Lunch Break

I’ve got half an hour and a lot to do. Namely, I need to bank some cheques. I need to post a package. I need some athlete’s foot treatment and some sleeping tablets, plus some batteries. I need to move.

The world has other ideas. I’m not paranoid, I don’t think the world is against me or that it’s some kind of conspiracy. But why has the world decided to descend on the city centre during my lunch break, and to shuffle around at an aimless crawl? Hasn’t anyone else got anything better to do? Where’s the urgency? How does anyone get anything done? Life’s too short to gawp and lick at every shop window, to stop for a breather every third step. If these dinosaurs don’t get out of my way I’m going to saw my toes off right in front of them while they dawdle over bath salts and nail polish in the narrow aisles of Boots. Chances are though that they wouldn’t even notice, making my statement for nought. Still, I make it out alive and without leaving any corpses in my wake. I consider this a major achievement, but my jaw’s aching with the constant grinding of my teeth.

The dregs of humanity have descended on the Post Office in time for my arrival. A man in his 60s lumbers and lurches down the pavement at a crawl, pointing at windows and bouncing off walls. I slow my pace, unable to pass him as I near my destination. He swerves into the open doorway, looks around surprised, staggers back a couple of paces almost stepping on my toes, then rolls forward a stuttering step or two to take an unsteady position in the queue. I take my place behind him, mindful to keep my distance. His leather jerkin, stained and greasy, stinks. He’s mumbling constantly to himself… “My girlfriend… yes, indeed.” He spits into his hand, then dusts the rancid jacket down with the spittle from his palm.

A woman striving hard to affect a well-to-do air as she puffed her checks and satchel-like eyebags entered the office behind me and immediately stands apart from the queue and positions herself behind the person being served at the nearest kiosk. Perhaps she didn’t understand the concept of queuing or simply considered herself to be above such plebeian pursuits. Eventually, her turn arrived and I observed her being served at the next counter. She was wanting to post package. Rich or poor, she’s clearly missing some vital faculties. “I’ve got lots of stamps, I don’t suppose I can use any of these,” she says, producing a wad of books of stamps of numerous denominations

The cretin’s wearing below-the-knee shorts. A T-shirt bearing some absurd logo and the legend ‘Sex Wax’, and a baseball cap. No big deal, he’s just another average 20-something old idiot, and one with a short attention span and limited patience. That much is clear as he steps and lunges backwards and forwards, leering and peering from side to side, as if this perpetual movement will somehow accelerate the queue. And he’s eating a chewy candy bar. Huge great nags, which he chomps and slavers over like a fucking hungry dog on a bone. Eventually, I get served. I pay for my batteries and get out, not waiting for my receipt. I round the next corner, passing the large glass front of Starbucks where people sit at the counter, looking out at the world going by. I’m paying it no mind, but my eye is caught by a blingy diamante-encrusted iPhone being lofted to eye two girls sitting facing outwards and grinning at the screen at the end of an extended arm. ‘Selfie! This is us in Starbucks! BFF!xx’

And so it is that the pinnacle of our evolution revolves round the discovery that it’s possible to turn a camera round. No more do tourists need to stop strangers in the street to ask them to snap them in front of landmarks and amusing signs. So what if the landmark or sign is cropped from the shot or obscured by blurred, looming faces, this is life, living in the moment and everyone’s life is better than everyone else’s.

I never thought I would actually be happy to be back in the office.