and just hope things went the way you wanted.
This was so the way I wanted.
I opened the door and passed through into the sunshine-filled day, gave The Terror a wave and a screamed "Have a nice day!" as I strode by on my way to the next building. Behind me I heard the Inspector give a hasty "Well, I have to go with him now, it was nice talking to you Ma'am," as he hustled to follow me away from The Terror and her terrible domain. A screamed "What?" followed in his wake.
He remained silent as I delivered the next building, standing slump-shouldered and weary-looking. I just did my job and started for the next building in line, and it wasn't until we were half-way to this new building that he spoke in the most dazed and defeated tone I've heard in a long, long time.
"Yeah. That conversation I had with that woman. It didn't go like I thought it would. And it went on... for so long..."
I smiled the rest of the morning from that. Thank you Terror. Thank you so much.
Some people have guns. Some people have weapons of mass destruction. I have The Terror. I'm just using what God gave me.
Talk to you later!