The sweat rolls down my face.
The slightest movement is an effort, struggling against the damp, heavy clothing clinging to my body that grows heavier with each passing minute as the cheap synthetic fabric absorbs my sweat.
I take a sip of brackish water.
Flies drone through the soupy air, circling. They occasionally land on my head and I spasm in revulsion, my temper flaring as I flail impotently at them.
“Bastards…” I mutter. “Fucking bastards…”
Everyone is a Fucking Bastard to me at this moment. Everyone, everything.
A rivulet of sweat makes it’s way between my shoulder blades, down my spine, then soaks into the already sodden waistband of my trousers.
I look at my watch. Less than three minutes have passed since I last checked the time.
I have five hours to go.
Five hours, five days, five years, it seems meaningless in this heat.
Five minutes is fucking purgatory so any more time added makes little difference.
I take another sip of water.
I occasionally think I must be in a Turkish prison but then I look up and realise I’m at work, in an office, in the year of our Lord 2018.
It seems like madness.
I look across at the I.T. department. It’s hitting them particularly hard, but they are quite delicate flowers. I’d like to say they’re dropping like flies but the flies seem to be the only organisms thriving in this hell hole.
They I.T. department are dropping like an I.T. department in a Turkish prison. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
The air conditioning packed in three years ago.
The I.T. department are mostly to blame for this.
When the air con was still coughing along it didn’t get a moment’s peace. Some dickhead in a shirt and tie would sidle over to the controls, peer over their varifocals at the settings and give them a tweak.
Warmer air would flood the room.
Tuts and huffs would break out, then some bold chancer would stride over and press a few buttons.
Cold air would blast out.
Then June from Accounts would sashay over, clutching a thin cardigan across her bony frame, squint at the settings, and soon a monsoon heat would pour down your neck as you gasped for air.
This went on all day, every day. Hot, cold, warm, cool.
People fell ill. The constant change in temperature made people have funny turns, strange fevers. A sick atmosphere descended on the office staff.
And then someone died.
The Air Con died.
The office is a delicate ecosystem, designed to operate efficiently in a constant temperature, reliant on technology to maintain the equilibrium.
Take away that technology and you are reduced to chaos.
Without air conditioning, the office is basically a tin shed with minimum ventilation, it’s tinted glass absorbing the heat and throwing it into the room like a giant three-bar fire.
That was three years ago.
Emails have been sent, managers have wept in front of the financial director, all to no avail.
The air con is dead and it will remain dead.
Our job is now to simply survive.
An I.T worker walks slowly past, conserving his strength. His feet are bare and his Next suit trouser legs are rolled up. His damp shirt is open to the navel and his tie forms a make shift sweat band around his bald head.
We glance at each other, expressionless.
He walks on.
He holds his stained glass beneath the water fountain and a trickle spits out then stops.
He sighs, turns to the tap, fills his glass with a slightly brownish fluid.
From his pocket he retrieves a packet of Dioralyte, tips it into the water and stirs it in with his finger.
He walks slowly away.
The door to the canteen opens.
Dimples walks in and flinches as the hot, stale air hits her.
“Blinkin’ ‘eck, it’s like getting off the plane at Faliraki!” She cries.
She looks bereft.
Someone shouts across the office, “Dimples, what’s on the canteen menu?”
Dimples looks close to tears. “Stew an’ dumplings. Stew an’ effin’ dumplings, in this heat!! It’s getting more an’ more like effin’ Tenko with every minute!”
A moan of anguish rolls through the office.
I hear someone say, “I can’t have salad again. I’m eatin’ nowt but salad. I’ve got to the point where if I sneeze, I shit salad all over the back of me pants. That can’t be right, can it?”
Someone snarls, “Stew an’ dumplings?? Stew an’ fuckin’ dumplings?? AL I WANT IS SOME FUCKING COU COUS!!”
I hear a crash as a monitor hits the floor followed by a brief scuffle, then uncontrollable sobbing.
Office Phil jumps up. “Listen, why don’t I nip out and get fish and chips for everyone? It’ll be like being at the seaside! Tins of shandy, mushy peas, it’ll be great!”
Morale picks up a bit. Everyone coughs up a tenner with the promise of three quid change upon Office Phil’s return.
I decline the offer, because I’m not a fucking idiot.
I gaze out of the window and watch as Office Phil hurries across the car park and jumps into his 1998 Vauxhall Corsa. He screams out of the car park and turns right up the road.
The fish shop is down the road, to the left.
The right turn takes you to the pub.
Office Phil isn’t coming back.
He won’t be back for a week.
June from Accounts saunters by. She is wafting herself with a Spanish fan she’s brought in, a souvenir from a lovely holiday she had in the Costa del Sol in the eighties, she says, before it got all tacky, she says.
June from Accounts thinks she’s gorgeous.
She thinks she’s slender, leggy, elegant, but try to picture a heron that’s just been run over by a golf cart, then stick a wispy ginger wig on the unfortunate heron, and a flimsy floral print summer dress that’s a bit too off-the-shoulder/wing, then you’re getting there.
June from Accounts likes it hot. She wanders by, hoping to treat the boys to a fleeting glimpse of varicose vein, a greying bra strap, a hint of corm plaster peeping from the side of her sling backs. A tuft of fine hair protruding from the mole on her chin wafts gently in the breeze from her fan.
She crows, “Ooh, it’s lovely weather! All you moaning minnies, getting grumpy because we’ve finally got a proper bit of Summer! Enjoy it while it lasts, that’s what I say!”
She struts up and down, slowly, some strange pretense at sensuality. She is pigeon-toed, so always seems to be tripping up over one of her own feet. I’m appalled and fascinated in equal measure.
June from Accounts doesn’t drink. “I don’t need a drink to have fun – I’m high on life!”
This is a favourite adage of her. For those of us who need to drink two bottles of cheap wine simply to feel half human, it’s a fucking insult. I want to clip her round the back of the ear with a house brick then chuck her in a fucking pond.
(I know it’s not very politically correct to suggest such a thing in this day and age, but we all feel this way from day to day, it cannot be denied, and if we bottle up these feelings they’ll turn into a tumor the size of a grapefruit and nobody wants that.)
I’ve heard that June from Accounts likes to dance at social do’s. On nothing stronger than a cranberry juice she’ll take to the dance floor and go for it, grinding against all and sundry, rubbing her bony hips against a variety of groins and beer guts, treating unwary onlookers to a flash of withered tit barely concealed beneath an alarmingly diaphanous gown.
I avoid all forms of social function for this very reason.
But now I can’t avoid June from Accounts. She seems to think she’s lifting the spirits of the office with her weird display, a demonstration of how a positive attitude can transform a knackered office roasting in thirty five degree heat and smelling of halitosis and bin juice into some sort of island paradise, with her as a hula girl serving Mai Tai’s in a grass skirt.
She simpers as she swaggers, flapping her fucking fan, completely deluded.
Then somebody says in a slightly too-loud voice, “Oh, do park your boney arse, you knock kneed rat bag…”
I barely suppress a snort of laughter. Sniggering ripples through the office.
June from Accounts gasps and glances around. An expression of pure rage flashes across her face, quickly masked by one of aloof amusement.
“Jealousy is a terrible thing, you know…” She saunters back to her chair, all the while wafting herself with that fucking fan.
It angers me that she seems so pleased with her feeble retort. I know it won’t stop future grandstanding and hideous flirtation. She’s nearly sixty – If a sixty year old man was capering around the office half naked he’d be burned at the stake right there in the car park, and rightly so, but this dizzy trout has a free license to shake her tits whenever and wherever she pleases.
I briefly consider getting my cock out and doing a bit of Irish dancing, but decide against it. The infernal heat is playing tricks with my mind.
The door barges open and two blokes walk in, struggling with a huge box.
Judith from I.T. accosts them.
“Err… can I help you?”
One of the blokes waves an order form under her nose. “We’re here to fix the air conditioning.”
A buzz of excitement fills the muggy air.
Air conditioning! Cool breezes! Oxygen!
The two blokes are treated like kings. An assortment of beverages are provided, all at a horrible temperature.
Throughout the afternoon we are treated to banging and clattering coming from the roof space overhead. It is music to our ears.
Although I’m trying to keep my fluid intake up I know I’m getting dehydrated. The fans whirring on every available surface blow the warm air straight into our faces, drawing more and more fluids from our systems.
Everyone is at breaking point. The air shimmers outside, the glass panes of the windows are too hot to touch and radiate a horrible heat straight into the room. All eyes are on the ceiling, imagining those brave lads crawling around up there, fitting pipes, connecting electrics, bolting things together.
And then they reappear. Judith signs a few forms while we all watch, and the blokes make for the door.
A sudden spontaneous round of applause starts, and the blokes give a little uncomfortable wave, then they are gone.
The office staff gather around the air conditioning control unit.
I watch, from a distance.
Judith says, “Right, we’ll have no-one messing around with this! It stays on one temperature and that’s that. It’ll be on the cooler side, and if it’s too cold then you can put on a bloody cardigan. Here goes!”
Judith types in the numbers, presses the ON switch.
Far away, a fan kicks in.
I hold a hand up to the nearest air con unit.
The office staff look at me.
I say, “Nothing. Not a fart.”
Everyone looks devastated.
Someone shouts, “I can hear one unit running! Over here!”
We walk over to a locked room, with a keypad on the wall.
The server room.
Judith punches in the numbers and opens the door. A freezing blast of cold air flows out.
She quickly closes it again.
She says, “The air conditioner was already working in there… it was getting a bit tired, but it worked…”
She scuttled out of the office, in the direction of finance director’s office.
Half an hour passes.
Judith returns, defeated and weepy.
She says, “The finance director they would only stretch to the one unit and the computers get priority. The law says they only have an obligation to provide water. I told them the water cooler is broken, but he just said to use the tap. The air conditioning isn’t getting fixed. It’s never getting fixed…”
Judith rushes from the room to have a good long cry in the toilets.
It’s at this point that we should just kick off. Trash the joint. Barricade ourselves in the server room and smear the walls with our own shit, smash up the servers in a Luddite rage, storm the finance director’s office and tear our his liver, gorging upon it in front of his terrified dying eyes…
But we don’t.
Because we’re fucking English.
Instead we sigh, mutter, and return to our sweltering desks, tap slippery keyboards, peel errant pieces of paper from our damp forearms, dream of pints of cold lager.
Then there is a tremendous boom.
We all stop working.
I hope the air conditioning unit in the server room has exploded, but I check my connections and everything is on line.
Then there is another boom, then a rumble.
Beyond the hot dark glass of the office, clouds are gathering. Stacks tower high into the atmosphere, golden fringed with dark grey hearts, green tinted and loaded with electricity.
A fat drop of rain smacks the glass, smearing the dust.
We all stand by the windows, work now forgotten, staring at the skies in wonder, listening to angry heavens, smelling the smell of rain on pavements through the the slight openings the windows will allow, a smell of my childhood, seventies streets and rusty swings.
We are all quiet and quietly excited.
We stand together, listening, smelling, hoping… praying for a storm.
Blog North Awards
The stories I hear.
- Blog North Awards 2014
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- Clive O'Connell
- Driver on the Wing
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- general lucifer
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- New York
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