“It’s No Safe Here Constable!”
The Full Story
Now, you will have read of my ‘at times inappropriate’ behaviours?’ This tale is the living proof of when an innocent remark in my eyes is taken out of all proportion and lands me in hot water and unpredictable events! My off colour humour at times whilst not offensive to me, has caused and does cause others to view me … oddly.
Wednesday 9th October 1985 l was in the 22nd year of my life, a mere babe in the eyes of the wolves … ok, ok that is a tad over dramatic perhaps, but l was world wise in many arenas and yet so naïve in others it is truly scary!
The Power of Love by Jennifer Rush was in the UK charts at number one and would remain there for several weeks, alongside her and doing the rounds was Midge Ure’s If I Was as was Dancing in the Street by Bowie and Jagger.
I was one of the youngest Banqueting Managers of a huge Civic Hall in Guildford, it was the season, so these were the days when working from 6am through to 6am wasn’t unheard of – yes, long before these things ‘simply were not allowed’, but hey it was the 80’s! It was also catering, and anyone who has ever worked or careered in this industry knows just how gruelling it can be.
Many a time l never went home, l loved my job, l loved working so not returning home didn’t bother me that much during the banqueting season, however l had worked the previous ten days at almost 20 hours per day and the General Manager Otto, believed l was due to a break, and so on the 8th [Tuesday] at around lunch time, he generously gave me the afternoon off with the instruction to return at 7am the next morning — l know you are probably thinking WOW how remarkably kind of that man?
I used to sleep in the office on a bunk bed and in fact my office resembled a kind of ‘Man’s Cave’. Back then l used to be an ardent pipe smoker, so l had a pipe rack filled with pipes of various styles, l was a weapon enthusiast so had crossed swords on my walls, you know the normal ‘touches’ or should l say ‘touché, and then l had my very military like bunk bed. I had a beautiful desk, not the common desks that head office dished out to its premises, oh no, this was a beauty; it was mine and sat very well inside the already rather eccentric surroundings!
The only annoyingly odd thing in my office was the blasted safe! It was a wretched eyesore – it was an old fashioned model, a chunky Chubb as l used to lovingly refer to it as, and the damn thing was l thought initially bolted to the floor. According to the management it weighed in at just under 700kg, so ‘according to the powers to be’, there was NO WAY, it could be moved, it was just too heavy! It was a twin key model, l had one key and the General Manager had the other, so it could never be opened unless we were both there or both keys were.
I wore mine around my neck, and it was never left anywhere, it was always on my person. On average that early in the season it didn’t really hold that much perhaps £2500 and most of that was bar floats [We had 12 bars in the Hall], most of the big takings were transferred out into the night safes at around 11pm the previous night, or transferred down to the head office safes.
My office was situated at the back of the building near the staff toilets and the stockrooms and the kitchens, l was about a hundred feet away from the back door to the building, which even at my own concession was horribly insecure, a mere door, with a single key lock, glass panelled you know horrible security in truth, but the firm l worked for were at times known for their lackadaisical ways concerning this matter.
In the season getting an afternoon off was often met with bewilderment by me, l didn’t particularly treasure them’. I wasn’t fond of returning home, and so l tended to still work of sorts often meaning that l was out very late and most times just walked around Guildford or visiting chefs l knew who owned restaurants and we would enjoy banter and a drink into the early hours, and then returned to my office.
So in essence, in many ways, l SHOULD have been sleeping in my office on the night of the 8th, and perhaps had l have been there, then the disturbing events of the 9th ‘might’ not have actually occurred! But l wasn’t instead, l walked in bright eyed and busy tailed on the 9th to be greeted by an alarming sight!!
Which was, seeing the ‘Chunky Chubb’, halfway down the corridor from my office!!
Half way down, the beast had been dragged and scraped along the lino flooring, huge gouges displaying its ungainly path. If this wasn’t bad enough l had to fight my way through half a dozen boys in blue, who were all eyeing me up warily!
“Morning.” – A chap in a rather dowdy looking grey suit said, “Work here do you then?”
Perhaps it was the response which seemed to incite some bemusement to all the watching eyes, l know not. Perhaps l should have said nothing, but how can anyone not say anything to such a trifle question as that?
“Well of course, l wouldn’t be here, if l didn’t would l? I would be somewhere else and not looking at you lot eyeing me up and down like l am some kind of blaggard!! I am the manager here.”
“Been here long?”
“Well you can clearly see l have only just arrived surely?”
“No! I meant how long have you worked here?” Dowdy suit enquired.
“A couple of years, but you didn’t actually ask that of me did you? You asked if l had been here long? To which point having only just arrived to find Chunky Chubb in my corridor, l can only but answer with more of the obvious – as in ‘not long at all!”
The problem l have today and was no different to yesterday was/is when conversation takes on an illogical air to it. Don’t ask daft questions of me that are blatantly simple! Of course now in my fifties and looking back to my early twenties l can see how the misinterpretations may have come around.
Dowdy suit started to look quite interested in me as a person now …”Do you find this funny then?”
“Well as a matter of fact l do, yes. “It’s no safe here, constable” l jokingly retorted, thinking that Dowdy would see the humour also.
“Meaning what exactly?”
“Well” I answered laughing, “The Chunky Chubb, the impossible to move iron beast of the wings, is somehow alarmingly a good fifty foot from its actual location, so it’s no safe here, as in it’s not safe and also, as in the safe shouldn’t be here, do you see the irony of this situation?”
“What l see is some cocky whipper snapper trying to tell me how to do my job!” Dowdy snapped.
“How can l be telling you how to do your job when l don’t even know what your actual job is? I mean, you are not wearing a uniform, therefore one must deduce you are either some bod from head office or perhaps a detective? As to your interpretation of me telling you how to do your job, how can you even ask that of me, let alone yell that at me?” I answered as harshly.
“Do you find it strange that you should happen to be in this corridor at the same time as this safe?” Dowdy stupidly enquired.
“Well of course it’s bloody strange, this thing weighs in at 700kg, which is not light l assure you. Some silly bastard or two has evidently tried to run off with it, after a failed safe break! I mean not trying to be funny, but it’s hardly rocket science is it? Furthermore, they have tried to drag it out of the door, if l was you, and just a suggestion, not ME trying to tell you how to do your job, is l would be looking for fellows who are walking around today like men in their 90’s without a Zimmer frame!”
Dowdy sort of snapped he went from a whitening of the skin, to a deep purple in l think around ten seconds flat! It was most bizarre!!
“Jenkins!” he yelled at one of the boys in blue, “I want this chap arrested!”
I was dumbfounded, arrested? Arrested?? What on earth for?
Even Jenkins seemed a little taken aback. “For what?”
Dowdy still struggling with his new facial colouration was becoming infuriated “Wasting police time, suspicion of burglary and being cocky with a policeman!”
“You are joking?” I said. “For being cocky? That’s not an offence, my Dad’s an ex Met copper, and he has never mentioned it being a crime about being cocky! Insulting, abusive and violent absolutely. But what about your senseless stupidity, who arrests you for that? You are a blundering dowdy suit at best if you think l am guilty of dragging Chunky Chubb fifty foot down the bloody corridor by myself!”
“I will make you talk, and you will tell me of and about your accomplices!” he spat
“You are a fool, call this coppering? I have seen better coppering on water pipes than this malarkey!” I yelled back now fully realising that my hands were being shoved behind my back and cuffs were going on! “This is a defilement of my rights, being cocky is nowhere as damaging as being a moron!”
I think the use of the term moron was a little too much! I was carted off down the remaining corridor by Jenkins just telling me to ‘Shut up, don’t make this madness any more worse than it is Son!”
As l was cajoled out of the back door, Otto my general manager strolled in looking all dapper and equally as cocky, his jaw dropped to the floor seeing me squirming and struggling, with dowdy suit behind me yelling …”Add resisting arrest to his sheet Jenkins!”
“Rory what on earth is happening? Why are you wearing cuffs?” Otto enquired.
“For being cocky to a stupid policeman Otto. The man is deranged l assure you, say nothing to him about Chunky Chubb’s position!” And off l vanished into the outside courtyard. With his voice trailing off, “Who is this Chubb fellow?”
The journey to Woking police station and their holding cells in the back of the car was quite awful l can tell you. Jenkins and some other chap were laughing and joking all the time about how funny it was that l had snapped at Mallard who was new on the job, and this was his first proper case. “The Bungling of Chunky Chubb!”
Oh yes l thought, all very bloody funny, except l am cuffed in the back of a police car heading into unknown territory as some wanton criminal!
“Do l not get a call or something?” I enquired from the laughing policemen.
The other chap just looked around and laughed …. And laughed and Jenkins almost lost his grip of the car as he joined in the apparent humour.
“Well do l?” I asked now as my anger and stress was dissipating and fear and stress was building. My mind now travelling at a hundred miles an hour thinking, my life is over, l am going to be a criminal, a police record, l might go to prison and oh good grief, this cannot be happening, surely not? This isn’t Victorian England, and these two blunderers are Peelers! Oh my, what happens if l go to prison l could be locked up and all sorts of things could happen to me. Could l make my fellow inmates laugh? Would l become someone’s toy????
For the duration of that journey, l was left to my own crazy thoughts and imaginings, with two hyenas in the front, occasionally looking back at me and bursting into hysterics? We arrived at Woking station and l was frog marched into the front desk to be greeted by the desk sergeant. “Good morning Sir, been a little naughty have we?”
“Naughty? What on earth do you mean naughty? No of course l haven’t been naughty!” Jenkins replied with “The gentleman is to be charged with being cocky sarge, wasting police time and oh yes suspicion of burglary!”
The desk sergeant if he was surprised, held himself in check, and ran his eyes over my attire … grey herringbone double breasted suit, crisp white starched shirt, bright pink tie and the shiniest shoes known to mankind “Burglary you say Jenkins?”
“Yes sarge, suspicion of moving a three quarter iron safe fifty foot down a corridor sarge!”
“Apparently sarge, l am not here to question the decisions of Detective Mallard sarge, l am just here to deliver the villain!”
“Villain??” I exploded. “I am not a bloody villain!! All l did was challenge the imbecility of the situation sarge!”
“You don’t call me sarge Son, you call me Sir!”
“But you are no more a sir than l am, you are by rank a sergeant!”
“Oh yes, the cockiness, l can most assuredly see!! Ok, empty your pockets ma’lad!”
“Why, what on earth for?”
“Give me your laces as well please, and your tie, and those cufflinks, your watch as well please if you don’t mind.”
“Well l do mind actually, how can l tell the time if l don’t have my watch?”
“Not my problem, hand the lot over.”
“But why my shoe laces and tie?” I enquired.
“So you don’t hang yourself of course!” he answered.
“But why on earth would l wish to hang myself??”
“Well, one never knows with people Son. Hand them over.”
After emptying my pockets, Jenkins was instructed to place me into Cell 3, l yelled behind me, “I want my call, l am allowed a call!!” The desk sergeant walked over to me and simply said “Right telephone number you wish to have rung please?”
“Do l not have the right to call them myself?”
“This isn’t The Bill sonny; this is a real police station! Home number is it?”
“Yes, it is, please give her a call and tell her that l have been arrested for being cocky please. Because l am no suited cat burglar!”
I arrived at that station at around 08.45am that morning, and was released at 16.55pm that evening. My things were handed back to me, and l was pushed out the door, l received no questioning, no interviewing, no one spoke to me at all during my incarceration. I was awarded two cups of tea. My Father was the one who got me released, l wasn’t charged, but l was told l had to see the Chief Constable the following week?
This was far from over; the nightmare had only just begun.
“What on EARTH possessed you Rory?” My father hollered at me during the drive home. “You were bloody lucky they didn’t lock you up and throw away the key!!”
“For what? Calling the detective a moron or lambasting his absolute stupidity?” I yelled back. “I think you fail to understand something here Dad, they were accusing me of shifting the Chunky Chubb fifty foot down a bloody corridor! They were trying to suggest that l was a thief!! I may be many things but l am not a thief, and l am not bloody stupid to try and steal three quarters of a tonne of metal which is basically what the safe is!”
It’s safe to say that the journey home was highly unpleasant. My Father was only concerned that his credentials as a whatever or a whatnot had been damaged, never mind that his Son had spent 8 hours in a police cell for being cocky to an imbecile.
You see that is how l viewed it, l didn’t stop for one moment and consider that perhaps l should have just answered the questions in a civil manner. In my eyes l had been civil and only become somewhat annoyed when it was being suggested that l wasn’t taking the whole debacle seriously ….. which truth be known, l sort of hadn’t. Even in the cell, l was chuckling, over the incredulousness of how someone in their right mind could have possibly thought that they could have shifted the chunk not only out of the building using a smooth floor to shift it along, but thought that somehow they were going to slide it over the rough gravelled area of the back court car parking yard??
“Well you have to answer to the Chief constable for your actions of inappropriate behaviour to one of his detectives next week.” My Father continued.
“This is ridiculous Dad, what for? I am not guilty, l wasn’t charged with anything, l wasn’t even cautioned, and yet they put cuffs on me! They said l resisted arrest, l didn’t l was squirming. Squirming is NOT resisting arrest! This whole affair is bollocks!”
“Be that as it may, you have to answer for your actions. Where exactly were you last night, anyway?”
“What? I stayed over with friends. Then got up this morning, showered and came into work to start my shift, and low and behold the chunk was in the middle of the corridor with police all around it, looking somewhat baffled.”
“What is the chunk?”
“The safe is a Chubb safe; my nickname for it is the ‘chunk’. I answered.
“So the chun..safe was not moved by you then?”
“No of course not, l left work yesterday afternoon. Otto gave me the afternoon off, so l went to visit friends, went to the library, basically just took some time out.”
“Rory, you have got to understand that you cannot speak to people the way you do, and most assuredly not like that to people in authority!”
“It began as a bit of humour Dad, l mean it was funny seeing it there, you will laugh about this honestly you will, it WAS funny!”
“You have a very warped sense of humour Son, l have said this to your Mother. That l think there is something wrong with you. Ever since school you have got into trouble with your inappropriate behaviour and that cursed sense of humour of yours and now here as living proof, you were taken care of for those very same actions. Well l can only hope that we are able to sort this mess out, otherwise your life will have this hanging over you for a very long time!”
At 22, l had no idea l was on the spectrum of autism, l had no real clue that my behaviour was really that bad, l wasn’t particularly ‘naughty’ as the desk sergeant had suggested, but as l had struggled with so many things, l used humour as a get out clause for many of life’s tricky moments and sitting there that night on the way home, l had to concede that maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe l was mentally unsound, unstable, perhaps l was ill. Maybe my Fathers’ continued accusations and slating’s of being mentally ill were not as farfetched as l had originally assumed.
Had l acted so dreadfully that morning? Did l warrant the actions that had been undertaken by the police? Did l need perhaps not locking up in a cell, but maybe l was best left in an institution, and then the key could be thrown away? That type of question stayed with me l would say till my early forties prior to being diagnosed with my Asperger’s Syndrome, when and only then was it suggested that l could be misunderstood by people … upon hearing that much of my life fell into place.
It would not be uncommon for me to hear from that day forward, people constantly saying that l was rude, or unsympathetic or inappropriate or childlike, that my behaviour or poorly chosen humour had not been well received, that l had caused offence or laughed at something which l should not have.
So, that night l sat down and talked to myself and tried to make a committed vow to think before l acted in the future, and whilst not specifically a devout religious anything, prayed that everything was going to be alright.
The next day at work, l found out further to my horror that whilst l HAD not been suspended, that l was to return the safe key l always had on me, was demoted to an assistant banqueting manager whilst head office investigated me on suspicion of ‘moving the safe with an intent of breaking into it!’
It was an utterly horrible series of unfortunate events l have to say and one that left me more than shaken. That one line of humour had rendered me into some kind of human monstrosity overnight? That my company who l had been with for several years thought so very little of me, that they actually believed that l was guilty of moving the chunk out of my office, fifty foot down a corridor with the intent of stealing from it??
I will say that with hand upon heart, back then whilst that wasn’t the most dreadful thing that had happened to me during my life, that it was one moment that would stay with me for a very long time as a nightmare. It was a moment that did more mental harm than many could imagine. I began to doubt myself as a stable human being.
I didn’t meet with the Chief constable, l met with a very senior detective, who upon greeting both my Father and myself that day, first and foremost told me off for my actions which lasted a good thirty minutes. Then apologised for the greenness of the detective working the case, then finally sent me out of the office and stayed with my Father for a further forty five minutes laughing about the whole affair, whilst l sat in the next room hearing everything that was said, until they decided to whisper about the state of my mental health.
Whoever moved the chunk that night was never found, my company pardoned me and said that l was innocent if not just a little naïve and perhaps wet behind the ears. They then moved me out to a pub in Ockley, which was being run down by real thieves [aka their staff] and happened to be the local for Sir Oliver Reed who enjoyed quite the lifestyle around that area although not particularly the pub l was working in, but whilst not a regular l did see him on occasion.
I stayed there for a duration of six months, minding my own business and doing what l was good at , number crunching, but l made my vow, and that was to leave that company which l did not long after that.
There are times when my Asperger’s does indeed have a sense of humour, sometimes not always in my favour and NOT always that funny. I have always tried where ever and when ever possible to be mindful of others, however sometimes, yes sometimes l think my mind detaches from my logical brain and develops into a seperate behaviour all of its own. There are stories to come that prove this time and time again!!