I shall omit the hour and a bit to make the three-mile journey from the office to the hotel on the basis that as a user of a SatNav, I accept the vagaries of using a SatNav when it comes to finding a destination by postcodes.
So when I eventually got to the hotel and checked in, I was delighted to find my room. Delighted to find it directly opposite the lifts.
At reception they had informed me that the room assigned was an accessibility room, clearly one of the undocumented benefits of using a corporate rate for the booking is that you’re squeezed in wherever proper paying customers don’t want to go. This means a vast selection of red pull switches dotted around the room to avoid getting entangled in lest I set off an emergency assistance alarm, which isn’t a mistake I want to make again following a visit to the bathroom in a sheltered apartment years ago…
An aunt of my fathers had died and it fell to us to remove her effects from the flat after the funeral (I still own and use both the bureau and latterly the kist that were among the items removed, incidentally) and having finished our endeavours and preparing to head out the door for the final time I nipped to the toilet first.
After finishing my abulations and despite it being broad daylight outside, I exited the door, pausing only to switch off the bathroom light by means of the ceiling to floor, red corded, light pull.
Outside, as they locked up the door we could faintly hear a unusal keening noise.
Oddly this seemed to be coming from now empty place within, despite us removing everything bar the fixtures and fittings.
The entire family group was puzzled.
Had we perhaps missed an old radio alarm clock?
Was there possibly an alarm on the fridge freezer which sounded if the electricity went off?
Had it been a few years later we’d maybe even have assumed that the phone handset been knocked off the cradle, but this was before BT introduced such a facility to their lines.
After debating as to whether to just leave it or not we eventually unlocked the door and piled back in to seek out the source of the commotion.
On entering the deceased womans flat once more, quite eerily we could hear a disembodied voice enquiring “is there any one there? Are you okay? Do you need help?”…
Following a brief moments disquiet we rationally realised it was someone from the emergency assistance centre communicating via speaker phone and replied back that yes, indeed we were here and okay.
“Who am I speaking to”, the voice on the other end queried. Family members, we replied.
“We had an emergency alarm you see”, the voice explained, “do we need to send an ambulance for the owner of the property..?”
“Oh, no”, my mother replied, “there’s no need for that. She’s dead.”
The voice paused slightly before continuing.
“I’ll alert the authorities then…” clearly assuming both our and their attempt to assist the poor woman had come just moments too late.
Realising how it sounded my father explained that she’d died a week or so back.
Realising how that sounded my mother explained in more detail.
Then in the style of Columbo, the voice at the other end asked the question I’d been dreading. “But there’s just one thing I don’t understand… How did the alarm activate?”
All six pairs of eyes in the room fell on me…
That’s twice what John Blair, alleged sex-pest janny, would need to get in and BUM YOU TO DEATH if he followed you up in the lift from reception and into what you though was the safety of your room!