Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Winging it

It's just one of those days. A diary full of back-to-back meetings, that I haven't found time to read the papers or prepare for; a seat-of-the-pants day, when I'll try to sound like I know what I'm talking about, when I'll try to add value to the discussion, or at least get away without announcing my complete idiocy to a room full of people.

I get up early, deciding I can get to the office and speed-read through the agendas and reports, scribble a pertinent comment or two in the margins. In a cavalier moment of over-optimism, I throw my gym bag into the car, thinking I might even go for a quick swim on the way in.

90 minutes later, I'm tapping my nails impatiently on the steering wheel, inching the car forward a few yards at a time, cursing the lorries that have blocked the slip road and brought the roundabout ahead to a standstill.

There's an etiquette between the drivers as we each push our way onward, nobody must look at anyone else; if you make eye contact you're doomed to a catalogue of exasperated head-shaking, unnecessary hand gestures and mouthed obscenities. So I feign nonchalance and gaze out of the side window at the banks that line the motorway, the un-cut grass intermingled with dandelions. Weeds grow strong and green, but there are other plants, stunted and black, that have proved less adaptable to the exhaust fumes and incessant vibrations of passing traffic. Dented cones lie on their sides, abandoned from some long-ago traffic scheme; nobody likely to come back for them now. Rubbish has piled in drifts, thrown from car windows by thoughtless drivers, but looking almost as though it's grown up through the ground, meant to be there.

I try not to think about being late, no point in getting stressed about what might happen, even less point in berating myself now for not preparing for my meetings in advance. Instead, I do mental calculations; 22 miles down, 18 miles to go; if we start moving now, I'll be there in 30 minutes. I watch the minutes click round on the dashboard clock, count the street-lamps as I pass them; 4 lamps to every tenth of a mile. It's a slow-shoe-shuffle I'm unhappily familiar with, the price I pay for swapping cold platforms and delayed trains for the warmth and solitude of an 80 mile round trip to work each day. I wonder about the drivers around me, where they're going, what the day might hold. I'm stupidly pleased by a van just ahead, with "Lynn Shellfish - our quality is catching" emblazoned on its side.

Then suddenly we're moving again and I'm passing freely around the roundabout like a ball thrown into a roulette wheel. I've been lucky, I'll make it in time for my first meeting. And yet I know the danger of winning once, that it might just encourage me to try my luck and leave everything too late again. As I speed along the motorway for the final stretch of my journey, I hear Kenny Rogers in my head, singing the Gambler's song out loud:
And the night got deathly quiet
And his faced lost all expression
He said, "If you're gonna play the game, boy
You gotta learn to play it right"


Unknown Mami said...

You gotta know when to fold 'em.

Pat said...

That does sound nightmareish. Will your new home be closer to your work place?

Simone said...

I felt just like being in the car next to you... Bravo!

otherworldlyone said...

Your morning sounds like the majority of mine. :)

Jennifer said...

Ah. This seems almost all too familiar to me... Well, minus work, more like school, but it's all the same, really.