Friday, July 25, 2008

Who's Going To Drive You Home Tonight? 

I felt Death’s icy grip on my shoulder as he whispered in my ear, “Tom, do you ever get the feeling that life is passing you by?”

A mean spirited question at the best of times, which this wasn’t.
I was trying to multi-task - updating my New Guitar Savings Fund spreadsheet; investigating a user’s access problem; ListeningAgain to Fags, Mags and Bags; spooning yoghurt into my lap - so really wasn't in the mood for the ghoulish thug's headfuckery.
“No thanks,” I said, picking out waxy bits from my earbud before re-inserting. “I don’t want to join your sponsored skydive. You've got previous.”

He gave me a look then skulked away to bother Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, who in turn spent the rest of the day agonising over the question.
“Is life passing me by? No. Now fuck off,” she replied, over and again, but only after he'd already left the room, half an hour earlier, his evil work done.

She left a message on her friend Becky's voicemail - “Of course I'm not scared. I'm not scared of anything any more” - then another and another, each more panic stricken than the last. It was like watching a dog with its head stuck under a cupboard door. “Come on Becky, pick up! Where are you? Pick up!”

Some find relief from their demons by beating seven shades out of a drum kit or leaving their diaries where they know people will find them. Some keep the devil at bay by staying up all night baking double choc muffins and calling radio phone-ins.
You might find comfort in the bottle or you might hurl yourself out of aeroplanes, but Stella's preferred stress control technique is to give her treadmill a good pounding while yelling along to motivational speeches on her iPod.

“Speak to your customers in a language they understand,” she bellowed. “He who fails to prepare prepares to get going when the going gets richer, the poor get poorer, success begets success, always eat the best banana first. Tra la la, I'm not scared, I'm not scared! Pick up Becky, I'm not scared. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three creepy hippies, four! Look out! Look after the pennies but who's going to look out for me? Who's going to drive me home tonight?”

But it was no good. By afternoon she was curled on the floor, a gibbering wreck, a pitiful excuse for a modern executive. Strewn all around her were self-help books and she sucked on one - “Who's Sorry Now? How To Keep One Step Ahead In Times Of Blame” - the way a baby sucks on the corner of a soft blanket.
Even Ivan the Terribly Thorough with his cheery bon mots and extraordinary bin emptying capabilities couldn't snap her out of it.
“Skydiving is merely proof of the lengths people will go to not to die a coward,” he said.
“Thanks Ivan, but I'm not like everybody else,” she replied, practically sobbing. “I'm not even like me.”

The going home bell rang, Becky finally returned the frantic messages – she'd been training all day in a bank vault, hence the lack of mobile reception – and the world was once more the right side up.
“My friend Becky has forbidden me from doing Death's skydive, Tim,” Stella smiled, relief palpable on her face.

Outside my window Rex the security guard was digging up new potatoes and planting the third, maybe fourth crop of the season. Geraldine the Company X goat cooled her hooves in the Sunken Heart Rose Garden fountain.

“She said 'Well really Stella! Can you honestly see yourself strapped into a parachute? Don't talk so daft!'”
All along the bypass cars honked and buffeted their cargo homewards, while further in the distance the propitious city of Preston glistened in the afternoon sunshine like an explosion in a boob glitter factory.

“My friend Becky says I'm not to go strapping anything on without her direct involvement,” she sighed.
I packed away my briefcase and was about to make my excuses - “I'd love to chat but I have a train to catch, remember?” - but when I looked in her direction she was already half way across the car park, half way to the gates where her friend Becky was waiting to pick her up and take her away from all this.

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