I had to get out of the office and away from the desk. My head hurt. And my soul. Dramatic? Maybe. But I’m sure that was where most of the pain was coming from. I just wanted to get a little bit of this sunshine everyone (everyone who didn’t have to make revenue spreadsheets and rewrite copy for incompetent people who were asked to write their own copy but just couldn’t seem to do it, probably because they were enjoying the sunshine) was talking about.
I finally make it out outside.
I find the only table in the sunshine. It’s covered in bird shit. Covered. I wonder if the bird had some kind intolerance thing. Do birds get IBS? That would be terrifying. Anyway, the table delightfully decorated with bird poo is the only table in the sunshine and I have forgotten my cardigan. So I ignore the white and brown flakes and mounds of god-knows-what-these-birds-have-been-eating and sit down to write.
The smokers are out in force. The work-place hierarchy still firmly intact as the power-suits of the heads / managers of this and that smoke in prime position on the manicured lawn whilst the cheap-suits of the security guards smoke in the dirt and wood-chips and litter that fills the sad flower-beds.
Once the power-suits crush their cigarettes into the lawn and rush off for some important meeting with some important client, the security guards take their places.
The short security guard has issues with his lighter and speaks in series of questions; “Oh, really?” “Fair enough?” “Two extra hours today makes it a long shift?” “I bloody hate Vodafone?” “I need a new lighter?”
I wonder if he ever got the answers he wants. His fellow security guard seems unlikely to argue with him. He looks like a very unassuming man and wears square glasses. I wonder what made him choose
a) to be a security guard, and
b) square glasses
I’m not brave enough to ask him. Besides, his colleague has more than enough questions for him.
“I’m loving this sunshine?”
Their voices and cigarette smoke drift over me.
Sometimes I wish I was a smoker. Without the cancer and wrinkles and yellow teeth and bad skin and addiction and harm to unborn babies and gangrene and all that stuff … But … Still … There is still something immaturely romantic and ridiculously ‘cool’ about the cigarette. Like Leonardo DiCaprio playing Romeo in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. Like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Like Rita Hayward or Lana Turner or Ava Gardner or …. OK, who am I kidding here? Maybe it is because it gives you something to do with your hands. Or an excuse to have a bit of breather, outside on your own for a moment, during a full-on dinner-party or family gathering or something without looking totally rude. A breather? With a cigarette? Who am I fooling? It smells disgusting. I know it. I want no part in it. I am that person who gives you a filthy look as I rush past you on the street to avoid the killer passive smoke of your disgusting habit. I am that person who coughs loudly when you light up too close to me in the beer garden. I am that person who feels like they deserve some sort of medal, or at that the very least an impromptu performance by a mariachi band, when they tell the doctor – “No, I don’t smoke” … But still. Some days …
Maybe it is because I feel like an idiot sitting at a table covered in bird excrement writing away whilst surrounded by smokers. Maybe I am feeling a bit of peer-pressure.
The sun moves and suddenly I am sitting at a table covered in the faecal matter from a flock of birds but minus the appeal of sunshine … or a cardigan. I try to ignore all of those facts – the lack of sunshine, the lack of a cardigan, the abundance of bird poop – and focus on the positives: I am outside, I am away from the desk, I don’t smoke, I am not a security guard.
The sunshine gets locked behind the clouds and the wind picks up. A dry and miserable looking leaf snuggles up to my foot. I try to shake it off but it doesn’t want to leave me – clinging to my boot like the sooky two-year old who cannot be without its mother and , before they know it (where does the time go), he is twenty-five years old and still living at home and playing on his X-Box whilst his mother still does his cooking and washing and ironing and even though she hints loudly that he should find a place of his own, they all know he won’t be going anywhere because he’s got it too good. Like this leaf. But enough is enough. It is time for it to stop being so clingy and find its own way in the world. I get tough.
The security guards notice.
I wonder if they are out here to protect the leaves.
Or find new recruits for the security guard team.
I was pretty tough.
Or maybe I was too tough and now I am a ‘person of interest’.
I make sure they can see my lanyard and staff pass thing – just so they know I am on their side, nothing to worry about here. Just a leaf. Just a leaf.
Another three security guards join Shorty and Square-glasses. They are all smoking. I wonder
a) what is the collective noun for security guards?
b) do all security guards smoke?
c) have I done something wrong?
Shorty’s questions are getting louder – I think he is showing off for the other, taller security guards. He stands like a politician and gestures a lot.
The smoke continues to drift over me but the sunshine never does come back. I wish for my cardigan and a clean table but neither come – the end of my mini-break does though. I remember in grade 1 a kid asking the teacher why five-minutes could feel so long when we were waiting for home-time but feel so short when we were doing something fun. Like French Cricket. Our class loved French Cricket. She said it was exactly the same amount of time. I don’t think she understood the question.
And so I head back to the world of spread-sheets and data-bases and invoices and wait for home-time …