Blessed Relief From The Confines Of The Concrete Cage

On my walk down the stairs it hit me that I was more than a little bit annoyed. The source of the feeling wasn’t clear but it was there, gnawing. The lifts in our office building have been repaired and maintained and fixed and upgraded – and all of these processes, all of which sounding as though the result would be a reliable and swift mode of transport, produced lifts which are just as prone to unreliability as they ever were but they now have a voice which announces that you have arrived at level one when no-one has pressed the button for level one (because level one is currently vacant). So I made the decision some time ago to opt out of the lifts all together. I don’t use them if I can avoid it.

And there has been work of various kinds happening to the building for such a long time that it is difficult to be precise about when it started. All the toilets were gutted and refitted, and the result is impressive, with water taps and soap dispensers activated when your hand cuts some sort of unseen beam, and the tiles are shiny and all that. But the process took months. Months of scarce toilet facilities and the necessity of finding a facility on a floor which was already finished or not smashed up so much it couldn’t still be used (after a fashion). There has been work going on for years, but it has been really intense since half way through last year, and yes, that adds up to a year of very intense, very frustrating privation and noise and just general hassle.

Now they are doing some work to the outside of the building, as well as all the other work they have been doing all along. And the work outside the building is being done by men on scaffolding, high up above the ground, five floors up, right outside where I sit. With jackhammers. They have started using some sort of protective sheeting to cover the windows – for what purpose I don’t know, but if it’s sound insulation it doesn’t work very well – and that also means the office looks like it’s a bleak and prematurely dark and rainy winter’s evening, all day long.

So that’s one positive thing for me: bleak and rainy winter’s evening is my kind of weather.

But, perhaps, all the rest of it has just been getting me down a little bit, which explains the annoyance as I was about to emerge from the stair well. We have technical issues – problems, delays, setbacks, things crash or hang or need to be formatted or reformatted, power outages and surges occur – and for some reason the blame when these, occasionally preventable, IT things go wrong, and out database it temporarily stuffed, goes straight to the people who use the database. The people who put the data into the database. Those people. The people who get a little recognition, here and there, for working hard at an unrewarding job, but mostly are taken for granted. And that’s unfair. And it was annoying, and it is annoying.

On the street a man seemed to not know where he was going, he was wandering back and forth, seemed distracted, as though he was looking for a street sign, but looking ten metres in the air, and he was also trying to manipulate a piece of chewing gum into his mouth using one hand, and he didn’t seem dexterous enough to perform this task easily. I was waiting at a set of traffic lights. The man was about to walk into me, still looking up, and I stepped back, a half-step, to get out of his way, and in so doing I stepped onto another, older, man’s foot. He was trying to walk past, behind me, and I hadn’t seen him. I said sorry and he seemed surprised. It seemed to me that he could have said it was OK and not to worry, but he didn’t. He grunted. And it was a kind of grudging grunt. A grudging grunt which says, “You should have been looking at where you were going. What did you do that for?” And I started arguing with him in my head, as if the older man were in there with me, and I said: but you were only half a stride behind me, you didn’t need to be that close, and besides, I was getting out the way of the young distracted guy, the guy with the chewing gum. Did you see him? He wasn’t looking where he was going.

Published in: on May 29, 2012 at 8:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

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