Or, perhaps more accurately, buzzing Glasgow’s buzzers. Yes, dear readers, for the last few weeks around ninety percent of my working days have been spent standing in front of these things:
I’ve seen so many of them that I’ve become a kind of intercom-system connoisseur. Before I even press the buttons I know exactly what type of sound they’re going to make, whether it’s the traditional, reverberating bzzz, or the vaguely melodic (yet really quite irritating) bleeping sound: doo-da-loo, doo-da-loo, or the high-pitched, droning eeeeeeeee. And then, of course, there are the buzzers that don’t make any sound at all (at which point I panic: what if it’s broken?!).
There are the fancy new buzzers, mainly for the fancy new flats, with their shiny silvery surfaces and digital displays. And there are the even fancier ones with security cameras and buttons you don’t even need to press; just a light touch of a fingertip sets it bleeping away. There are buzzers with names and flat numbers on them, or name stickers that have long since peeled off or disintegrated. And of course there are the non-fancy buzzers – the kind that require a squirt of antibacterial hand gel after touching.
I’ve become so used to locating, pressing and speaking through door buzzers that I can no longer walk past a block of flats without glancing over for a quick inspection. And even if I’m on my day off, and in Edinburgh, I still have to stifle the inexplicable urge to press the buzzer buttons of every apartment block and tenement I happen to pass.
If you’ve just tuned in to this blog and are wondering what the hell I’m going on about, please allow me to offer an explanation. I’m working on a survey project in Glasgow’s East End, which involves going door-to-door, trying to set up interviews with the residents to get their opinions on the urban regeneration that’s going on because of the upcoming Commonwealth Games. And it seems, unfortunately, that to get one of these interviews, you first have to knock on a lot of doors. Or buzz a lot of buzzers.
But, I think it’s worth it. Because behind those buzzers are stairwells (or ‘closes’ in Scotland). And off those stairwells are people’s front doors. And behind those front doors live all kinds of weird and wonderful examples of humanity.
There was the student who offered to make me a peanut butter sandwich. And the racist grandmother. And the man with no teeth who’d just got engaged at forty-five. There was the young mother, the young working couple, the eighty-year-old couple, the bachelor nurse. The bar manager with the overly familiar ginger cat. The woman who said I looked tired and made me some coffee. The old lady who gave me a pair of hand-knitted gloves.
So yeah. Maybe I do spend most of my time standing in front of intercoms, listening to them buzz and bleep and waiting for somebody to answer. And maybe it is a little monotonous sometimes. But this is certainly one of the weirdest, and most fascinating, jobs I’ve had – with the best opportunities for meeting interesting people – so I’m not complaining.