FINGERS – that’s how he introduced himself to me. We were on-site at a major job: a main street sports equipment shop whose shop front glass window had been smashed by some sort of special ram attached to a vehicle – the police were still puzzling that one out. The anti ram raid bollards were still in place: a mystery. Having boarded up and secured it at 0200hrs that morning I answered the call for all hands to be back on the job in the afternoon because of the size of the glass pane. It was big. 2590mm x 3485mm and it required 8 glaziers to install. As always for these occasions we contract in freelance glaziers.
Fingers introduced himself to me. He was older than me and I took to him immediately. He was amiable and funny but displayed a competence I found reassuring. These large windows are seriously dangerous to work with. The thought of us getting off balance or stumbling after taking it off the glazing truck and walking it to the cleaned-out frame sends shivers up my spine even now – never mind the cost and inconvenience of having to get the pane replaced. You can imagine the consequences of this very heavy glass falling on top of you.
With his arms splayed out, a suction cup in each hand sucked onto the glass, he reminded me of a short, stocky ‘Spiderman’, and as I lifted and took the strain with the team I thought – “If it wasn’t for his being ‘vertically challenged’ and having bowed legs protruding from his baggy shorts, I could imagine him bounding up the sides of buildings.” His energy was inspiring. His hat had come off as we manoeuvred the glass around a few obstacles, and it exposed the grey stubble around his balding head. The hat was ground into the dirt by us following behind and he threw back a lewd remark about bald headed men and their virility that had us all laughing as we struggled.
Job done, after we’d cleaned the site and cleaned the glass I saw him remove his right hand glove and rub his hand over his scalp. It was then that I made the connection with his nickname. Three of his fingers were missing. He noticed me looking and held up the hand for me. “You got it?” he asked. “That’s why they call me Fingers.” It turned out he’d lost them in his youth as an apprentice in the UK. “Best lesson in my life,” he reckoned. “Could have been a lot worse. Glass is dangerous make no mistake. Never become complacent when you’re working with it.”
I haven’t seen Fingers since, but he sure was right. And it’s odd how you meet some people only briefly yet they can have great influence upon you. Cheers Fingers.