Saturday, 15 September 2007

Life in the Special Orders Department

He woke up with a head full of boxes, and knew that the day wasn't going to go well.

In his dream, he'd been unable to unpack all of the boxes that were being sent to him at the bookstore, so he'd started to take some of them home with him. His plan had been to unpack the boxes in his bedroom, and deliver the books to the customers in the middle of the night. His dream-self had experienced vivid fantasies of this sort -- multi-layered illusions that involved him slinking through the night like some sort of weird cross between a fox and a postman. Unfortunately, he hadn't managed to unpack the boxes at home either, so they'd just started to pile up there. This was the cold reality his dream-self faced -- a reality in which he'd literally brought his work home with him, and used it to block himself out of his own bedroom. He remembered hoping that the boxes would sleep well at night, all cosy in his bed. Needless to say, he woke up with a bitter taste in his mouth.

Twelve cups of coffee and half a tub of toothpaste later, he was on the train and on his way to work. He felt like a volunteer for the inferno, but then he'd felt that way since he'd left high school aged sixteen. Self-awareness is a gift as barbed and useful as a microscope made out of nettles.

When he arrived at his work, he began to wish he was back in his nightmare again. The boxes were waiting for him, and they seemed to have been breeding during the night, like bacteria in a petri dish. It was a real Russian dolls situation -- his office contained boxes, which contained books, which would cause problems, which would cause stress, which would push him just that little bit closer to nervous collapse.

Smiling like a fashion-store mannequin, he walked through to the break room and began to make his thirteenth coffee of the day.

Come closing time, the boxes seemed to be leering at him, their numbers diminished but still strong. 'Sod it,' he thought. 'I might as well get this done.' Six hours later, the boxes were all unpacked, and a strange chill came over him. He felt like he'd been stripped of all of his protective layers -- like he had nothing left to clench but his teeth. He walked over to the fax machine, dialed his home fax number, and then hesitated for a second. After a breathless pause, realisation clouded his face, and he picked up a biro and wrote 'FAO -- ANYONE WHO CARES' on his forehead. This vital task completed, he climbed into the fax machine and faxed himself home.

[I wrote this on a lunch break when I was still working in a big, corporate bookstore. It's not the greatest thing I've ever written, but it seems to make people laugh, so I'm putting it up here as an indication of where my head has been at for the last couple of years.]

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