That planet has a considerable but moderate atmosphere. So that the inhabitants probably enjoy a situation in many respects similar to ours.
— William Herschel, The Gentlemans’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle, 1784.
The cafeteria – top left hand corner.
In my most recent Mystery Blogger Award Nomination post, l posed a question to my nominees for them to answer … “What was the weirdest, strangest and most mysterious phone call you ever took or made?”
Well obviously you should know by now, that if l ask a question, many a time l have some kind of strange connection to such a thing, be this a belief or an opinion, or a happening, an accident or in this case … a musing!
Today’s episode is no different!
July 21st 1985 just happened to be a Sunday, it also just happened to be extremely hot and it also was the time that l just happened to be a Lido Catering Manager in Guildford. The Lido was first opened in 1933; it is a 50metre long pool in landscaped gardens both now and back then. On hot days you could expect up to 1500 people in the grounds and swimming.
This day was one of those days!
The company l used to work for, had won the contract for supplying the catering facilities to the Council, so we covered all buildings and venues that had ‘catering functionality’ within, so Civic Halls, theatres, restaurants, canteens, cinemas and leisure facilities. During the summer months, when banqueting and other styles of functions were at a low, l was to work in the outdoor facilities as a manager covering parks and the like.
The Guildford Lido was one of the biggest and busiest facilities to cover. Over a weekend in the high season it could potentially make in the region of £5000 for two days which was good back then. But equally it could make as little as £100 per day in the low season, so it fluctuated quite a bit. July was high season, busy, stressful and constantly moving and even more so if the weather was beautiful.
Recently someone asked me how l managed to cope with these crowds when l was younger considering l am on the spectrum. My answers are always the same, ‘You meet one person on the spectrum, you have still only met one person on the spectrum’, we each are different to the next. I am NOT saying even back then, completely unknowing that l wasn’t stressed, for l was. But l had better coping mechanisms when younger and more importantly, l was always on the go, l lived with a megaton of stress every day anyway. However, l was always stimulating myself and was always, always on the go. I didn’t have the time to suffer the stress when l was busy.
I would arrive at the ‘cafeteria’ at around 6.30am every day. Count out the floats, get the ovens switched, run an inventory check, get the hot foods ready and plan the staffing for the weekend. It was quite an enjoyable time if honest. I had an excellent team of 9 including myself and we worked very well together. Most busy days we could cope with almost anything. The only hiccups usually arrived when head office rang up with stupid demands; for sometimes the Lido café was also for outside banqueting and luncheons, meaning that in addition to our own business, we had to prepare foods ready for another park facility, and this would mean a lot more people working around a relatively small building. Sometimes an oven stopped working, or a freezer decided to defrost everything and little problems like that could easily arise.
You were constantly on the move from 6.30am to 6.30pm. Sometimes, after that shift, l would have to change into my dinner suit and bow tie and then walk into the centre of town and then work until around 2am the next morning on the occasional late night function. Luckily l was younger and didn’t get particularly tired, but this is NOT saying l wasn’t tired.
Sunday 21st was busy; we took a staggering £3400 for that day alone. We had a function being prepared at the back, and so in addition to us, there were 4 chefs, and 8 waiting staff flitting in and out. The previous day Saturday 20th, had also been busy, we had taken around £2800, and had also had another outside function being worked, plus l had worked a later night function and finished at around 4am, and so slept in my office, got up and walked into the Lido. Plus Friday night l had been covering the 6 bars in the building on a gig in the hall itself, and that had been extremely busy.
Yes l was tired, yes l was buzzing and yes l was in a great mood, l was stressed up to my eyeballs, hadn’t eaten properly, was probably dehydrated and to boot, inside that little building it was stifling hot before you opened up the shutters, but equally as hot when the throngs of people started to deluge you like a frenzied tsunami!
It could happen in the blink of an eye, it would go from 5 people ordering to a group of 20, to a mass of 100 people in the space of five minutes when the sun heated up and the demand for ice creams, lollies, pasties, sausage rolls, sweets and chocolate were so desired. Three shutters open stretching across 30 feet with six tills constantly ringing up sales and 9 bodies racing backwards and forwards over each other in a carefully strategic game of the Matrix!
That was the normal happenings between the hours of around midday to about 4pm. It was manageable, chaotic, hectic, nightmarish but manageable. With the exception that day that 2 staff – Sisters had rung in and said they had the flu and couldn’t be with us, but they sent their Brother in who was a part timer anyway but wasn’t that used to the busy times. So the 21st was short 2 experienced staff, leaving us with 7 and half people.
Still manageable – sort of, probably, maybe – shit l guess we will find out!
I remember the phone ringing very clearly at 1.33pm that day, there was noise everywhere, screams, yells, laughter, conversation, the noise at the back with the ovens whirring along, the freezers overheating, the chefs yelling out orders to the waiting staff, the intense heat, l could just hear the call in the background, and hoped one of the chefs would pick it up, but no one did.
We were heaving!!
It was just so busy, hot sweaty bodies dangling, arms stretching in, desperate customers with no patience, swearing, demanding a faster service,, pasties running out, sausage rolls thinning, freezer boxes emptying fast and furiously, tills overflowing, staff getting hot and hotter and the call fizzled out. I was beyond caring at that point, however the bloody thing rang again, and in the space of ten minutes it rang itself out at least half dozen times, until l could stand it no more and went and answered the phone.
“Yes good afternoon Lido, how can l help?” I asked in a dry stressed raspy voice.
It sounded mechanical and far far away, but a little tinny voice said “Hello, this is Mars Calling, how are you today?”
“What? Who are you?”
“Yes, hello this is Mars calling, how are you tooooday?”
“You are having a laugh, seriously Mars?” And l promptly put the phone down swearing as l did so! Mars indeed, fucking nutters out there with nothing better to do l thought. The phone rang again, and l picked it up “Yes good afternoon, Lido, how can l help?”
“Hello this is Mars calling, how are you today?!”
“I am bloody busy actually, l am short staffed, busy as hell, stressed and bloody hot, what do you want, l don’t have the time for some nutter to be calling me up pretending to be from Mars!” Slammed the phone down. Before l had even turned around it rang again … ”Hello, Lido, yes”
“Mars calling, what would you like from us?”
“Look buddy, l don’t have the time for this humour, yeah, yeah it would have been funny on any other day or planet if that’s your thing, but NOT today!!”
“Do you need anything from Mars?”
“Are you actually listening to me?”
“This is Mars sir; do you need help from Mars?”
“Did someone drop you on your head?? I am really busy and l am going to hang up now….
“No, no, no, no, no, no wait, this is Mars calling, we are help you, tell us what you need and we can arrange the delivery and have it with you tomorrow!!”
“What?? What could l possibly want from Mars, that you could deliver to me tomorrow, you are fucking light years away man!!”
“Oh oh, l see, l am sorry l am new at this job, l mean it is Mars Confectionary calling, oh how how silly me of me, l think you probably thought l was the planet yes?”
“You fuckwit! Yes, and not now, next time you call, say exactly who you are!!”
I have to be honest, that when racing back to the busy front line, l was too stressed at that time to even see the absolute humour of the incident, however l did laugh about it heartily the very next day with Frank the Martian, who had been thrown in at the deep end that day in telesales and was trying to tell me that Mars was calling!