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An extract from Diary of a Debt Collector.
I had never been to Turkey before but my wife had been several times. We were on our way to Dalaman airport and then I was assured it was a short transfer to our ultimate destination, t and he was looking forward to seeing all the sights and sounds I had told him about. We were heading for Ovacik, well away from the usual British haunt of Marmaris. We both liked the thought of peace and quiet and tranquillity, and the resort seemed to offer that in abundance according to the brochure.
We checked in, handed our baggage over, and decided to have a quiet drink at the bar.
We bought our drinks and sat at a non-smoking table. I’m no sure why we did that because the smoke was being blown in our direction from the smoking area by a fan, but who cares, we were on holiday and were soon laughing and giggling like school kids.
I took a sip from my drink and watched the ebb and flow of the crowds. Then almost choked as I saw the cleaner from our office walk past.
“What’s up?” David asked as I spluttered into my glass.
“You see that lady over there, with the red top?”
“She’s a cleaner from our office.”
David looked me square on and frowned. “And?”
“Nothing, I was just startled to see her.”
“Which is why you’re a foot shorter than you were before you saw her and hiding behind me?”
I immediately straightened and shook my head. “Not at all. I was just startled, that’s all.”
David smiled and we both started to laugh.
“Hiya!” A voice boomed from above.
I looked up and gulped. “Mavis! What a surprise. What are you doing here?”
Mavis Flagg is one of my customers and I was truly gob smacked to see her at the airport. In all the years I have known her she has never gone anywhere except to Blackpool. Mavis is big, brash and honest as the day is long, but she is also very loud.
“We’re off on holiday,” she said as she swept an arm toward her brood, waiting in the wings, all smiles and snotty noses. There must have been six kids and three teenagers. Laughing, shouting and hitting each other. They are the terrors of the street Mavis lives on, not nasty kids, just very loud and very prone to getting into all sorts of scrapes.
“Where are you off to?” I asked, trying to seem calm and holding my breath at the same time.
“Turkey and it’s our first time abroad. The flights at 8.30 tonight and we’re excited. Where are you going?”
Bless her cotton socks.
“Turkey,” I squeak.
“Reeeeaaaallllllly? Us too,” Mavis shrieks. “We’ll see you on the plane then.”
Mavis wobbles off toward her brood, broadcasting to the world as she went, exactly what our travel plans are.
David’s quiet voice bumps me from my reverie and I simply nod.
“Want to go through to departure and get settled in there?”
I nod again and allow David to steer me towards the security check.
I have a bad feeling about this.
With security safely negotiated, because there are very few people going through, I begin to feel better and hope that as this is early season there will not be many on the flight.
As we entered the departure lounge, the place is a heaving mass of loud adults and even louder children who all seem to be running around at break-neck speeds, as if they have only just discovered that they have legs.
“This looks cosy,” David mutters as we pick our way through the crowd.
I was keeping quiet. I’d already spied two more of my customers and I’d decided that a wig, headscarf and dark glasses would not go amiss.
Mavis has found me again.
“You’re on the same plane as us, then?”
“I guess so,” David said with a smile.
Mavis looks him up and down and then leans towards me.
“He’s nice, where did you get him from?”
“The Internet,” David said, before I could do a thing to stop him.
“Ohh, whereabouts? I could do with one like him.” Mavis giggles and she and her brood melt into the seething mass of human beings.
The tannoy comes to life and announces that our flight is going to be leaving early.
That has to be a first in aviation history.
The departure lounge stands up as one and rushes towards the gate.
David and I steer a course towards the desk and after much shoving, pushing, swearing and cussing we arrive at the top of the steps of the aircraft and make our way into the cabin.
Mavis Flagg lives on Greenland Road. Over half the residents of this road are my customers, and – they – are – all – on – this – flight!
As we made our way down the aisle I felt like a reluctant bride. All the people, either side, I know and they are all looking at me. Some are good friends, some are good customers, some are not friends and many are bad debt customers.
If I owed someone a couple of hundred pounds and had been pleading poverty with them for the last year or more, I would sure as eggs is eggs be a little embarrassed if that person got on the same flight as me to a holiday that had cost me three times what I owed.
Not one batted an eyelid and all were as nice as pie.
There is no justice in this world.
The flight was four hours long but it seemed like two years.
“Sheila have you got my f****** bag?”
“Where’s that b****** bottle gone?”
“Yer s******* me?”
“Gis a drink, Mam!”
“Oy, yer little b******! Ooo said yer could ‘ave that, ay?”
The cabin crew were heroines and heroes all. The kids refused to sit down for more than 30 seconds at a time. The parents are getting legless on bottled water (go figure) and the cabin crew are just calm and efficient.
David sat through it with a stony grimace. He’s never been married and has no children. He’s great with children, but he hates noise and especially noise from children. David, I could tell, was not happy.
And all the time the plane flew inexorably onwards to Turkey and I’m hoping and praying that they are all going to Marmaris, because Ovacik is in the other direction.
As we trundled slowly through Dalaman airport, David was very quiet and I feared he is suffering from shell-shock.
We found the rep and in silence she took us to the mini-bus. Mini being the operative word. It’s so small and David is over six feet tall. He was looking like a trussed duck as more people boarded.
“At least none of my customers seem to be coming this way,” I murmur, helpfully.
David smiles. “I think I’m deaf,” he murmurs.
We smile together and hold hands.
Then the bombshell.
The rep pops onto the bus and says in her sing-song, everything is all right, voice, “Two for Ovacik?”
“Yes,” I squeak. It was past two-thirty in the morning and I was parched.
“Oh, you’ll love this”, she says. “Follow me.”
We off-load our baggage and follow as dutiful English people abroad do. She stopped at a Taxi and starts to talk to the driver. They haggle for a bit and then the driver shrugs and opens the boot of his taxi.
“Ovacik?” He asks.
We both nod.
He grabs our bags, dumps them in the boot, slams it shut and opens the taxi’s passenger door. We climbed in.
“Enjoy your trip,” says the rep who then waltzes off to find other unsuspecting people to make happy.
The taxi driver slams the car door, walks to the driver side, gets in, slams his door, sighs, gets out, slams his door and walks off.
After what seems like hours the driver came back and without a word sets off into the dark.
The flight to Turkey took slightly over four hours and as we were driving along the dark roads, I noticed the time on the car’s dashboard clock slowly ticking by.
Ninety minutes had gone by and I can see that it’s getting a bit lighter outside.
Dawn is approaching rapidly and we finally saw a sign for Ovacik.
As we entered the town, the driver is obviously searching for the resort.
Thirty more minutes went by until David suddenly spots a sign for the resort.
Finally, we make it to the resort which is opposite a very impressive white mosque.
As David is signing us in I’m taking in the smells of the flowers and the start of the dawn chorus, David takes the keys from the night porter and turns and smiles at me.
A tannoy in the mosque opposite suddenly squeals into life and a man with a high pitched voice begins Morning Prayer at 4am – blasted out at full volume.
David, somewhat inappropriately, I think, as we are in a Muslim country says, rather loudly.
“Jesus Christ Almighty! What the f*** was that?”
Extracted from Diary of a Debt Collector. Read more here –
Copyright © Tom Kane 2017