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You Don't Live Here No More, Part II: Shock Treatment
by Michele Christopher
Part 2 of Chris Harry's tales of his time spent as a repo man.
When approaching a house that you're about to repossess you have to learn a lot based just on its appearance. Are people still living there? Are they the owners, or squatters? If there's no one in are they likely to be back soon? Most of this becomes instinctual. You just "know." I can still pretty much look at a house while passing and tell if it's occupied and what kind of people the occupants probably are.
When I went in first I carried a Rounders bat in one hand (Rounders is a game played by English school girls. It's most similar to baseball and it's played with a shorter version of a baseball bat, about 20 inches) and a flashlight in the other. I wore heavy leather gloves and I was "on," that state where you hear, see and feel everything. See, not everyone who gets their house repossessed is happy about it. Some people are pissed and they trash the place, shit and debris everywhere, broken windows and furniture. Some showed attempts to burn the place down. Other people were really pissed that we were coming and set booby traps.
I usually sent Darren in first. He would walk in without a care in the world. Usually yelling something like (imagine a London accent here, think the boxing promoter from Snatch) "Eah, any of you fackers in 'ere are there?" "Oi, fackers, come on then." We had a few occasions where bemused squatters would walk out and just leave. Most times there was no one there, and rarely any one put up a real fight. If they did, Darren was handy (note I'm using the English meaning of handy here, sorry I'm not fully bilingual yet. In England handy means, in this context, very good at street fighting). He grew up on a council estate, the English equivalent of the projects.
So, booby traps. They were always fun. See, these people may not have had the imagination to figure out how to pay their bills and hold onto their home, but when it came to fucking with us they were amusing bastards. In America people seem to like round door handles-in the UK we like door handles with an actual handle on it, you know the long lever arm type. These, according to those being repossessed, were just perfect to glue razor blades to-invisible to the eye but more than obvious to the hand. Fortunately neither I nor any of my lads was ever cut. We heard about this trick from another repo team, we made sure to always wear gloves, and never to wrap our fingers around a door handle.
We did a house where the lovely previous occupants had cut almost all the way through the stair supports to welcome us. It didn't quite work. Mouse, who weighed about 90 lbs wet through, was walking up the stairs and heard them crack, creak, and groan. He got the fuck off them, quick. We looked under them and saw the damage. Assholes 0, us 1.
My favorite booby trap was an electrical one. I was/am an electrician. Repos were just an interim thing to pay the bills until the construction industry could support us again.
So we were about halfway through the house, all the crap was out. Time to drain down the water systems. Darren was sent to take the air vents out of all the upstairs radiators (radiators: metal water filled room heaters-water is heated by a boiler and circulated through them) this helps to get all the water out quickly, which means that if the house freezes there won't be any water damage.
"I fackin can't ya cunt, it's live."
"Darren mate, stop fucking around, it can't be live, just touch it again, you'll see" I said, using all my will power not to laugh. He did, he touched it again. Another yell, more cursing. I told him again that it couldn't be live, he told me to touch it, finally. Thick boy…
Now as I said I'm an electrician, a sparky. Years of receiving electric shocks teaches you not to react. If you make a fuss of getting a shock while at the top of a ladder, you've a whole world of hurt coming very soon.
I touched the radiator. Held it for a few seconds and let go. It was not pleasant. I can feel the tingle of an electric shock as I sit here typing. Your body remembers it. It is fundamentally wrong.
Darren was not amused. He spent the rest of the week cussing and glowering at me. It amused the hell out of me. I straightened out the electrics. The previous occupants had wired the entire copper plumbing system to the hot side of the main incoming supply. Un-fused, it would never have stopped flowing.
No matter how much Darren cursed at it.
Chris Harry is a bit of a sadist who writes for FTTW ocassionally.