Charity with conditions

There’s a fella called Mick; a great bloke, full of banter, who calls by every now and then. It was he who alerted the St. John’s ambulance crew about me. For a while, I kept calling him ‘Tony’. I had been mistaking him for some-one else who is called Tony. I had thought that they were one and the same. It was only when Tony stopped by shortly after Mick had visited, that I realised that actually, though there are similarities, they actually don’t look so alike! As a cop out, I told Mick that he shouldn’t go around telling people that his name is Tony!


Mick has often told me about a place called Seaview, a charity building that offers shelter for the homeless, daily. They have showers and laundry facilities, etc. They also provide a free breakfast. On the last Thursday of each month, a free mobile dentist is available.


It was the last Thursday of last month that I eventually relented and accepted Mick’s offer to pick me up and taxi me to the Seaview building. On arrival, I was surprised to find that a knock at the door was required for entry. That odd requirement was easily explained; due to restrictions following the virus outbreak, only a limited number of people were allowed in the building at any given time. Mick went off visiting people as he does me. He said that he would be back in time to take me home. I thanked him.


I headed for the shower first. It was a bit knackered, but worked, and, quite frankly, that was all that mattered! I then threw my laundry into a washing machine and got some-one to start it as I can’t get my head around those computerised machines; there are so many settings! In my day, one simply loaded one’s laundry into the machine, then pressed the ‘on’ button.


I then gratefully accepted the offer of a cup of tea and a breakfast. I was surprised to find that the tea is served in a plastic mug. I was then given plastic cutlery. “Oh.” I said, “If I had known that you had no cutlery, I’d have brought my own.”


I was gobsmacked by the response. I was told that I would not have been allowed in with them. I asked why. Imagine my shock as I was told that they feared that I might stab somebody!!! I was horrified and insulted, but chose to not say another word. I sat down near a wall socket where I charged my mobile while allowing it to update via the wi-fi internet service provided.


I sat minding my own business, looking around the old building. Soon, one of the staff started pointing a remote controller at some large metal mechanical vents mounted high up on the wall by where I was sat, which then opened. I asked, “What are they?”


“Air conditioning units.” was the reply.


I moved as far away from them as I could. None of the huge great windows in this old building were open and the front door was locked shut! I daren’t ask why they didn’t simply open the windows. I reckon it must have been about ten minutes before the onset of the headaches.


I couldn’t wait to get out of that environment.


I did get some relief. The dentist was in a small lorry parked outside. The dentist examined my teeth and confirmed that my teeth are in good nick. (That was only the second time I had seen a dentist in 40 years!) I was offered a plastic toothbrush and a tube of fluoride paste. I thanked the dentist for the offer and explained that I have bamboo toothbrushes and that I don’t do fluoride. I dry brush my teeth or use warm water. I don’t use that failed explosive that is punted out as toothpaste. It strips the enamel from teeth. It works like T-cut does on automotive paint; it strips off the top layer to reveal a nice clean shine.


Mick dropped by briefly. As the washing machine was taking so long, (nearly two hours, in the end!) he bought me a lunch, then shot off again.


Eventually, he returned. I was so glad to get out. I didn’t bother to dry my laundry in one of the dryers, I would rig up a washing line at home. I thanked him and his colleagues for the use of their facilities. On the way home I explained that though I am very grateful, I wouldn’t be going there again. I told him about the bizarre prejudice. I explained that it is unlawful to prejudice and that it was a gross insult. He was very apologetic, to which I reassured him that I don’t hold him party to that ideal. He’s a friend who’s visits I look forward to, along with the banter. I also explained that I did not believe that any of his colleagues believed that nonsense and that I understand that they were merely repeating rhetoric.


I also mentioned the air conditioning. I pointed out the huge windows, asking why were they not open? He didn’t know, but did say that he understood that the units cost a small fortune to run. I told him that it was my understanding that those things contribute largely in the spread of germs and viruses. They suck in all the stale air, along with all air-borne bacteria and recycles it into oxygen. The machinations of this process is nice and warm and cosy for the bacteria; ideal for incubation and multiplication. Though the air expelled from these machines is cold, too cold for most bacteria, the bacteria is only in stasis and simply awakens the minute it hits the warm air in the room, spreading itself, with the aid of the machine‘s fans, to all corners, landing on all their unsuspecting victims.


Seaview do a great job for those who need it, particularly the homeless. I don’t want you to think that I am ungrateful, but it’s not for me. A world in which a man who is homeless or ‘down on his luck’ or a woman who simply needs a shelter for a few hours is considered to be likely to stab the volunteer who feeds them is not a world I want anything to do with.


By the time we were home, I had laughed the experience off saying that perhaps it’s me. After all, this was the first time that I had set foot in any kind of building in over a year. “It was bound to be a strange experience”.



Photograph courtesy of hastingsinfocus.co.uk

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