I work at a theatre. Here is my attempt to give the “behind the scenes” stars their 15 minutes of glory. I’ve spotted you…
An eerie reddish hue hung over stage door yesterday and in an effort to reassure myself that I wasn’t going blind I decided to take a peek outside and investigate for myself. The apparently rusty clouds threw me somewhat and before I had a chance to apply my own filter of sorts I had bellowed “What the F**k?!” across an otherwise sleepy Maiden Lane. The passers-by really seemed to enjoy my performance, especially in light of the fact that it had been accompanied by a gawping expression and a gruff vocal quality. Now that I had captured their attention I had to resist the urge to take a little bow or at the very least, send a wink darting in their direction. But alas, I returned to my desk and more specifically to the subject matter of waste collection bags and another apocalyptic force – Andrzej.
Andrzej (the Polish delivery man/drummer, he of the fluorescent light bulb collection tale) had returned earlier in the day and he seemed to have undergone something of a transformation since we last met. Traditionally a man of few words and little facial expression, he was positively upbeat as he and his trolley appeared in the stage door porch. I decided to capitalise on this cheery disposition and went straight in with “Band practice this weekend?”
“YES!” he replied emphatically. He was clearly both exhausted and exhilarated by the experience but went on to elaborate.
“We had a gig as well – practiced all weekend and then a gig last night. No sleep!”
“Good for you!” I replied, readying myself for another round of potentially intrusive questioning. But before I had a chance to even get to the subject of how many TV’s got thrown out of their hotel window he was off on a tangent about live gigs versus recording and the challenges that each presented.
“Have you ever watched the documentary, Sound City?” I inquired.
“Yes.” That was as much as he offered on that one.
“Wasn’t it interesting to see how those studios were reliant on real musicians being able to actually deliver on each take rather than the more artificially produced and less authentic results you see today?” I was being self-indulgent now.
“If you can’t play then GET OUT OF THE STUDIO!” he declared bitterly. I was beginning to think I had unleashed something terrible but true to form I decided to let the beast unfurl, encourage it even.
“When I’m drumming in the studio I give it everything! Break the cymbals! BREAK THEM! You must! Otherwise why bother??”
I questioned what a certain Mr. Clare (the drummer on the show currently residing in our theatre) would have to say on that front but then again, if a touch of ‘unhinged’ could serve the likes of Ginger Baker so well then why not Andrzej? His rather brutal style of playing was probably a ‘creative choice’.
“I have played EVERY style of music. If you’re a good musician you need to be able to do it ALL.” he continued. For someone who was so opposed to human interaction all those weeks back, I now couldn’t shut him up.
“I used to play a lot of Reggae actually but that band took too many drugs.” I tried to feign surprise but the revelation was hardly explosive.
“I said to them, ‘Guys, when we have three successful albums and are doing really well, maybe then take the drugs but not yet.’” I was struck by his measured approach to drug abuse and considered it sound advice for any aspiring musicians.
“So what kind of music do enjoy playing now?” I asked, hoping that I might steer the conversation in a more positive direction.
“…Church Music? Like, Christian Rock?”
“Is that what you were playing this weekend?”
“In a Church??”
Once again, his allotted time frame for delivery had elapsed and it was time for him to leave. I felt like he had a lot he wanted to get off his chest but regrettably, it would have to wait until his next delivery/collection.
“See you soon and go easy on those drums!” I quipped.
He ignored the comment entirely.
Working on Stage Door has its challenges. Sometimes I feel akin to a caged animal, eyeing up our now-upgraded door intensely, analysing how I might go about fleeing the building with reckless abandon (whilst remembering to tap out of course). Whenever I indulge in such daydreams I make a point of grabbing an umbrella as I make for the door – a useful implement to swing wildly for the ankles of anyone who gets between me and Charing Cross station.
Following on from much self-reflection I now know that these are the days on which a post-work Spinning class is a wise move. It helps to release the MAGE (Maeve Rage) and it is also a pretty reliable means of maintaining those glutes of steel for which I came runner-up at the “ASS-car” Awards circa. 2004. It was a proud moment that, sullied only by a certain Eoghan Falvey who undeservedly took the title that year. The ceremony had taken place one Friday evening after school in the living room of my good friend Kayleigh and needless to say, it was a big deal.
It was during a period of running-induced injury in February that I experienced my first spinning class since my move to the UK. I decided to keep it local and head to my nearby leisure centre where I was reliably informed that ‘Patrick’ would be leading the class. Truth be told, I was still sulking at not being able to run and presumably the energy within the cycle studio dropped significantly upon my arrival.
I immediately gravitated towards one particular bike and noted that the positioning of said bike was in keeping with my traditional desk of choice throughout much of my education; second row from the back and one seat in from the left hand side of the room. I’m not quite sure why this always struck me as the optimum space but I would imagine that the explanation is twofold; in the first instance, to occupy the back row in school was considered a rookie error in that a teacher’s gaze/question would almost always be directed there so as to capture the straying minds of the ‘back seat slackers’; secondly, my seat of choice provided a pretty good vantage point from which to take in the entire room discretely with the exception of perhaps only two seats.
I had just about settled into my ‘safe place’ within the cycle studio when the door opened and I was met with what looked like a walking contradiction of sorts. Here was a man of ample proportions, head-to-toe in lycra and heading in the direction of the instructor’s bike. “It must be Patrick” I thought to myself whilst musing that he bore an uncanny resemblance to Lenny Henry, just a little more sinister. Admittedly, I was struggling to marry the physique of this gent to the occupation of ‘fitness instructor’. Yes, he was big boned but those bones had definitely been served a generous dollop of meat and gravy. I immediately checked myself however, noting that I would be much better served by adhering to the mantra; ‘Observe, don’t judge’.
What I have come to learn in the months since is that Patrick demands respect. He does his rounds at the start of each class during which he inquires as to any new starters, any injuries he should be aware of etc. He also uses this time to collect the ticket stubs and has proven quite particular in this respect. He hates people entering the studio and simply leaving their stub on the sound system. He wants it handed to him and for this exchange to be accompanied by a smile, a nod, a gesture of any sorts to demonstrate that we are ready and willing to surrender ourselves to ‘The Burn’. A ‘City’ boy had once attempted to pass a scrunched up stub to him and I watched admiringly as Patrick responded with a death stare and the rather menacingly delivered “UNFOLD”.
Another time a person had dropped their stub on the ground by accident but had then pointed at it in the expectation that Patrick would bend to retrieve. I had to turn and stare with ferocity at the opposite wall so as to suppress my laughter as he waited for her to dismount (with much sighing and pained grimaces) so as to recover the fallen soldier.
But on that otherwise gloomy Tuesday evening back in February I was somewhat oblivious to the quirks of Patrick. It didn’t take long for his most distinctive and impressive quality to emerge however and within moments of the music being switched on (and the lights being switched off), Patrick was delivering an impassioned performance of backing vocals. There was little cycling happening from his end of things but nevertheless he persisted in shouting instructions, interjected frequently by playfully improvised harmonies. I was a little startled at first, carefully peering at the spinners to my left and right, searching for any signs of alarm but no one batted an eyelid – this was the norm it seemed. He didn’t always find the notes for which he was so earnestly reaching and there was no disputing that he very much favoured “wooooaaahhhh” and “yeeeaaahhh” to actual words. But I couldn’t help but surmise, even in these early stages, that this was THE BEST spinning class I had every participated in and that Patrick was my hero. I questioned whether he knew how to cycle at all and wondered if this was instead his rather innovative way of forging out a singing career. In any event I was fully on board with the idea.
It is probably worth noting at this point that I can be somewhat of a psycho where work outs are concerned. It’s a reality that takes even me by surprise because vengeful anger isn’t an emotion that I tend to ever access but strenuous exercise definitely seems to unleash the incredible hulk within. In the context of Spinning I grow resentful of those “mother F**KERS” (classmates) for whom the concept of basic rhythm is apparently alien. I wouldn’t mind but Patrick’s greatest achievement lies in his choice of playlist for each class, the content of which is a pulsating African drum inspired TUNE fest, a hugely satisfying beat to sync with and not one that is easily bastardised. And yet from my observation of my fellow spinners, it can be gleaned that a hefty majority of them achieve this on a regular basis.
Further to that, they don’t even seem invested in what they are doing, peddling half-heartedly with “feck all” resistance on their bikes and staring gormlessly out the window. “Because THAT’S how you go about getting a sculpted ass!!” I reflect scornfully.
This lacklustre display of spinning by certain students hadn’t gone unnoticed by Patrick on that fateful day back in February. I could see him eyeing up the weak ones and I studied his face intensely, eagerly awaiting his response. I was failing to make peace with the mistimed peddling that was encircling my own ‘safe space’ and it drew up some rather harrowing memories of me watching “Party in the Park” on television with my older sister when we were kids. We had both been struck by the jarring image of spectator, Prince William clapping OUT OF TIME with a Boyzone performance and it was in that moment I decided that I could never and would never find Prince William or any blonde male figure for that matter, attractive.
When Patrick’s response did eventually come it was mesmerising. He dismounted the bike and began to move slowly but with much intention down one of the aisles between us spinners. It occurred to me that I should probably feel a little concerned at this stage but given that I was dripping in sweat and peddling like a BEAST (in time), I figured that I for one was clear of his firing line. He was no longer shouting but had clearly channeled his passion inward and I knew it was only a matter of moments before he was going to let rip. We were approaching a ‘sprint’ section in the class and perhaps it was the anticipation of this fact coupled with the transition in music that suddenly transported me to that magical place in my mind; Cool Runnings, with Patrick starring as Yul Brenner, me as Junior Bevill.
“I see pride! I see power! I see a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody!”
True to form, Patrick chose not to conform to the actual script and instead opted for a rather terrifying “TAKE NO PRISONERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!” He had crouched into a squat-like position but was very much directing his glare at the flappers and owing to the tension that had mounted in the room I could feel my face desperately wanting to break into a grin. I battled with it, still anxious that Patrick might misinterpret my beaming cheeks as disrespect.
Patrick had worked himself (and us) up into such a state that there was only one way to advance from here; by singing of course. There was raw edge to the sounds he was now producing – perhaps an increased emotional gravitas but more likely, the result of prolonged and wrathful shouting. But I for one didn’t care; “Leave your heart on the stage and I’ll forgive you anything, Patrick!”
Forty five minutes had passed all too quickly and it was with much regret that Patrick reigned in the vocals and our bikes came to an abrupt halt. Someone began their calf stretch on the wrong side and while most instructors might have let this one pass, Patrick was insistent that attention be paid right up until the end of class; “You! Hello?? Yes, you. The OTHER left leg. You’re on the WRONG leg!” I found the whole exchange a bit difficult to watch because evidently, Patrick does not back down – even when faced with an exceptionally gormless student. At the same time, he was definitely my kind of person – a bit of a bastard but in a good way.
What had begun as a second-choice work out of necessity has now developed into a rather delightful source of entertainment/fitness for me. I genuinely look forward to these sessions and when asked about post work plans I now excitedly tell colleagues that I’m “off for a cycle with the singing Jamaican.” I’m pretty sure he isn’t Jamaican but I’m not quite ready to distance myself from Cool Runnings thing just yet.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full!!!”
And thus began my latest encounter with our regular Royal Mail postman here at the theatre – the same postman who had taken exception to my choice of clothing all those months ago in what would henceforth be referred to as “Shoulder-GATE”. In the moments preceding this I had taken a sizable bite out of an Eat Natural Peanut and Almond bar and had just about positioned it between two molars when my friend appeared in timely fashion.
I should note that today marks a very special occasion here at the theatre in that our stage door is undergoing change – that is, the actual door is changing. We will soon have a new wooden structure into which visitors will, hopefully, continue to face plant.
For the time being both staff and visitors alike have been asked to enter via an emergency exit which is close to, but not within direct eye line of our desk here at stage door. So needless to say, the swift entry of Mr. Postman had taken me and my peanut/almond combo by surprise.
I attempted a closed smile throughout the mastication process but I was quite conscious of my bulging cheeks and less-than-glistening eyes. There were a few things upsetting me about this whole scenario in which I had found myself, the most pressing of which was how Murphy’s law would dictate that someone would inevitably come between me and my food.
Further to that, I had been reliably informed a number of weeks back that the Brazil nut crop had failed this year, thus depriving me of my usual snack of choice; Eat Natural Brazil Nut and Sultana bar. So I guess I was sensitive because Mr. Postman was now interrupting an already-sullied snacking experience – I don’t even like peanuts.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full!” he repeated multiple times with childlike glee in his eyes. By his own admission he was indeed attempting to get me to – WAIT FOR IT – speak with my mouth full and hoping that all sorts of chaos might ensue upon the escape of rebellious crumbs from my mouth. But there was one crucial piece of information which would soon foil Mr. Postman’s plot.
As the youngest of seven children, I still bear the emotional and indeed physical scars of persistent bullying under the guise of “playful teasing” and have developed somewhat of an immunity to it – I was ready. He was getting nothing beyond chipmunk cheeks but admittedly, I did chuckle quite a bit. What can I say – a cheeky cockney accent has that effect on me.
“You look so attractive like that” he mused sarcastically as he left via the emergency exit.
“You’re right!” I thought to myself. For once I wasn’t joking.
I was literally standing at the top of Giotto’s Campanile, Florence when a whatsapp message flashed across the screen of my phone – it was Adam, my fellow stage door keeper;
“You heard correct on Saturday! Ana is still here!”
In that very moment I found myself unable to determine whether my new found giddiness was owing to the views from atop this landmark or the revelation that Ana had once again, played the system. I had suspected that she was up to something alright and this development only served to cement that persona of hers as an unconquerable, brazen warrior.
I returned to work on Wednesday morning and there was a good 45 minute period in which I found myself slightly overwhelmed by our new intake of cleaners – different names, different faces, many questions and misplaced keys. But true to form, in the midst of mayhem, Ana appeared. She came barging through the sea of contractors and cleaners who had each been waiting patiently in line to speak with me about one thing or another. In what I can only assume was a calculated and cleverly executed move she swooped in for a hug – Ana was sending out a very clear message to the new recruits (now looking on in dismay) as to who ran this world.
Despite the pre-agreed arrangement that the cleaning supervisor would collect all of the required keys for that day and distribute them accordingly, Ana insisted on taking her own Master key. Said supervisor had queried this but I felt it best to allow him to discover Ana’s personality of his own accord.
“Maybe speak with Ana and see what works best for you both?” I suggested.
He did and I can confirm that Ana still collects her own Master – he won’t try that again.
And it wasn’t the only instance of Ana laying down the law. I had noticed when inputting some details into our staff access control system that Ana’s profile looked different. Adam reliably informed me that she had insisted on a new picture being taken to correspond with this fresh start within the cleaning department. The updated headshot had me laughing heartily into my morning coffee – an expression that could only be described in such terms as “sneering”. I was tempted to update her name to “Vito Corleone” but upon mature reflection I concluded that it might be interpreted as “unprofessional”.
And so, Ana’s reign with this theatre resumes.
Never was the following more apt or assured a statement; to be continued…
I’ve been dreading this day for a while now – the day when Ana would leave me.
It was about one month ago when we first got wind of the fact that our current lot of cleaners would work their last shift this morning. Truth be told; I was feeling a little sad. It’s a tricky one to explain because most of those employed here have never had the opportunity to meet/speak with said cleaners – their presence within the theatre is often only alluded to by an emptied bin or the pleasing disappearance of crumbs.
I arrived at stage door shortly before 11am this morning but given that the cleaners were not due to finish for another hour, I began to think that my efforts to ‘play it cool’ were in need of work. I decided to go for a wander around the auditorium in the hope that I might see some of those departing faces and say my goodbyes, trudging with a heavy heart between the Stalls and Dress Circle until finally I was perched by the balcony of our Upper Circle. Hoovers were switched off, heads turned and I was greeted by that very distinctive expression of “I know you from somewhere but I can’t quite place it…”
I smiled and waved like a dork before finding myself back at Stage Door, feeling a tad rejected and slightly concerned that I hadn’t spotted Ana in my travels. “She’d be the one to pull a sickie on the last day of school” I thought, now ill at ease at the prospect of potentially having missed her.
I needn’t have worried though. The piercing holler of Ana soon came echoing down the corridor which runs adjacent to stage door. Presumably she was communicating with her husband, Cesar (also a cleaner) and while the bounding and stirring sound might have appeared aggressive to most, I could tell that it was enshrined with that over-bearing, reckless and heavy-handed affection, unique to Ana.
It was quickly followed by a dull thud which I interpreted as a hoover being abandoned with little finesse. I was secretly concerned however as to whether Cesar was still breathing – you just never know with Ana.
And with that the door opened and there she was. Dressed in a black mesh top and matching ensemble and introducing a touch of glam to the look via some statement gold earrings, I couldn’t help but note that Ana had given a definite two finger salute to your standard cleaner dress code. But then again, Ana was never one for t-shirts and trackies. Suffice to say, we had bonded immediately. Not content with brandishing those caramel highlights with aplomb, she was now also sporting a smoky eye and winged black liquid eye-liner – was Ana in fact my real Mum?
The liner was a new addition to her look. When news first broke regarding the change of cleaners here at the theatre, Ana had approached each of the stage door keepers and had attempted to discuss ‘the news’. I noted at the time that Ana had made no such revelations to me but had instead decided to strike up a conversation on the subject of my winged eye-liner. I wondered what might had convinced Ana that serious topics of conversation were to be reserved for my colleagues but in any event, she was spot on – winged eye linger was more ‘my thing’.
In that particular exchange she had expressed doubt (in Spanish) as to whether she could attempt the ‘winged’ look.
“Don’t be silly, Ana, of course you can!” I responded. And I wasn’t just humouring her. If ever someone could pull off ‘bold with just a hint of sass-attack’ it was Ana. I gave her a demo using my Rimmel Exaggerate and she seemed on board with the idea as she re-commenced her hoovering that day. But here we all were, weeks later and she had obviously been practicing.
I didn’t really give her the opportunity to talk but instead went straight in for the hug. She matched my embrace with warmth but then took me aside for a ‘quiet word’ (in Spanish). She took the liberty of re-positioning my unruly hair behind my ear before whispering something, presumably controversial, in the same ear (in Spanish) and accompanying these words with an instruction to keep that ‘hush hush’.
I had to admit to her in no uncertain terms that I had no idea what she had just said so she repeated the sentence, no longer a whisper but now an animated bellow into my ear. She was grinning with mischief and gave my arm a squeeze as if to say ‘say nothing to no-one’.
She gave a cheeky smile and a wink before continuing on her way. True to form, Ana had left me dumb-founded and a little mesmerised and I couldn’t help but think that we hadn’t heard the last of this particular character.
“Look!” said Stewart, pointing at a deep wound to his elbow.
“How’d ya manage that one?” I inquired.
“Fell off my bike, din’t I?”
I had noted a missed collection of internal mail here at Stage Door yesterday but simply put it down to Stewart taking the day off. Had I known that at that very moment he was by all accounts, peeling himself off the ground of a nearby lane-way, I might have mocked him a little less than usual.
I’ve developed a pretty sophisticated system of entry here at SD. Our intercom was recently upgraded so that we now have the opportunity to speak with people who approach ‘The Door’. It’s a useful little contraption and in conjunction with CCTV it allows us to ascertain whether someone yielding a gun, knife, baseball bat or indeed, CV should really be afforded entry into the building.
I’ve taken it a step further however. Whenever I spot someone I recognise on camera (and who doesn’t have an employee entry pass of their own) I send out the following message via the intercom; “PASSWORD..”
It had perplexed Stewart a tad to begin with. I could see he was genuinely searching for possible ‘terms of entry’ and I refused to open the door for a number of minutes. I continued typing (pretending to type) but eventually surrendered to the feeble knocking on the door by hitting the ‘release’ button.
Upon entry into the building I politely, but sternly informed Stewart that the required password was/is a gushing compliment of his own choosing.
“…Are you being serious?” he queried. I could tell he was confused.
“Yes.” I said with a definite subtext of “and I can’t believe you’re even questioning this?”
In the weeks since, Stewart has performed pretty well and seems of his own volition to have settled on “Maeve is the best” as his entry pass. There are days on which the delivery of this message feels a little strained or lacking in real conviction but in general, he behaves.
So I felt bad when I became aware of his minor accident today. It wasn’t just the elbow that had taken a hit – he had somehow managed to become entangled in his headphones whilst out for a cycle and it seems his lower back (the upper glute to be precise) had borne the brunt of this fall. Indeed Stewart was eager to show me the extent of his injuries and with a mug of tea in one hand and a startled gaze dominating my face, I watched as Stewart unveiled his chaffed buttock.
There was certain elegance to the way in which he maneuvered himself so seamlessly into said position and yet still, given the red and angry-looking gashes before me, I felt it wise to put my mug down at this point.
“Christ, Stewart…that looks pretty sore…”
“It IS! I kicked my bike and everything!”
“Why did you kick the bike” I asked, making a genuine attempt at ‘concern’ but battling with hardship through that deep set urge to laugh.
“I dunno, I was just pissed off I guess?”
He went on to say that said gashes did not lend themselves too kindly to the fastening of a trouser belt – it would be a long road to recovery for Stewart.
All I can say is; I was provoked.
The “gent” who delivers our fruit here at Stage Door is quite the character. I’ve noticed that I tend not to remember/learn the names of people who don’t endear themselves so for now and for the purposes of the following insight, he shall be referred to as Fruit Man.
It all started a number of months ago when a rather unsavoury trend began to develop regarding the delivery of our fruit here at the theatre. Instead of waiting for stage door to officially open at 9am so as to make said delivery, I (and my fellow SD keepers) would arrive anywhere between 8am and 8.30am, only to discover a fully exposed box of fruit left on the ground outside. Given that said fruit would eventually find its resting place in the cocktail of an unsuspecting patron, it went without saying that this “drop and run” style of delivery was very much frowned upon from a health and safety perspective.
Furthermore, the abandonment of the fruit at our SD doorway required that I forcibly and reluctantly detach my hand from my extra-large coffee, leave said coffee on our window sill (albeit lovingly reassuring it that I would return to retrieve and consume), before mumbling some croaky expletives at inanimate objects – AKA the fruit.
It occurred to me that I might also need to do a quick recap on that manual handling video that I had smirked my way through on my very first day of employment here. There was a lot of squatting to be had in that video which, coupled with a rather gormless sounding Irish voice-over, made for really great entertainment. Had I known that I would have to drop-it-like-it’s-hot for a box of oranges every Monday I might have paid closer attention.
I bent from the knees before hugging those boxes tight and barging my way through stage door – I could see my nearby coffee was not impressed with the intimacy of the embrace but this was not a position I would have chosen willingly or without painful consideration.
Thanks to the intervention of our management team the abandonment of fruit in the above mentioned manner soon stopped but it nevertheless served as an insight into the character of the deliveryman in question – step forward Fruit Man.
It was quite an imposing image; a man of about 10’3 bounding through our SD porch with two boxes of fruit tucked neatly under one arm. These were the very boxes that, combined, were about equal in size to my entire body – it was at that moment that I came to the wounding realisation that those who had told me I was “quite tall for a girl” had been lying all along.
There was another issue; Fruit Man had a habit of forgetting/neglecting to provide a delivery docket upon delivery. It’s a pretty vital piece of paper from the perspective of our retail office and its repeated omission was beginning to test their patience. So on one random day a few months back I decided to tackle this very subject and just as he made to escape I interjected with “Oh, I don’t suppose you have the delivery docket for this do you?”
He had always seemed relatively smiley and chirpy but I had evidently touched on a nerve here and the transition from “affable” to “asshole” was quite startling, if not a little impressive.
“Do you even know what a delivery note is, darling?” he mused with much aggression of the passive variety. What he didn’t obviously clock during his repeated visits is that I hold the power to the “release” button on the door. He wasn’t going anywhere.
“….Excuse me?” I growled from the comfort of my throne (wonky swivel chair). I too could deliver a blistering transition it seemed.
I must have injected the question with a definite hint of “seething bitch” because it stopped him in his tracks – he looked quite shocked.
“Eh…” was about as much as he could muster before I went in for another understated blow; “Have we got a problem here?”
He was now clawing at the door handle and desperately searching for his words. The door refused to open in the absence of my assistance and the realisation of this fact slowly began to ripple across his face. I hovered my hand over said release button just to taunt him but made a point of maintaining eye contact and revelling in his discomfort.
“Eh….no…no…it’s just…eh….I’ll bring an invoice the next time…sorry I…” he clambered.
Now that he was aware of his error I thought I should round out the edges of this encounter – I would have to see him on an almost weekly basis after all.
“Oh, that’s OK! I think you must have been a bit confused there because I obviously know what a delivery docket is.” (subtext: “and I’m not your F***ING ‘darling’”)
He then did that over-compensating “12 finger smile” and was insistent that I have a “great week” before accompanying all of the above with much waving and bambi eyes. After I eventually released him I, as usual, took a moment to reflect on what a pity it was that such a good looking man could self-destruct in such emphatic fashion – there’s no redemption for casually sexist Fruit Men.
I had just about wrapped things up on the muesli/coffee front when my eye was drawn to a familiar face on CCTV – Bálint, aka Mr. Pest Control, had returned to take on the mighty moths of the theatre. From the ferocity of his wave and token fist pump I knew that on this occasion he was taking no prisoners and that now might be a good time for any nearby moths/fleas/rodents to flee.
Upon entering the building I noted some tears to the sleeves of Bálint’s t-shirt. The tears were uniform on both sides and presented along the seams of said t-shirt. The only logical conclusion I could draw was that his biceps were too large and putting undue strain on the material fibres. Bálint disputed this but in the absence of a convincing, opposing argument, my theory stands.
As per the norm, Bálint greeted me with a devastating ‘high five’ and as I turned to retrieve a visitor pass for him, I took the opportunity to contract and relax all five fingers of my right hand in the hope that feeling might be restored. I also channeled my pained grimace into a slightly crazed looking smile.
Burning hand aside, I always enjoy seeing Bálint. He has what one might describe as ‘indomitable spirit’ and an infectious enthusiasm for his work, hobbies, for life in general. If I were a mouse I’d be feckin’ petrified.
As luck would have it, Ana the cleaning goddess, came bounding through the door in emphatic fashion at the very moment that Bálint was studying the pest log. Despite him being roughly twice her height and carrying a container full of noxious chemicals, Ana still struck me as the more terrifying of the two when lined up alongside each other.
They exchanged some pleasantries via the Spanish medium and soon the casual greeting had escalated to an outright attack of the flants (flirty bants). Considering it was little beyond 9am on a drizzly Monday morning, I was impressed.
Bálint kicked proceedings off with “Ohhhh, Mamacita!” but was soon on the receiving end of sensationally delivered “Papacita!” from Lady A. She had definitely earned a mic-drop moment but with a flick of her hair and pronounced saunter, continued on her way, apparently unperturbed by this encounter.
Bálint took a moment to reflect on his performance; “Maybe that was the wrong choice of word? Mamacita…she might be offended by that.”
I wasn’t quite sure how to advise so thought it best to do my research before committing to a response. Urban dictionary, once again, came up trumps and defined Mamacita as a ‘hot mama’ or “sexy lady”. I figured any allusion to sexiness could only be a good thing but that it might also be misconstrued as ageism. Upon learning that Papacita translates as ‘sexy guy’ however, I feel pretty confident that Ana held no ill-will.
Ana had managed, with apparent effortlessness, to inspire insecurity in a brazen young man and in doing so, had confirmed my thoughts all along; when I grow up, I want to be like Ana.
Ana, my cleaner buddy, is on a mission this week and I knew it would only be a matter of time before she gave me the low down – in Spanish.
To summarise, her daily routine involves cleaning upstairs in the dressing room block before finally returning to stage door and rounding off her shift by emptying the bin here.
It’s a bold statement to make but my hunch tells me that Ana does not enjoy emptying bins. Perhaps it was the repeated and tortured sighs that first drew me to this assumption. Perhaps it was the slamming down of the lid once its contents had been discarded. Perhaps it was the aggressive, dent inducing jabs that she would direct at it when passing with a hoover – I’ll never know for sure. The only thing of certainty where Ana and “The Bin” are concerned is that despite the similar height levels, I know which one would win in a fight.
But today (and yesterday for that matter) something had changed. Ana had no sooner tapped into the building when I saw her reach immediately and without hesitation for the bin. In true Ana fashion, it was a direct and not-so-subtle swooping action, a movement that led me to question whether she had in fact spent the journey to the theatre, psyching herself up for this very confrontation. The dressing rooms, it seems, could wait.
I thought the behaviour a little odd, especially given her disposition which was firm but interestingly, grounded. It felt like she had gone on a journey of personal discovery since we last met and had emerged the other side, having resolved to make peace with “The Bin”. I attributed this change in character to her being tired and secretly hoped that she wasn’t attempting to suppress that spunk and brazen recklessness, of which I am an observing fan.
Having finished with the bin she turned in my direction and I scrambled through a cabinet for her required key. I normally have it ready once I spot her outside on CCTV but the tenderness with which she had addressed the bin had thrown me quite a bit. When I turned back with said key, Ana was assuming that position for which she is now famed in stage door circles – hands gripping her waist, tugging at the wobbly bits and pointing at my stomach.
My fellow stage door keeper, Rosie, had mentioned a similar encounter last week and this latest instalment had confirmed my suspicions – Ana needed some reassurance on the tummy front. As I glanced (upon Ana’s instruction) down at her waist however, I was presented with what appeared to be rock hard abs and an ultra-defined waistline.
“Jesus Christ, Ana!” I exclaimed. “What are you talking about, you’re so tight???!!”
She modestly refuted this (in Spanish) and insisted (in Spanish) that she was not pleased with her current physical state. I was growing increasingly emphatic, aggressive even in my defence of her torso because truth be told, I genuinely couldn’t reconcile how she might have settled on this self-depreciating image of herself. She looked like she had spent the bones of a month in a continuous plank.
And with that came the exposition.
Without so much as a hint of self-consciousness Ana lifted up her top to reveal what looked like a thick, black belt with much boning and little give. It was a startling sight and in conjunction with her outpouring of Spanish, I was rendered speechless.
I had so many questions that were sure to go unreleased until that time when I could once again produce words, the most pressing of which was; “What the f*** if someone walks in right now and is met with me gawping at the cleaner’s corset?”
What was clear was that Ana’s resolve for change was not confined to “The Bin” but had now appeared in the form of a compression belt around her waist. Fittingly, Ana had no time to waste and with a few more parting Spanish expressions she was gone – all smiles and grit and blatant disregard for the contractors that were beginning to appear at the door.
“She’s back…” I thought to myself.