Joseph’s Escape from Excel-Traz

 Joseph checked the time on his computer screen. It was already 3.30. He only had a couple of hours to go and he had not finished the excel spreadsheet of data input that he had been tasked with that morning. Instead he had been flitting between web pages on his browser: motorbikes, new games and porn. There was a cornucopia of visual titillation at his fingertips, ready to burst the bubble of boredom that he had found himself trapped in. It was only for a matter of minutes, he thought.

Before he was aware of it, those minutes turned into hours and the hours turned into the impending fear of being found out. The Boss asked him to submit his work by 4. He hadn’t done it. The time came and went as he feverishly input random numbers into the machine (any numbers would do). The sheet was finished at 4.15 and he emailed it over. The Boss scanned it, raising both of his bushy eyebrows.

 These numbers are all wrong Joseph! What is the matter with you?’ he exclaimed in exasperation.

That enquiry sent Joseph’s imagination into overdrive as he flailed around grasping for some ailment or technical issue that he could blame for his idle incompetence. This was the first time that he had been creative in days and he was mildly excited.

‘W- well it’s the strip lighting. I c-c-can’t see the screen very well and it gives me……..…….er…….. f-f-f-floaters?’ stuttered Joseph, the f word tumbling out of his mouth before he could quite articulate it convincingly.

‘We’ve run a workplace assessment and it’s fine. You’ve never had this problem before’

‘I’m getting headaches’ protested Joseph flatly and in a small voice.

‘Well alright. Perhaps we can put you in the dark room’ said The Boss as a warped smile spread over his face. ‘That way you won’t be exposed to the strip lighting.

Joseph froze. The dark room was the one room in the office which no-one dared to enter. It was a space of dread and fear; a paradise for spiders and a vault of icy-cold isolation. Joseph smiled weakly. He had nowhere to run as the tall figure of authority loomed over him like the grim reaper. The Boss held up his index figure slowly and pointed in the direction of the small stationary cupboard. Joseph lowered his head and obligingly walked towards the room, his footsteps heavy with defeat.

The room was no bigger than a broom cupboard. Inside it there was nothing but a small desk and a naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Joseph was ensnared at the cage-like desk and The Boss slammed the door triumphantly.

Joseph opened up his laptop and took a deep breath but struggled to find his focus. His head started to spin. He ran out of the cupboard and into the toilet where he slumped down against the wall of the small cubicle. He felt like a trapped animal but managed to take some deep breaths and recover a bit of composure. He stumbled to the sink and splashed some cold water on his face, which made a large patch of damp on the front of his shirt. This stirred up some ingenuity inside of him. He exited the toilet and walked up to The Boss.

I – I’ve been sick. I had to clean myself as my shirt got dirty’ said Joseph in a small voice.

The Boss raised one bushy eyebrow. His prey had mounted another unconvincing challenge to his authority which only made him feel even more pumped up. It was like taking steroids without having to buy a crate-load of tubs off the internet: a free buzz. He was enjoying himself.

You’re clearly not in a good way today Joseph. I tell you what I’m going to do: I’m going to let you off doing any work which involves screens as they are clearly causing you some difficulties. Instead I’m going to ask you to take on a customer-facing role. I am sure that contact with the public will be easier on your eyes.’

 Joseph was marched over to the customer complaints section of the front desk. The Boss pointed to the seat at the desk in a way which compelled him to take it. No sooner had he done so, an angry-looking woman pressed hard on the bell on the desk in a bid to announce her presence. The high ‘dring’ sound reverberated around Joseph’s skull: a pneumatic call to action that made him jump to his feet. A blond toddler with a chocolate-smeared face started crying and the woman wrestled her into a pushchair. The woman’s small boy then grabbed a handful of elastic bands on the counter and started flicking them at Joseph who had to duck to avoid the onslaught. As soon as the woman opened her mouth, Joseph was met with an uncensored torrent of abuse.

 ‘We bought two of these f***ing home burglar alarms from you f***ing muppets and neither of them f***ing work. We have had to spend two nights without sleep because no. 47 was burgled last week. We want compensation for loss of sleep, loss of the opportunity to sleep and for having to face the fear of living in our own home without any protection. Or sleep.’

 Joseph looked back at the woman but all he could make out was a red vortex of anger. He had no idea what to do, not having ‘faced customers’ before.

‘OK. We can sort that out for you. Just wait a minute.’

Joseph ran straight to The Boss. The Boss just looked at him without a hint of expression and then looked back at the page of the book that he was reading. Panic-stricken, Joseph did not know where else to turn. He would have to run back to the front desk. On his way back he was hit with a flash of ingenuity. He grabbed a pile of red cables that he found in the box near the server. He didn’t know what they were for.

 ‘Here you are’ he said to the woman at the front desk who had maintained her defiant glare; ‘you can try these to jump start the alarms. They are E371D cables and they connect the input to output with a supercharged moto-incendiariser. They will solve the problem. The instructions are on the website.’

Joseph threw the cabling at the woman in a pre-emptive strike and ran back into the office. He sat back down at his desk. His heart was racing and he felt sick. This time the sickness was for real.

The Boss leant back, clasping his hands behind his head in a self-satisfied expression of jubilation. ‘Well done Joseph. I see you managed to get some worthwhile experience on customer service. Perhaps we can call it a day. Back to the excel spreadsheets on Monday eh? Have a nice weekend. Hopefully after a couple of days’ rest you will be feeling well enough to be back to your productive self.’

 Joseph smiled weakly at his boss, grabbed his rucksack and ran out of the building. Monday was a far-off distant possibility that he did not want to countenance just yet. The weekend promised the escape that had teased him out of his afternoon duties: motorbikes, gaming and porn.

Annie and the Tale of the Unexpected

Annie sat looking out of the window thoughtfully. She wasn’t musing, contemplating or otherwise channeling her thoughts in any creative direction. She was thinking in loops of fear which seemed to spin round in her head without settling on any final well-reasoned destination; much like a toy train going round in a circle on a plastic track. As she looked into the middle distance, her brow, already ingrained with deep pensive creases, furrowed some more. The intensity of this fresh furrow made her head feel dense and foggy. The furrow acted like a trigger for her inner dialogue:

  ‘I have to pick Chloe up from school because she can’t walk home with two  bags….. and if I pick her up that limits the risk of her getting abducted…….   and I will save her from being tired……but then I also need to be finishing off  this piece of work for the boss and if I don’t get it done by 5 o’clock I will be   in trouble…… and then I might lose my job……. and in any event I need to wait for a delivery to come………but then I need to go to Tesco’s or there        won’t be any dinner and if I don’t cook sea bass in a fresh tarragon sauce then I will be depriving my family of the food they need…..and God forbid we would otherwise have to eat baked beans and then my husband will divorce  me and run off with Cathy Barratt who makes her family pavlova on a  Monday and soufflé on a Tuesday.’

 Annie froze as she looked at her watch. It was already 3.30. She was late for the school run. The phone rang. It was her daughter, Chloe.

Alright Mum, I’m going round to Lindsay Barratt’s to do some homework. I’ll be back around 7’.

Annie was slightly thrown by this turn of events, which she had not foreseen. She usually sought to plan all eventualities before they happened. She not done any reconnaissance  in her head and it was therefore outside of her control. She took a moment to gather herself and the quickly applied her thoughts to the thing that she now had control over: her work. She would sit down and finish her work.

Annie sat down at her desk and turned on her laptop. She only had the conclusion to finish and some editing to do. No sooner had she settled herself at her desk, an email from her boss flashed up on the screen. It read:

Don’t worry about the report Annie: Stefan has already done one on the same subject for another project so we are going to use that’.

 Annie readjusted her thoughts. Now she had only one thing left that she had planned for: dinner. She now had two people to cater for instead of three as Chloe was not coming home. She also had a small megabite of space left in her head now that some of the afternoon’s anxieties had unravelled into nothing.

The megabite of headspace was not free for long. As she got into her car to go to the supermarket, the furrow deepened and the angsty thoughtforms descended like a doom-ridden fog:

‘Oh no look: someone has reversed into the back of the car! I can’t get it  fixed on my insurance because then my premiums will go up but if I pay for it there won’t be enough money for the new fridge I have to buy. What will I  do?………… Oooo and those new neighbours down the road have got teenagers who look like they are up to no good. I can’t have them living round here: they might be a bad influence on my kids……….. the garden is         not tidy as the lawn has not been cut: I am bringing up my children in a  property surrounded by weeds………aaaaaaaaagh!’

Annie sat in her car and sighed a big sigh as she put the key in the ignition. As she accelerated down the street, she started to plan the evening’s meal: see bass, white sauce, fresh tarragon, lemon, romanesco rather than broccoli and perhaps some potatoes dauphinoise on the side. Wine. White wine. It was always better to get two or three bottles just in case. It would be a disaster if there was no wine left which would almost certainly result in her husband going off with Cathy Barratt. There was no doubt that she had to get two bottles of wine to save any risk of impending divorce.

Annie loitered with intent at the fish counter. She did not want to be too close to the smiling woman in front of her in case she started up a conversation. She stood waiting and looked at her phone just to ward off the possibility of eye contact. As she glanced through her emails, her husband’s number flashed up on the screen. She pressed the red button. ‘Hello?’ she enquired, slightly surprised by the prospect of hearing from her husband at this time of the evening. She was expecting him back within half an hour.

Hello honey. Listen. Something’s come up. I have to work late and I won’t be home. In fact I won’t be back till tomorrow morning because I’m going to stay up here in London to finish what I have to do.’

 There was an uncomfortable pause. Annie started to process what she had been told. ‘OK……I will see you tomorrow then’ she said and ended the call.

Slightly affronted, she picked up a lasagne for one and headed to the checkout. She caved and picked up a pavlova as well. She could have some tonight and her husband could finish it off tomorrow on his return from London. She was hoping it might be nicer than Cathy Barratt’s. That reminded her to give the Barratts a ring on the way home to find out whether she needed to pick up Chloe from Lindsay’s or whether Cathy could drop her back. She phoned the landline and a male voice answered.

‘Stuart Barratt here’ said the voice.

Annie had not foreseen the prospect of anyone other than Cathy answering the phone. This caused her to take a sharp intake of breath before she spoke.

‘Hi Stuart. It’s Chloe’s Mum. Is Cathy there?

‘No. She is in London working. She won’t be back till tomorrow’.

Oh that’s a coincidence. My husband’s staying in London tonight as well’ she said, ‘I wonder if they are aware that the other is there. I just wondered whether you might be able to drop Chloe back.’

‘No problem. I’ll drop her round in an hour’ said Stuart.

Annie’s furrow started to deepen. She rang her husband.

Hi darling. I just wondered what you were having for dinner tonight’ she said.

‘Chicken curry’

And for dessert?

‘Pavlova’

 Annie ended the call. He was having PAVLOVA! Her husband and Cathy Barratt were in the same city and her husband was having pavlova for dessert. It was Monday. That could only mean one thing. Her husband must have been having an affair with Cathy Barratt.

The catastrophe was there, laid bare in front of her like a newly-discovered murder victim. She was the crime scene investigator. She had the damning evidence now. Her worst fears had come true. The nightmare of nightmares had begun. Perhaps it was because she had served him a tin of macaroni cheese instead of home-made salmon fishcakes last Wednesday.

Stuart Barratt dropped Chloe home. Annie did some more sleuthing as he got out of his Audi.

Where is Cathy staying then?’

‘At her Mum’s in Kent’

‘Are you sure?’ asked Cathy

‘Well yes: I spoke to them both just now’ said Stuart

 ‘And where will they be eating?’

‘There of course. Cathy’s mum always cooks’ said Stuart with a puzzled look on his face.

Annie was surprised yet again. She tried to process the flaws in her detective work but could not quite compute them. She decided to settle down with her chardonnay and work it all out whilst looking out of the window. Perhaps the vista of the garden might give her some inspiration to get the real answers she needed.

Pass the Parcel

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Looking out from the clifftop into the big blue yonder

Me a small fleck

In a world that gives no feck

Still in innocence and wonder

 

I am gifted with choice and discernment

A present which I leave unwrapped

For to open it would be to accept the dance with grace

That unsafe music that I don’t want to face

 

Perfection shines its halfbeam of halo’ed light

Obscuring the shadows of the night with its sodium glare

Leaving Resistance the winner in a game of risk

That has not even started

 

Time slides moments my way

Dealing chips with the artful promise of a blackjack dealer

My possession and strategy is but the daydream of acquisition

So they fall from my grasp

Like grains of sand

 

I roll the dice and play

Ridden of existential confusion

Alongside matchstick men and women

Brittle and wooden

Hungry for the spark that sets them alight

 

Back in the game

The stakes are high

But it is time

And I’m too old to play

Pass the parcel

Copyright Fizzy Wisdom 2018 

Tumbleweed

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Tumbleweed buries into her deepest consciousness

Strangling all sweet serenity with a sneering sadism

Penetrating all parts that were portals to the hearts of others

And infusing them with a melancholic madness

 

The vines coil round, constricting ideas and thoughts

Suffocating simmering suggestions of surrender

Savaging Humour as though it were a lamb

Gambolling carelessly into the path of a rabid beast

 

Tight tendrils of torment catalyse the once-calm sea into an ocean of chaotic craziness

Flagellating her with the ferocity of a fairy tale ogre……..

But this fairy tale does not have a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

Only the promise of disaster-zone desolation without the hope of a rescue package

 

When dawn comes she is left in shame

The Seduction shunning her like some two-a-penny lover

But she surrendered.

Not in the way that she foresaw.

Not in the way that she tried to control.

Not in the way that she expected.

Copyright Fizzy Wisdom 2018 

Meeting in the Middle

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Dredged up from all the grime and grease

Reminders of a life at peace

The shadow falls; a spark appears

The two converge amongst the fears

 

No truth is more pronounced or bold

Than stories of a life untold

In patterns old and safe surrounds

All hidden from the vital sounds

 

For under soft and glowing heart

There dawns a new and hopeful start

A diamond on a pile of muck

That doesn’t need to now ‘unf**k’.

Copyright Fizzy Wisdom 2018

Patterns

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Self-destructive patterns. They creep up on us like some familiar shadow, egging us on to find that security in the dark clutches of self denial, facilitating our swift escape from wholeness like some fly-by-night lover. They are a most eager companion when we are willing to leave our selves because to simply be in our bodies in the present is too painful or too lonely. So off we flit like a masochist on a mission – seeking this illusion here or that one there.

Drinking is the illusion of connection, providing fickle friends-for-the-night fading to fuzzy-headed memories in the morning’s returns.

Cigarettes waft their bosomly, billowy pillows of smoke, suggestive of solace and security.

Dating apps promise the escape in a big pink digital love bubble; a saccharin sop to a solitary singleton.

But by sure the best remedy is to go without and stay within. Realise that you’re at home being you, tucked away in your own sweet skin.

Copyright Fizzy Wisdom 2018 

Humility in Leopardskin

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Humility in leopard skin

Got pushed into a wheely bin

His bluster made him crow to one

Who felt that justice should be done

 

Temperance with lacquered hair

Drank everything without due care

Her hangover was once so dire

She set her coiffeured locks on fire

 

Chastity in six-inch heels

Would flaunt herself for cheeky feels

So anxious was her drive to please

That late-night hook ups turned to sleaze

 

Liberty in skintight jeans

Had made bad choices since her teens

She’d worked in jobs for no reward

And often spent her weekdays bored

 

Fortitude in loose beige slacks

Had fears about his income tax

But didn’t work to pay the dues

And ended up with debt-fuelled blues

 

Solemnity in oranges shades

Is someone whom the truth evades

His bluff and guff did soon repel

The friends with whom he sought to gel.

 

Faith in yellow DM boots

Had grown accustomed to his doubts

He sat in thoughts from day to day

And wasted many years this way

Copyright Fizzy Wisdom 2018