Sunday, 5 December 2010


Time. Where does it come from and where does it go? This thing that doesn’t occupy space, but flows in a loop of succession from past, present and future. All I know is that I never have enough of it. I could list all the clichés but wouldn’t that be a waste of time?

The older I get the more I notice that one month rolls into the next, and Christmas comes round quicker each year. I’m not the only one who thinks this. It’s an adult concept; remembering our childhood everlasting summer holidays; and they were long hot summers, too. Now I’m thirty-five, the seasons are plucked randomly by the weather gods like a sweet from the pick-and-mix. Before you know it, it’s July and everyone’s counting down to Christmas.

What if time is speeding up and there aren’t enough hours in the day? Someone’s sneaking a few seconds here and there and when we say, where’s the time gone? It’s actually been stolen. Where is it then?

I became preoccupied with time one Friday when I’d popped out of the office for a cigarette break. The smoking ban was in place, so I had to join the sinful hordes, descending the stairs, gathering like lemmings. It was a silent agreement that we took the stairs and left the lift for the rest of the building population to use. It was also a protest against those who shunned our unhealthy addiction, but also they could recognise our fitness drive in our aerobic stair activity.

I was only delayed a few minutes, but that was enough time for me to miss the descent. So, I broke the rule and as is always the way, a consequence of my actions occurred. I took the unoccupied lift to the ground floor; except it never got there. The doors shut on the twelfth floor and passed through to the eighth with no interruptions, and then it stopped. I looked in the mirror and adjusted my blouse and waited for the doors to open. They didn’t open, and the floor indicator light wasn’t lit up so I didn’t know if I was on floor seven or eight. I pressed both but nothing happened. There was no movement or sound. After five minutes I realised I was probably stuck. I was desperate for a fag too.

This was my stuck-in-a-lift experience. Had I not been a smoker, I’d have left my handbag locked in my desk and would never have survived as well as I did, from three in the afternoon on a Friday for a full twenty-four hours.

I have lots of just-in-case items in my bag to my credit, and despite what those young clutch bag girls say, you need a good, reliable bag to hold ‘things’ for all eventualities. I passed time by completing the pocket Sudoku and playing Tetris on the mobile; which before you ask, had no signal from the lift. I had to ration the time spent on it due to the two bar indicator. I obviously looked for the emergency phone but there didn’t seem to be one. I pressed at the reflective stainless steel panels thinking it was housed behind one, but none gave way. The security camera remained static, a Cyclops with a blacked out telescope, or it was monitored by an inept person.

Everyone leaves the building early on Fridays and I wasn’t discovered till the next day when the maintenance arrived. Thank goodness it wasn’t a bank holiday weekend. Obviously, I’m a very significant cog in this business wheel.

Management, due to their embarrassment, gave me a week off work, Marks and Spencer vouchers and a luxury hamper. I asked them where the cuddly toy was but it didn’t go down well. Sod them. I was being okay about their mistake and they just refused to laugh along with me.

A whole week off and I’d rather be at work. It’s funny how we moan about work, but when we have time off, we long for the reliable routine; our security blanket. I actually had lots of jobs I could be getting on with but my motivation had gone. I’d even made a list to get things going but to no avail. I was probably more shook up than I realised.

I put the DAB radio on and listened to Terry Wogan nearly chocking with laughter, trying to narrate a Janet and John story. I was a bit disappointed that I’d missed it, and then I remembered that I could actually rewind radio programmes, and play shows back. I grabbed the remote and pressed the rewind button; it only went back as far as seven minutes. When I pressed play, the last few bars of American Pie was playing followed by a travel update, and then the shows highlight. I listened while I folded towels and married up socks to be put away upstairs. The story was hilarious as they always are, and I’m sure that if I’d been listening to it in the car to work, like I usually am, I’d be on the look out for other motorists laughing with me.

It only happened once at the red lights and I turned to my right as a fellow suited girl turned to her left, both of us wiping tears and checking our faces in the rear view mirror. I smiled and mouthed ‘Janet and John?’ and she mouthed, nodding like a bobble head. ‘Yeah’. We both did thumbs up and then the lights changed; I went straight along and she turned right. I thought I might bump into her again, metaphorically speaking of course, but I haven’t so far.

I reset the radio to play the present show thinking I’d catch the eight-thirty news but Terry announced the time was coming up to eight-fifteen. How can that be if I’d only played back about seven minutes? The microwave clock and my watch read the same time; eight-forty-five. It must be wrong. I rewound the radio again and it gave me an idea.

When I went back to work the following Monday, things started to change. Everyone, as I expected, was extra kind and sympathetic towards my unfortunate incident. Joan the office clown (there’s always one, isn’t there), kept offering to make the drinks, adding every time, that I looked like I needed a lift. The first time I actually laughed, and then the following times it became a pain to hear. Years later when I’d became a legend; ‘want a brew?’ was renamed, in my honour, to ‘need a lift?’  Looking back now I would never have envisioned myself, then, in the position that I now hold, CEO of Acorn Marketing. The radio was the pivot.

After all the fakery of the in-house sympathy, that only lasted till Tuesday, at around four o’clock, normality resumed, as did the never ending pit that was my work load. I  likened myself to Alice-in-Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole but never landing, only falling and feeling the ever ready supply of rabbits, jumping in pursuit, with files in hand shouting, ‘you’re late; you’re late again’.

No one could fault my work; it was of a high standard, and thus my promotion, eventually, to Team Leader (of one of the minor departments). However, every Monday, Larry the manager would email me about the missing data for the Bridgewater file or the updated spreadsheets for last months targets. There was no anxiety involved in my morning ritual of chastisement. I accept my tardiness sets me back some, but Larry now wanted to eradicate that and sent me on a ‘time management’ study day. Joan took my place for the day, much to everyone’s delight at the thought of spending Friday goofing around.

Despite the boredom of being lectured by the stuck up Dorothy Merchant, the study day was rather enjoyable. I bumped into an old friend from college, Jonathan Brewer, and we met up at lunchtime to catch up on the good old days. He’d put on a little weight since our last meeting sixteen years ago when we all made half promises to stay in touch.

‘See much of anyone, Tina? As soon as we left that day I was off on my travels and didn’t come back home for over a year. Married and divorced within seven years and no kids luckily, not that I don’t want any, and that’s not an offer by the way. So what have you been up to then?’

He prattled on a bit longer about himself and by the time I got to answer his ream of questions, it was time for the second part of the lecture, with the lovely old Dot. He had to rush off for some important meeting or dinner, he was being very vague but Jonny did give me his details on a business card that he slipped in my handbag as I was rummaging to turn on my phone for messages.

Monday morning, in the office, I looked through an email from Larry concerning an enquiry into my enjoyment of the study day; I left it to reply to later. Another email, which I forgot to open last Friday, now informed me that an IT technician was coming at ten to run some diagnostics on my computer.

‘Hi, Kevin Bacon, IT,’ he announced.

I looked up to see an older man than I expected,  with short, dark, curly hair that was starting to grey round the temple, or he’d forgone the reapplication of Grecian 2000 for a few months. He wore a crisply ironed shirt with dark grey trousers, and a sky blue sleeveless jumper, and a turquoise tie.  

‘Not what you imaged, eh? It’s the same every time,’ he laughed. As you can see, I’m not ‘footloose,’ but I am fancy free.’ He gave another titter.

I laughed with him to save any embarrassing pauses and enquired about the duration of his task.

‘I’m pretty nifty with these hands, you know. Before you know it I’ll be out of you hair and you can get straight back to your work.’

‘Do you want a lif…t, …a cuppa? I’m off to get a snack. I can bring you one back if you like?’ He nodded, already getting stuck into his work.

‘You don’t mind the music on,’ he said, nodding towards the radio he’d brought in.

I shrugged and added, ‘go ahead,’ and left for the drinks.

Twenty minutes later when I managed to drag myself away from Joan, I arrived back to my office with one surplus drink and an empty room. I looked under the desk even though I knew he wasn’t there. He was definitely gone except he’d left behind a business card and his radio, which was still on.

Oh well, I thought and click on the keyboards. Back to work it is then. Double click. The Bridgewater file. Click, click, click.  I pressed in time to the Neil Diamond classic he was belting out; Sweet Caroline. I looked at the radio to my right, tracing the letters D.A.B and pressed rewind. It won’t work, will it?

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