Thursday, January 04, 2007

The New Year 

All week Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, has been barricaded in her office with an anxiety of self-help manuals.
“Happy New Year,” I gurned at the window on Tuesday morning. She didn’t look up. I switched on my PC and fetched a coffee style drink from the vending machine, and on my return I’d received an instant message thingy that read “HNY 2 U 2”.

Not another peep all day, nor Wednesday either. She just sat alone in her room, like a question mark inside a thought bubble, engulfed in “Learn To Like Yourself In 24 Hours,” or “You? A Manager?!? Are You Having A Laugh?” with an unfunny introduction by someone off the telly.
No rumblesqueak of the walking machine, no yelling into her bluetooth earprobe, no rushing around with clipboards.
I tapped on her window a few times to gesture if she wanted a drink or sort of cake thing, but she just blanked me, an imaginary Do Not Disturb sign writ large in marker pen and draped around her neck.

Books and more books, flotsam and jetsam in an inky sea of questionable advice.
“Have You Farted? A Manager’s Guide To Creating Team Spirit.”
“What’s Your Problem Now? Empathy In The Workplace.”

Then tonight at going home time, a breakthrough. She sat on my desk and asked about my Christmas, and I said good thanks. You?
It had been hectic, family trouble, and then all the worry of that double selling business before the holidays to fret about.
“I thought you loved all that shit,” I said.
“Yeah. Well,” she shrugged. “I do. I suppose.”
Silence. It didn’t seem right to see her not herself, as if she’d stumbled into work in a dressing gown, unkempt, knotted up, altogether all wrong. There was an acrid whiff of privacy violated. It felt indecent.

Suddenly she blurted that War, Pestilence, Famine and Death had taken objection to her handling of the situation. There’d been shitty remarks said behind her back, nasty little sideswipes in the presence of Bill Surname CEO, snottograms cc’ed to the directors, bcc'ed to her.

Death in particular had been raking through the dirt, grubbing around for points of weakness. There’d been threatening emails, snide little blackmail attempts.
“Poisonous fuck. Who does he think he is? Nicholas Hellen?" I said. "He should be sacked for that,” but now she was smiling and talking about New Year’s Eve, the salty seaside, how she’d rented a cottage with her friend Becky.

“No obligations to anybody, no appointments to keep. No thinking about work. An empty schedule. Just me and my friend Becky for four whole days with nothing on,” she sighed. “Can you imagine that, Tim?”

Outside my window, we watched as cars emptied out of the car park, like a sink of greasy water slowly draining down the plughole. Eventually there was only soapsuds and a couple of teaspoons. A full moon slid out from behind a cloud and all too briefly bathed the bypass in a silver glow.

“I thought for a while you were never coming out,” I said, nodding towards her door as if to clarify, and she let out another sigh then sprung to her feet to make a phone call.

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