I set about my duties at my makeshift mayoral desk full of ideas but without a clue, dear blogees. What on earth does a mayor do, I googled it. After reading Wikipedia and how stuff works dot com, I slumped back in my chair totally discombobulated. I called Socrates and put the question to him, his answer was thorough, included some choice vocabulary and I’m pretty sure included bullet points, he asked if I understood, I said no. He told me to call a meeting. Two minutes later, I called him back. A meeting with whom?
I managed to get representatives from the police, fire service, the education authority, a handful of utilities and Tasos, the janitor.
The electricity people said that since the central government had decided to collect a new tax hike through the electricity bills, people had stopped paying at such a rate that they couldn’t keep up with the disconnection procedures. I asked him what the procedures were and how zealously he had been pursuing them.
“I assure you, Mr. Mayor, that we are doing everything in our power,” he paused and his chest puffed a little. “We have even shut down the power to some schools and citizens advice bureaus.”
I enquired as to how successful this strategy had been.
“Over 80% of householders in arrears are now on remedial repayment plans,” he announced.
“And the schools?”
His reply was by way of pursed lips and a downward look, “a harder nut to crack.”
I asked who was liable for these arrears and he found a piece of dirt under his pinky nail. Tasos, the janitor was the only to speak, “You are, sir.”
“Great, then reconnect immediately! We’ll settle up,” the accountant chap, who had remained quiet in the corner with his laptop, coughed, looked at the screen and gently swung his head, the well-assembled secretary looked over the accountants shoulder and made another gesture but I got briefly distracted.
I told him to reconnect all public services and I would be over within the week to make arrangements. The electric man said he would be able to reconnect after terms had been arranged. Socrates, who had slipped in unnoticed and kept his silence, broke it, “The mayor said he would make arrangements within the week.” He looked at the electric man the way he had looked at me when I was in prison. The electric man made a note in a book and Socrates repeated himself. He pulled out his phone, said “within the week” emphatically and excused himself.
The lady from the education authority asked if the teachers, who had been unpaid for some months now could expect the same attention. I assured her that everyone would be dealt with in due course and Socrates smiled, almost.
The water board man was predicting another summer of cuts due to the pre-crisis building boom in the area and the lack of funds to update the network. I asked why the network had not been upgraded in accordance with the building permission applications before the building boom. His reply was something about not having access to such information and went quiet.
The fire brigade had been forced to let a number of buildings burn due to a broken down engine and some dry hydrants. The boys down the station had managed to botch up the engine with some spares from a decommissioned engine but they had come across a number of hydrants with no supply. The water board man fiddled with his phone while the fire chief spat this last comment in his direction.
I called the meeting to a close citing a very busy afternoon and everyone gladly left.
“We are so fucked!”
“We too must endure and persevere, and then courage will not laugh at our faintheartedness in searching for courage; which after all may, very likely, be endurance,” was Socrates’ reply.
I looked back at him and repeated, “We are so fucked!”
I needed to clear my head so I headed into the streets to get some air. It was market day and the streets were closed to traffic, replaced with stalls full of produce and old women with wheely baskets. A group of shaven-head heavies were talking to a stall holder. As I approached I could see that they were performing some kind of check, the stall-holder had handed over his licence and the pit-bulls were examining it. They nodded and moved on. It occurred to me to confront them but my face still hurt too much. At the end of the row of stalls I found an Asian looking man picking broken plastic toys from the floor, his make-shift stall in crumbs around him. I asked what he was doing and he answered, without turning round, that he was picking up and leaving. When he did turn I recognised the face; it was like the face that had greeted me in the mirror the previous day. He was shaking with fear, grabbed what he could and ran.
It was late in the day when I arrived back at the town hall. Many had left for the day but I managed to find Tasos, the janitor. I called him and broached the subject of our infestation. He looked confused. In the basement, I reminded him and he shuffled uneasily. I asked to take a look down there to see what could be done. He told me that it wasn’t very pleasant down there and maybe I should just let him deal with it.
If I was to have any hope of dealing with the prefecture, I would first have to get my own house in order. What I found in the basement would take more than Rentokill to solve; my house would need some serious order.
Some bedrooms would be a start.