Sitting, peering, folding and unfolding arms. Chewing my Nicorette gum like a man possessed. My third shot for the day.
No one smokes at work, which means I can’t smoke either. The place where I work is a government department, but it may as well be an outreach arm of ‘Quit’.
It’s almost unhealthy how healthy it is.
At work, I act like a reformed smoker too, cringing at the lazy bastards smoking at the entrance to our building. “Why don’t you go and do that somewhere else?”
Clicking the Send and Receive button in my email has become quite a habit. I’m unsure what I am hoping to achieve by digitally prodding the outside world except develop a compulsive disorder. I glance at other people’s screens as I meander about the office. What I see are the flickering splashes of popular sites such as the footy-tipping page, Facebook messaging, virtual chatting, and travel and accommodation sites. When I started here two months ago, I didn’t use the Internet for recreational purposes. I was warned, “Matt, the IT Department keep a running log. Use it at your peril.”
Poor Jill is in a bit of a quandary. Her monitor faces everyone coming into the office. She told me in the kitchen, “It sucks, Matt. I have my back to ’em and I’m one of those people … ya know … who doesn’t like to be suddenly interrupted or not know what’s happening around me.”
“Yes I know what you mean, Jill. I’m very fortunate where I’m located.”
Jill frowns. “Thanks, Matt. That makes me feel a whole lot better.”
“Sorry, Jill. Maybe you can put a rear-view mirror on top of your monitor.”
“Yeah, I can also yell ‘beep beep beep’ as I reverse out of my chair.”
“Whatever tickles ya fancy” I laughed.
“Piss off, Matt.”
The girl who works to my left, Cassandra, is talking to someone on her phone, again! I notice she doesn’t wear a wedding ring. She does, however, have a photo on her partition wall of herself, exquisitely gowned, draping her arm around the shoulders of a bearded goof while sippin’ champs at the races. Two bottles of red wine still sit on her desk, the reason for which remains a mystery. Her desk, I figure, is a microcosm of her house. I could always sense her zealous work ethic. She was barely amiable with me, sometimes including me in the general sweep but making it clear I held no particular interest. I was just an Office Coordinator for God’s sake.
I stare at the screen raising and lowering my eyebrows trying to disguise the fact that I am listening intently to her phone conversation. I wonder if that’s her boyfriend Grizzly she’s talking to? I make it out in bits – she is going to the footy on Sunday and wants Grizzly to join her for lunch on Saturday.
I ponder what am I doing for the weekend – fuck all as usual.
Cassandra is hot-looking. A body to cream over and a face with a delectable button nose which in my daydreams says “Yes I want some more”. She has long dirty blonde hair that falls meticulously straight down her back. When I see her walking from behind I can’t but notice the exaggerated sway of her hair from side to side like a scene from one of those glossy shampoo commercials. Her buttocks so taut a pin could prick. Most of the time, however, all I hear from her work station is the manic tapping of fingers on keyboard. It’s mind-numbingly mind-numbing. Unfortunately, her personality, like her keyboard noise, is excruciatingly anesthetized. I would like to create some small talk, but her over-industrious manner creates an impenetrable shield against any social in-comings. Her beady eyes pierce the screen and nearly breach the rear end like a Buz Lightyear laser beam.
Can she sense my carnal interest? I wonder. Is that why there’s this distinct barrier? Can she read my devious mind? I become circumspect. If she was fugly she wouldn’t stop talking to me. Fucking Murphy as usual!
The loudest girl in the office, Lauren, belches out conversations one can hear from the opposite side of the floor. She’s a loud Greek gal in accounting who’s got bigger balls than most men here. Her level of social exuberance could be measured on a Chilean Richter scale. I regularly see her in the kitchen making one of her extra-healthy snacks. As Office Coordinator I have to sometimes clean the kitchen.
“You see, Matt, this yoghurt contains small amounts of healthy bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, which helps to keep your bowel regular and healthy.”
“Gee, that’s all right Lauren,”
“Yes, and these nuts are high in protein, carbohydrates and fibre as well as containing many vitamins and minerals.”
“Good stuff, Lauren.”
Why is she telling me this shit like I’m a next biggest loser contestant?
She casts her eyes away from her snack and glances at me.
“Cleaning again, Matt?” she says in her irritating hoarse and nasally tone.
“Yeah, I don’t mind it and I think … ” she laughs and its a big one.
And sings “Sadie, the cleaning lady”.
“That’s it,” I say chuckling.
She’s a really funny girl. Has a habit of calling people by their surnames too. Do you know the Lauren type? She makes a nickname out of people’s surname? “Hey Miss Woodsy,” she’ll say in her ballsy woggy accent. These people have other names but she never uses them. But I like her. I sometimes drop her an email.
Her desk is usually covered in little tupperware containers, recycled bottles of soy milk and packets of assorted seeds. There is absolutely no need for the services of a naturopath. It’s all here in my office and so I feel very fortunate although I feel like marinating Lauren’s keyboard with an outrageous bloody steak.
The guy who runs the fitness classes is an ex-professional footballer. Something of a legend in his heyday. The girls swoon. He even monitors participants blood pressure and administers blood tests.
Lauren and Cassandra never miss a workout with Stuart. They wouldn’t dare miss one because word might go round the office “she’s gone soft” or, perhaps even more earth-shattering, “she’s goin’ a little bit flabby dunt ya think?” Lauren may as well take an attendance roll ’cause she’ll tell Cassandra who was there and who wasn’t.
“Oh really,” Cassandra will say. “Oh, she wasn’t there. I see.”
I haven’t been yet myself. I want to go, but I’m afraid the girls might out-run me or do more push-ups, skip longer and hop higher. I couldn’t have that. I will need to get fit first before I undergo any training trips with Stuart and his entourage. There is too much at stake. I have to get fit to get fit. What if I have a heart attack halfway up the steps to the MCG? I couldn’t risk desecrating such an illustrious sporting landmark. Plus Stuart might have to fill out too much paperwork. I couldn’t have a retired footballer subjected to that.
Being in your thirties is not that old, but it’s old enough to feel mortality. I had developed a keen sense to establish myself – make my mark by my mid-thirties. But I had given up and seemed content to get on with the slow suicide of government work.