Liberator! Part 2

Back at the office, Tim’s afternoon raced past in a flurry of telephone calls and a short but mentally taxing meeting called at short notice by the department manager, who had to announce that there were ‘significant changes afoot within the company’s structure’. ‘We’ve all got to be seen to be on board with this, going forward,’ he said.

A break was called and everyone dispersed, headed to the coffee machine, toilets or outside for a cigarette. Tim loitered in one of the recessed areas and checked his Blackberry, which he had kept on silent while in the meeting. It showed he had fifteen missed calls. He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. His skin felt rough and dry, his eyes sensitive and watery. He would have to deal with returning the calls later. As he made his way back to the meeting, he encountered a tall, skinny man with short, mousy hair and an ill-fitting suit that hung from his curved meatless shoulders who was loitering outside the generously-sized meeting room. The grey suit man acknowledged Tim.

‘Have we met?’ Tim asked hesitantly.

‘Er, probably not’, the man replied. ‘I’m visiting from Head Office.’ He introduced himself as Richard Fiddler, Executive Director, and gesticulated toward a seat midway down the long glass table as they entered. Another man in a navy pinstripe suit spoke, and asked Tim if he had met Barry Brown from the Manchester office previously. Tim nodded, as Barry, a chubby ginger bloke with a goatee bounded forward with his hand extended. He displayed an expression like a happy Labrador or a man who was meeting a friend he hadn’t seen in years.

The man in the navy pinstripe suit addresses Tim again, but he doesn’t quite catch what he says. He feels a little out of his depth in the company of all of these high-powered executives. To save face, he simply nods again. He feels has though he’s a marionette, his actions controlled by some invisible puppeteer, his nodding an involuntary action like a nerve twitch, a sleep kick, a cough or some kind of tic.

The meeting resumes. It’s insufferably dull. There’s talk crossing the table, line upon line of factual data and a grasp of figures and financial projections. There are flip charts and flow charts and Microsoft® Office PowerPoint® slideshow presentations. The presentations are slick. A beefy bloke in a navy pinstripe suit speaks commandingly about the business plan for the forthcoming financial year and the company’s ‘high-level’ strategies.

Some middle-aged bim with goofy teeth and a tasteless trouser-suit straight out of the 80s is presenting now. She’s clearly wise to using Microsoft® Office Fluent™ interface but her presentation is all style and no substance. She goes on for an age, extolling the virtues of ‘building relationships,’ ‘being progressive’ and ‘proactive cascading.’ She’s winding down her interim report and the business projections for the next six and 12 months and she’s pushing to end with a positive, but instead simply spouts more corporate bromides. The meeting concludes with more rhetorical throat-clearing and back-slapping both metaphorical and literal, faux camaraderie slipping across the smooth surface of the smoked glass table. Tim’s glad when he can make his exit: he has reports to write and calls to make.

As the meeting progressed – or, perhaps more accurately, became increasingly mired in relentless corporate self-absorption – Tim could feel his tension rising. Anxiety coursed through his veins, accelerated by a massive doses of adrenaline and norepinephrine secreted by his overworked medulla. Sustained high levels of catecholamines in the blood are a good indicator of chronic stress, and Tim’s were off the scale. As the realisation dawned that his job was potentially on the line, a fear gripped him and his head began to swim. A strange sense of disorientation began to wrap itself around him like a cloud. The remainder of the day was spent in a caffinated, adrenalized daze and he arrived home after seven in the evening tired, exhausted and drained and also tetchy and wired. He couldn’t help it. The simple fact was that he had been feeling decidedly fractious lately, and it was difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why. And because he didn’t know, he felt he couldn’t really talk about it with Amy – what was there to say? It was his problem, and he didn’t want to push it onto her. Thursday and Friday bled into one forgettable grey mass of telephone calls, conferences, meetings and reports, and by the time Friday night finally arrived, Tim’s hands were tender from the relentless batter of forceful handshakes and he still hadn’t found the time to catch up on all of the calls he had missed during the lengthy meeting on Wednesday afternoon. He tried in vain to stifle a yawn, then rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. His skin felt rough and dry, his eyes sensitive and watery. He was exhausted, and he needed the weekend to rest and recuperate.

 

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Liberator! Part 1

Are you stressed? Tired? Struggling to manage your time?

The questions on the front of the A5 page – technically a sheet of A4 folded horizontally down the centre of its landscape format to create four sides of A5 – seemed to be speaking to him. Standing in the self-help section in WH Smith, Tim hesitated. He wasn’t in the habit of frequenting this aisle, and had only found himself there on account of taking a detour to avoid a woman with a large pushchair and another child, a toddler, hanging off the hem of her jumper, as he made his way toward the stationery department. A self-professed realist, he didn’t believe in fate or chance or coincidence. Nevertheless, it struck him as strange that this pamphlet should be there, quite incongruously, yet somehow most appropriately. Yellow/cream in colour, with plain serif lettering in black ink, contained within a two-line rectangular border on the front, it was unusually eye-catching in contrast to all of the sharp, bright photographic images of Paul McKenna and other self-satisfied-looking self-help gurus, and the pastel shades of the other books that promised to reveal the secrets of relaxation, happy relationships, success in all aspects of life and eternal youth and well-being. Most eye-caching of all was the legend in the very centre of the page, in block capitals and a full forty-six points high: ‘LIBERATE YOURSELF!’ it read. It seemed as though it were be shouting, the words reverberating within the cavity of his skull. Then, at the bottom of the page, appeared the line ‘…and discover who your real friends are’.

Tim didn’t have any time for this airy-fairy mind and body spiritual claptrap, but something about this leaflet, perched in front of the official glossy publications impelled him to pick it up. What was it doing there? Who had left it there? It looked too carefully placed to have been accidental. But why would anyone leave such a publication lying around in a shop? What could they possibly hope to achieve in doing so?

As much as he was a realist and a rationalist, Tim was a capitalist, and his solipsistic world-view ensured that he could not conceive that others would operate beyond the parameters of the social norms within which his existence was framed. Even a philanthropist needs the means by which to sustain themselves, and even charities require funding to cover operational costs. Nothing in life is free, and to that end, the motivation behind the document in his hand, that he had picked up and was now eyeing suspiciously, perplexed him. And yet he could not bring himself to dismiss it out of hand, or to simply ignore it, leave it where it was in the store, and go on his way.

He was stressed and tired and struggling to manage his time. He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. His skin felt rough and dry, his eyes sensitive and watery. He was exhausted, and this was reflected in his sallow appearance. Turning the leaf, he read the first few lines of the text printed in 11 point Times New Roman across the two centre pages. The questions on the front cover were repeated, this time in bold, followed by the promise that ‘This pamphlet will explain how, in a few simple steps, you can reclaim your life for YOU!’ Tim couldn’t help but be sceptical, but read on anyway:

Consider the following questions: How much time do you get for leisure? ‘You’ time? Time for socialising? Ok, so you probably have responsibilities – job, family, general living, specifically cooking, eating, washing, etc., etc. – and how much time away from these do you get? Yes, leisure time. That’s time to do as you please, things you enjoy doing. Time spent participating in activities that aren’t a chore.

‘Excuse me, young man’, a decrepit old bid said, prodding his arm with a bony finger.
With a start, Tim turned to her. ‘Yes?’

He sounded more aggressive and irritable than intended. He couldn’t help it. He couldn’t help it, he knew he sounded ‘off.’ The simple fact was that he had been feeling decidedly fractious lately, and it was difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why.

‘I’d just like to…’ the wizened old goat’s voice quavers and tapers off points down the aisle with the pallid unguiculate hand she had been poking him with.

‘Oh, right. Yeah.’ Tim flushed slightly. ‘Sorry.’ He felt like a twat. He stepped aside and waited for the crone to creak past before folding the pamphlet in half and tucking it into the pocket of his pure wool charcoal grey suit jacket.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk