Friday, November 21, 2008

The Visitors 

There was more rioting on the help desk today, sparked this time by a difference of opinion on the Strictly Come Dancing crisis. One minute they were discussing sequined jackets and the finer points of the Cha-cha-cha, and the next they were laying into each other with table legs and setting fire to the carpet. Such a volatile bunch.
It’s as if the contributors of The Guardian’s Comment Is Free pages had stepped out of the virtual world and been transported madder than ever to the first floor here at Company X, with plenty to get off their chests and a rigid determination to make their opinions known.

Consequently Neil, our former team leader, joined us downstairs for the weekly conference call with Preston Paper Bags, who are currently undergoing a period of climactic change. It may well be an exciting time to be in paper bags but the call was dull as darts for the rest of us, so we passed the time playing our favourite game on the Instant Message thingy.

The game is called “Guess the age of the adult,” and although we already know each other’s ages – except Neil’s - it’s fun to play because of the torment it causes him. He simply refuses to tell us how old he is.
“O cmon Neil Y not? 37? 52?”
“Yeh y r u bein so secretive? 29? 60? Olda dan dat?”
“I don’t want to play. Leave me alone!” he blurted out loud, causing no small amount of consternation among the executives at Preston Paper Bags on the other end of the line. “You never know who might be listening!”

Of course, the reason he’s reluctant to reveal his age is that it would uncover the truth that he is in fact an alien from outer space. Mike and Terry reckon even at a conservative estimate, calculated on the proximity of our nearest potentially life supporting galaxy, Neil must be hundreds if not thousands of years old. Little wonder he’s keeping mum.

“You know all of our ages,” I typed, incapable of finding it in myself to use txt speek. “What’s the worst that could possibly happen? Other than being taken to a secure location and probed by government scientists?”

The latest hypothesis regarding Neil and his origins is this:
He was on a coach trip - or flying saucer trip to be more precise - with some of his alien pals, visiting a few of our popular tourist attractions: Houses of Parliament, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bolton’s Middlebrook Retail Park, and so on. The flying saucer pulled into Charnock Richard Services on the M6 so that the driver could take his mandatory half hour toilet break, and while Neil was stretching his legs and browsing through the cheap CDs, everybody else sneaked back onto the ship and pissed off without him. You could hear them laughing from here to Alpha Orionis.

It could certainly explain the abandonment anxiety – Neil’s grim insistence that somebody always join him whenever he visits the gents – not to say the Pavlovian terror that accompanies anybody entering the room with a Costa Coffee or shrink wrapped tuna and sweetcorn baguette.
In some respects it would take a very hard heart not to sympathise.

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