Liberator! Part 10

Tim had a point to prove and a gospel to spread. He had seen the light, he could feel the liberation surging through his veins. He was reborn! He scanned the slightly tatty leaflet on both sides, then pasted the images into a document. Within an hour, he had a hundred sheets of double-sided print stacked in the tray of his printer. He then proceeded to take the pile and fold each A4 sheet in half to produce four sides of A5. The quality was pretty good, and while obviously not an original, first-generation copy, and the background had been darkened slightly on account of the source document being an off-white shade, the text was perfectly legible. Over the next few weeks, he circulated them as widely a he possibly could, leaving them in public places – pubs, the library, on trains and busses, even tucking them into and between books in various book shops, with particular focus on the self-help sections, in the hope of replicating for others the circumstances in which he first discovered the life-changing publication.

Walking down the high street, a girl stopped him with an extended arm. a leaflet advertising a new eatery or somesuch held toward him in her hand.

‘I’ll take one of yours in exchange for one of mine,’ Tim said flamboyantly.

The girl looked perplexed and probably agreed out of bewilderment, at which point Tim took one of her flyers and shoved one of the ‘Liberate Yourself’ handouts, folded in half, that he had been carrying in his pocket into her small hand.

Happy and confident that he had made some gesture toward altering the life praxis of another lost individual caught on the wheels of contemporary culture, Tim headed home with a spring in his step.

Arriving home his mood altered dramatically. The place was empty and unkempt. The surfaces were dusty and dirty dishes were piled high in the sink. The shower’s plughole was clogged with hair, wet towels lay in a heap beside the shower and unwashed clothes littered the floors throughout the residence. An odour resembling hot dogs permeated the whole bedroom. It had been a month since Amy had left and she hadn’t come back, hadn’t called him or made any form of contact, she had simply cut him out. Slumping on the greasy settee, a discarded pizza box and a clanking pike of empty beer cans about his feet, Tim felt tired, physically and emotionally drained. 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. No-one had called him in weeks. He couldn’t bring himself to check his emails or his Facebook profile. The last time had broken his rule and snuck himself a tentative sign-in the bottom had dropped out of his world when he saw there was nothing: no messages, no emails, no comments, not even a pathetic poke. Two months missing and the world hadn’t noticed his absence.

The realisation hit with a sickening thud and a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Tim had gained nothing, learned nothing. He had simply replaced one set of rules with another, bound himself with new ties. Having cut the shackles of technological totalitarianism, he had embraced another equally restrictive mode of living, only this time one with even less sense of connection and community than the dislocated confusion of culture he had existed in before. Instead of finding freedom, he has enslaved himself once more, and this time, without any of the support mechanisms that ostensibly held together the web of mainstream society, he was alone. Was he to blame, or was it the instructions he was following? Had he interpreted them correctly? The world wasn’t changing enough to accommodate his alternative lifestyle, wouldn’t allow him to reject it without it rejecting him in return. The fact he didn’t need it was immaterial: society needed him a whole lot less than he needed hit.

If you want to truly liberate yourself, stay in bed. Do not go to work. Do not phone in sick. Just do nothing, and enjoy. If no-one contacts you to query your whereabouts after a week, you may as well kill yourself.

Tim knew what he had to do. He knew who his friends were alright.

 

 

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Liberator! Part 9

Tim was spending a lot of time as he pleased, but was far from being a man of leisure. Things were shaping up on the allotment, but he was a long was off being self-sufficient. All too often, he found the temptation to do something else less boring instead too great, and would take himself off on long, meandering cycle rides or sit in the pub on his own with a book or a magazine, or even a newspaper. He’d never been a big reader before, but was starting to find it an enjoyable and stimulating pastime, although he preferred non-fiction books and still found the news as depressing as hell. Still, it only reinforced his belief that what he was doing was for the best. The world was sick and he wanted no part in it.

Amy saw things differently though. Tension had been mounting and the more Tim refused to join her on her social climbing excursions and uncomfortable engagements with people neither he nor she really liked, the more irritated she became.

It all came to ahead one Wednesday evening. Amy had been working late and Tim hadn’t been working at all. It had begun with Amy’s daily harangue about him getting another job, and he’d had to admit that money was beyond tight. His suggestion that they sell some of Amy’s DVDs and unwanted clothed had incensed her and she had given him a piece of her mind with a few home truths expressed in the most straightforward of terms.

‘You don’t get it, do you?’ he had said.

‘You’re right, I don’t. I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with you,’ he had snapped in reply. ‘You need your head checked. You’re not living in the real world!’

‘No,’ he’d replied in a measured tone, solid with confidence and conviction, ‘I’m part of the solution. Your way of living, following the herd, running on empty and perpetual stress, as though you’re actually gaining from it, is all wrong. Success – material success – is an illusion. No-one sees it because they’re scared.’

‘Don’t talk like that, you sound like you’re mad!’ Any had screamed.

Tim had shaken his head. ‘If only you knew’, he had sighed. ‘Look, you’re off to a party for Paul’s birthday tonight, right? Why are you going? You feel obliged,’ he had lectured. ‘You can’t say no because you can’t be seen to not be there. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right? But what’s in it for you, really? You’ll make like you’re having a great time, but it’s all a complete lie. You think he’s boring and his girlfriend’s an idiot. Although to be honest, I think you’re jealous of her because she’s on a higher salary and likes everyone to know it.’

‘Look, I can’t be with you if you’re going to be such a prick,’ Amy had snarled. ‘I’ll be back for my stuff later.’ Then she turned tail and walked out, slamming the door behind her.

Tim’s face flushed, a combination of humiliation and anger. Fuck her. If Amy couldn’t get on board with what he was doing, and support him in making a better life for himself in an insane world based on facades and superficial exchanges devoid of contact or humanity in a culture of hyperinformation, he didn’t need her. It was her loss. One day she would realise he was in the right.

 

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Liberator! Part 8

Over lunch on Saturday, Tim announced his intention to get out of the rat-race. He was going to jack in his job, and wanted them to move to the country where he would maintain a smallholding, a simple subsistence living off the land.

‘Are you insane?’ Amy squawked.

‘I’ve never been more sane,’ Tim replied evenly.

‘You’ve lost the plot,’ his girlfriend snapped, ‘and if you think I’m going to move out into the country and live some kind of ridiculous hippie lifestyle, you’ve got another thing coming!’

Tim went to speak, but Amy declared the discussion closed and ate the rest of her meal in irate silence. She carried her mood through the afternoon’s shopping, too, and while she went out with her friends for the evening, Tim decided to give the drinks with his mates a miss. None of them had been in touch to confirm the time or place anyway, and he’s not heard from anyone but Matt all week. Fuckers. They were all on the ever-lengthening off-limits list, cut off, excised, out of his life. He didn’t need them.

The following morning, Tim wandered around the house in his dressing gown and decided that perhaps his plan had been a bit radical. He didn’t have a clue about farming, so decided to modify his ambitions to more realistic levels. He’d start with an allotment and learn home brewing. He could sell or trade any surplus, thus creating his own micro-economy.

***

It slowly dawned on Tim that he didn’t have the first clue about gardening, or even where he might go to get himself a plot of land. Then he remembered his uncle had an allotment, and that he had been complaining about not having the time to maintain it, so he rang it up and offered to take it off his hands, or at least take over its running. His uncle agreed, and by that afternoon he had the keys to the shed in his pocket and was standing, surveying his new domain. It made a change from surveying dilapidated buildings as he did in his day-job. He felt a swell of pride and a small surge of excitement, despite the fact that the plot was badly neglected and massively overgrown. By evening, he had cleared some of the weeds, but was slowly beginning to realise that getting the land in order would be quite a major undertaking.

After the first week, anyone who initiates contact may be allowed back onto your list. However, should they fail to return your subsequent response within a week, then they are back off the ‘ok’ list and onto the ‘no contact’ list.

A week later and his patch of ground still resembled a weed-infested battleground, despite his having toiled from morning till night for the majority of the days. That said, he had indulged himself with a few lie-ins and leisurely breakfasts, and afternoons off down the pub. He had also given in and checked his emails a handful of times, and signed into his Facebook account. Each time he had done so, he had desperately fought the urge to update his status, although he found it impossible to resist responding to a fee of his friends’ updates and comments. While his bursting inbox and the number of voice mails on his phone, which were mounting by the hours caused his the same nausea-inducing combination of panic and dread, he was beginning to notice a shift in the nature of his correspondence, in that most of it was either work-related or otherwise spam, and that the number of direct, non-circular missives received by both email and via social networking was beginning to diminish.

His feelings about this were conflicting. On the one hand, it came as a relief as the pressure to read and respond to so much peripheral shit began to fall away. On the other, he began to feel as though he was already beginning to fade from society and from his friends’ thoughts. Out of sight, out of mind… he pushed these negative thoughts to the bank of his mind and slipped a DVD in the player. It had been years since he had simply sat and watched a film, at home, on his own, simply because he felt like it.

Over the next fortnight, Tim toiled on the allotment and spent the hours cooking up more ways of sustaining himself while pursuing his new, alternative non-capitalist existence with its corresponding technology-dependent modes of interaction.

Before he knew it, a month had elapsed. He had sent a letter of resignation to his boss after wrestling with his conscience over whether he really owed the cunt or the company so much as a formal notice but in the end drew the conclusion that it was only decent to honour the terms of his contract and besides, he didn’t want to be hauled through whatever processes, from tribunals to courts just to maintain his right to jack in his job.

Before too long – a month, perhaps – you will have a fair idea of who your true friends are. Cherish these people, and make every effort to remain in touch forever.

You will probably find that you have, in actual fact, far fewer friends than you thought. That’s because people are busy, self-absorbed and lazy. Or maybe it’s just that everyone hates you. Deal with it. The positive to be found in this is that you will have significantly more time to spend as you please.

 

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Liberator! Part 6

As he sat on the train a few days later, perusing the reports he had to digest ahead of the meeting he was travelling to, Tim glanced around at his fellow passengers. Engaged in conversation on mobile phones, tapping out text messages, watching DVDs on laptops and portable players, or otherwise cut off from the rest of the world by their iPods, Tim realised something he already knew but had never felt so aware of before: that everyone was so wrapped up in their own technological bubbles that all sense of community, or free interaction, had been lost. In subscribing to this conformist culture, Tim was engaged in active complicity in the reproduction of the circumstances of his own alienation. He hadn’t signed into Facebook for a while now, and while it was impossible not to check his emails – even a few hours off-line instilled an uneasiness in his stomach and caused his tension levels to increase – he was managing to resist the urge to respond to everything straight away, to click the links on every forward, even to read them all. But the nagging knowledge that there were missives demanding his attention remained in the background, and the flagged and unopened emails mounting up were impossible to forget about completely. He was appreciating the time and freedom to soak in his surroundings a little and to observe from a slightly different perspective but he didn’t exactly feel liberated either: far from it, in fact.

Just then, he noticed it. Sticking out from between a couple of reports, he saw a yellowy-coloured piece of paper. Its corner was slightly dogged. He lifted the report to see what it was. The pamphlet again. How had it go in with that pile of papers? he wondered. Concluding he must have put it down and then picked it up by accident when moving other stuff around, he paused to re-read some of it as he went to move it out of the way, then read on just a little.

For all of the above, allow yourself to reply to any incoming messages, and continue work-related activity as normal (failure to do so may prove damaging to your career). These directions apply only to non-essential outgoing social contact (Obviously, if you’re in the middle of a breakdown, then it’s reasonable to apply these instructions to all contacts as a blanket rule).

You may permit yourself three individuals who are exempt. These must be people who you know will respond to your emails or text messages or will answer or return your calls, and within a reasonable timescale. Two days to respond to a text, or a week to respond to an email is not acceptable. These technologies are all about instant communications, remember! Everyone else in your contacts lists, address book, are off limits. Do NOT contact them. Wait for them to contact you.

***

Tim needed to clear his head. Perhaps he did need to wholly liberate himself as the pamphlet suggested. As he passed the houses, he was able to see the outlines of figures moving inside, moving silhouettes, people’s actions projected like life-size shadow-puppetry. Some had not closed their curtains, or had just opened them, suggesting that dawn was just around the corner and they were making ready for work or whatever. As he wandered past these little compartmentalised lives visible through real-life television screens, he was able to look into their living rooms and bedrooms. He felt nothing, a complete detachment. It didn’t feel wrong. He didn’t feel nosey. He didn’t feel as though he was in any way spying into their homes or voyeuristically peeping into their private lives. Separated by the glass and the distance and the still, dead air, cold and silent, it was like watching television on mute. His presence went unnoticed as they played out their parts. He was simply a viewer, not participating or interacting in any way. Was this liberation?

 

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Liberator! Part 5

Tim rose at 6:30am and was at his laptop, set up on the rarely-used dining table, working, by 6:45. Still in his dressing gown, with a strong coffee, he sat blearily in front of the screen. 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. The text was beginning to drift before his eyes as he read it again and again. The text was beginning to drift before his eyes as he read it again and again.

It was after 11pm when he finally called it a night. He felt exhausted, yet his mind would not cease in its cogitations. Around midnight, after a large glass of wine, Tim retired to the bedroom and snuggled up beside his recumbent partner. He closed his eyes but behind his eyelids images flickered like a cut-up reel of cine film. He turned over and over as his mind turned his list of tasks for the next few days over and over. His heart rate began to increase, until it almost reached the point of fibrillation and sweat was running in rivers from every pore. It was no use. Tim simply could not sleep. Gingerly, he slipped from under the duvet and stealthily made his way back downstairs. Amy continued to sleep soundly.

Arriving in the living room, Tim did not turn on any lights and instead made his way silently to the window and stood behind the crack in the curtains. The street outside was dark and silent, yet unexpectedly bright, illuminated by the bright orange sodium haze of the street lights, one of which was in front of the house directly opposite. The curtains of the house were open, and there was a light in the upstairs window. He watched as a figure entered and exited the room. In shadow, he was unable to observe their features. It felt strange to be alone in darkness and at this time of night: Tim usually remained in bed, lying stock still so as not to disturb Amy, while him mind raced. Here and now, alone in the darkness and silence, with only the breathing of the house for company, his mind wandered. He projected himself outside into the long, anonymous, rectilinear street lined with almost identical red-brick terraced houses. He traversed the street like a ghost. His mind played in a flash a world in foment, in tumult, as rabid dogs and vigilantes prowled the alleyways. His heart raced with a heady blend of fear and excitement, the likes of which he hadn’t felt in years.

Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Tim retreated into the darkness and brought himself back to the reality of the here and now, his interior world. Pouring himself a shot of rum, he spotted the rather dubious pamphlet he had pickled up the other day lying on the coffee table. He didn’t recall placing it there, but nevertheless, he switched on the standard lamp and read as he sipped at his drink and waited for its soporific effects to take hold.

A recent survey found that people working from home work the equivalent of an extra 20 days a year, which almost counters their holiday entitlement. The technology that has facilitated what would first appear to be the perfect working solution and the best way to obtain a more comfortable work/life balance is thus a double-edged sword. Small wonder people don’t all want to rush home and check their inbox.

Be honest: how many times have you been gripped by fear at the prospect of logging in and checking your email, because of the idea of dealing with hassling correspondence from the bank and a slew of messages from people you can’t face replying to is simply too much? Email and mobile communications technology was hailed as a great means of keeping people in touch with one another. But how many proper emails do you send or receive?

Tim shook his head. He hated to acknowledge the fact, but this tract resonated with him. The way he spent – and wasted – hours trying to keep in contact with old friends and former colleagues, even more peripheral family members. He had the niggling feeling that life was too short to expend time and energy on people who couldn’t be bothered, but then, all too often he failed to respond to messages and emails from his friends. He felt like a cunt for doing so, but what could he do? He was busy – busy chasing his tail as he raced like a hamster on a wheel on the treadmill of life.

Tim was exhausted, but read on, slowly. 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.

To reclaim your life and liberate yourself from the tyranny of technology, and at the same time, take the following simple steps.

1: Do not log into Facebook for a week.

2: Stop sending emails, especially forwards and links.

3: Do not send any text messages.

4: Do not make any non-essential phone calls.

It seemed a bit extreme. On the other hand, Tim reflected for a moment just how much time he spent checking into Facebook and reading endless reams of status updates that were ultimately pointless. He didn’t need to know that Neil was tired after going to the gym, or how sick Jonathan had been after his brother’s stag night. More to the point, he simply didn’t have the time to become mired in the vapid empty existences of others. He had his own empty, vapid yet insufferably hectic life to live. What could he possibly learn from a pamphlet that he hadn’t already read and discarded from countless self-help manuals, forums and television programmes?

 

 

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Liberator! Part 4

‘Do you mind if we don’t got to the cinema tonight?’ Amy asked.

‘Hmmn?’

‘I’ve sort of double-booked. I don’t really feel like going out,’ she said, ‘and I can’t really be bothered to get dressed up and I’m really tired…’

‘Yeah, me too,’ Tim said, pursing his lips and blowing the air from his mouth through the small puckered gap. He rubbed his eyes. It was true, he was tired, largely on account of the fact he was having extreme difficulty sleeping. He had spent the last few nights lying awake, tossing and turning, his mind endlessly and restlessly cogitating myriad work issued, and now compounded by the fact the Sword of Damoclese hung over his career. This in turn was causing him to agitate over their finances. However much he earned, it was never enough and things were tight enough as they were. he simply couldn’t afford to lose his job. In the meantime, he needed to conserve every penny should the worse happen, and not going to the cinema meant money not spent and in the bank for the rainy day that blotted his once-bright horizon.

Amy, however, wasn’t done. ‘…but I kind of promised Lizzie and Will that we’d be there tonight for their awards night, and I know we were supposed to go out and spend some time together but this is really important to them and besides, it’s a really good networking opportunity. I can’t really go on my own…’

Tim closed his ears and his mind as he tried in vain to stifle a yawn, then rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger.

‘Ok, ok. I’ll go and shower.’

It was after midnight when they got back home and his mind was abuzz from the endless babble of small-talk with anonymous, self-important pseuds. It was like being at work. Only worse. In an attempt to unwind, he poured himself a large Scotch, despite knowing that he really didn’t need any more alcohol after all of the wine and continental lager he’d sunk at the ceremony of back-slapping and smugness he had just squandered the last few hours. Slumping on the settee, he sipped his drink and picked up the leaflet again in the hope that reading something – anything – might help stop his mind from racing. His skin felt rough and dry, his eyes sensitive and watery. He was exhausted, and this was reflected in his sallow appearance. The text was beginning to drift before his eyes as he read it again and again. The text was beginning to drift before his eyes as he read it again and again.

It was no good. He was simply too tired to read on. He poured himself a glass of wine and returned to the living room where Amy was on the sofa watching some zombifying ‘talent’ show or something while simultaneously chatting on Facebook to a friend on her iPhone. He didn’t want to arrive at work hungover the next morning – in fact, he didn’t want to arrive at work the next morning at all – but yearned for a good night’s sleep and hoped that the alcohol would sedate him sufficiently.

***

It didn’t. Another night spent restless left him feeling disorientated, groggy, detached. Every day was exactly the same, only worse. Over the past few weeks and months, Tim had felt his energy levels decreasing incrementally, and now, having reached what he felt had been a non-specific tipping point, the plummet had moved into a spiral of exponential decline. And as his energy levels dropped and his levels of exhaustion soared, he increasingly began to feel that his life was no longer his own, as though he was being steered by some other force. He was no longer in control of his own destiny.

Tim felt a strange sense of déjà vu as he entered the office. It wasn’t his office, the office where he worked and had worked for the last five years, and it wasn’t the office he worked in for three years before that. In fact, it was none of the offices he had ever worked in. And yet he couldn’t explain this vaguely bewildering sensation any more than he could shake it. He spent the morning working like an automaton, firing off emails by the dozen and answering phone calls back to back. it’s relentless, it’s dizzying, it’s dehumanizing. He keeps on sinking the hot stomach fluids that pass as coffee that the machine dispenses, but never has the time to leave his desk and relieve the pressure building in his bladder. He can feel himself slowly losing his grip and his focus. All he can focus on is the acute stab in his lower abdomen, but he hasn’t the time to stop just now.

A tall, skinny man with short, mousy hair and an ill-fitting suit that hung from his curved meatless shoulders escorted him to a generously-sized meeting room. The unsettling recognition stayed with him as he took a seat, to which the grey suit man had gesticulated wordlessly, at the long glass table. Another faceless suit, charcoal grey this time, spoke, but while Tim saw his mouth move, he heard no sound. Tim nods. He has no idea why he nods, it’s as though he has some involuntary need to nod. Charcoal grey suit moves his mouth silently again. Again, Tim has no idea what he’s saying or why he can’t hear. He’s not even sure if the dude’s actually speaking or if he’s simply miming.

Why would he be miming? That doesn’t make any sense… Nothing made any sense. Am I deaf? The eerie silence, which Tim could only liken to how he expected it might sound like in a soundproof padded cell – something he had never experienced during the course of his extremely normal life – was only one of his concerns. Where was he? Why was he here? Who were these people? He’s in autopilot, feel like a car crash, like he’s in a dream watching a fictional performance simulating his own life.

He nods again. It’s not even a compulsion. He simply feels himself nodding as though he was a marionette, his actions controlled by some invisible puppeteer.

Charcoal suit man walks stiffly from the room and returns almost immediately with a small plastic cup full of some foul-smelling brown fluid. It could be the pumped contents of someone’s stomach for all Tim knows, but he instinctively knows it’s coffee.

Tim speaks, no words leave his mouth. Charcoal Suit smiles and nods.

Charcoal Suit walks around the table and sits down opposite. Tim’s feeling hemmed in: Baggy Grey Suit is situated at his left elbow and he feels like he’s a piece in a game of chess and the moves available to him are diminishing by the moment. He’s feeling like car crash and wondering why he simply doesn’t seem able to cope with certain things, certain scenarios, certain situations. The day spins by in a blur and he’s not even sure if it’s actually happened or if he’s dreamed or imagined half of it. He’s only too relieved when it’s time to knock off and head for home.

‘What time are you going to be in tomorrow?’ asked Peter as they passed on the stairs.

‘I’ll be working from home tomorrow,’ Tim replied. ‘I’ve got no appointments booked and I’ve got to get that report written and submitted by the end of the week and I’m way behind.’

Flashman pursed his lips, his brow furrowed. ‘Right, if it’ll help you get caught up,’ he puffed irritably.

 

 

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Liberator! Part 3

Tim had been in a conference call for over half an hour and was dying for boredom. Sitting back and exhaling, long and slow, he took the opportunity to check what his contacts were doing on Facebook and respond to some of the myriad text messages that had been flooding his inbox during the morning. There were two more invitations to go for drinks that he would have to decline having already agreed to meet Steve and Andy for a couple of pints after work before heading over to Dan’s for their weekly poker night. It would be his turn to host it in another couple of weeks.

His mobile began to vibrate, just as it was his turn to speak in the conference call. He let it go to voicemail. On his way out of the office to pick up a sandwich by way of a late lunch, Tim checked his messages. The first was from Amy. ‘I’ve not had time to do any shopping for food today,’ she said breathlessly. ‘Jane had a crisis so I had to go for lunch with her… long story. Anyway, I’m out this evening. I’d completely forgotten it’s Sammy’s birthday meal tonight, so you’ll have to call in and pick up a takeaway or something on your way home.’

***

Before he knew it, it was on Sunday afternoon, and while checking his pockets for receipts to submit along with his expenses claim form Tim rediscovered the leaflet he had picked up at lunchtime on Wednesday. It had been another uneventful weekend at home with Amy. He’d not swap Amy for the world, but things had been growing a little stale of late: maybe to swap for just one night… No, no, it was wrong. He pushed these thoughts from his mind. Amy had spent the majority of the time asleep or otherwise lounging around in front of the TV, reading a magazine, in her worn towelling dressing gown and nightie, without makeup and her hair unbrushed. Tim felt that he should have been able to appreciate the fact she felt sufficiently relaxed and comfortable, but instead felt like a cunt for resenting her for what he perceived as slovenliness and a complete lack of effort on her part. It wasn’t as though the long lie-ins were spent getting it on. He read the first coupe of paragraphs, and found himself agreeing with the points made.

Technology was supposed to give us more leisure time, but it seems to be having the opposite result. There can be no question that there are more labour-saving devices in existence now than ever before. Things like washing, washing up even eating, take next to no time in comparison to in times past. You’ve never had it so good! And distance is no object. With the advent of the Internet, it’s as easy to keep in touch with someone on the other side of the globe as it is someone who lives on the next street. You don’t have to leave the house for either, and in both cases it’s instant. In short, communication has never been easier. Or faster. It’s instant. But this immediacy has exacerbated the demand everything, and demand it yesterday, culture of impatience. And there’s the rub. Communication is too easy. Talk is cheap. Quality is falling by the wayside: quantity rules. And there’s no escape. People arrive at work and are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emails awaiting them.

Just then, his mobile phone rang. The song he’d once been really into and so selected as his ring-tone was now simply another sound, another source of irritation and stress, its stunted, compressed take on the original supplanting appreciation with anxiety, its trebly bastardization becoming just one more trigger in his infinite nexus of triggers. Without thinking, he allowed his reflexes to dictate and he responded in a flash.

‘Tim James.’

‘Tim, Peter.’ Peter Flashman was his manager. Tim felt his stomach sag from the inside, whole at the same time his flesh prickled with resentment a the intrusion. Yes, he was on a good salary, but he felt increasingly that his life was not his own, that he was the property of the company and constantly at their beck and call. Did the end justify the means? Was he being pad enough to cover not simply his official working hours, but his every hour outside the workplace too? ‘look, you know I hate to call on a weekend, an so late, but….’

Before he knew it, Tim had agreed to take on three additional projects, produce another report by Wednesday and meet with some new clients in a week’s time, which involved cancelling the three days of holiday he had booked to visit his sister who had recently given birth. He felt bad: not only had he not met his new nephew yet, but, he realised with no small shame, he hadn’t seen or even contacted his sister in almost three months. But what could he do?

 

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