My life in Rock

Peter stood with one hand on the open car door. The office was positioned on the opposite side of the street but even from this distance he could see a small crowd of people gathered by the entrance.

Ducking slightly, in order to use the car as cover, Peter reached into his jacket pocket with his spare hand and retrieved his sunglasses. He then stood straight, closed the car door, placed the glasses on, adjusted them using the wing mirror, pressed the car alarm, and began the walk across the road.

The sunglasses weren’t worn to block out sunlight, nor to try and hide his identity. Peter wore the glasses because hiding behind their impenetrable black wall gave him an increased separation with the world. Without this divide Peter wouldn’t be able to walk like he did. Assured, confident, a sense of purpose in every step.

As he got closer to the office a few people in the crowd noticed him and began to shout his name. Peter slowed his walk to give the rest of the crowd time to follow the leaders and join the chanting. By the time he reached the office entrance all 50 people were rhythmically chanting, “Peter!” “Peter!” He waved nonchalantly in their direction and stepped inside. The crowds’ muffled chants still audible through the door.

“Good morning Mr Williams.”, the security guard looked up from his desk smiling, “Good crowd outside I thought.”

Peter removed his glasses, “Certainly was Fred. Should be a good day.”

Peter strolled past Fred and headed into his private office. He always started every day with half-hour to himself. It was an opportunity to collect his thoughts together and mentally prepare for his performance out ‘on the floor’. On his desk were a Cappuccino with extra sugar, a bacon sandwich, and today’s Guardian newspaper. Peter lifted the top piece of bread off the sandwich and checked to see if the fat had been removed from the bacon. It had. This was important as fatty bacon tended to aggravate his stomach and could badly affect his ability to work.

For the next fifteen minutes Peter sat quietly eating his sandwich and reading the newspaper. He wasn’t in the mood for coffee so that sat untouched. Eventually his concentration was shaken by a knock on the office door. Peter looked up from the newspaper to see Jill stood in the doorway.

“Five minutes to go Peter. Just letting you know.” As she spoke Jill wound her hair around her index finger.

“Thanks. I’ll be out in a minute.” Peter raised his hand slightly, as a further sign of thanks, and returned to reading the newspaper. Jill stood watching him for a brief moment and then backed out of the office.

Once he heard the sound of the door closing Peter stood and walked over to the mirror that hung on the wall. This was the final part of the morning preparations. He raised his hand and pointed at his own reflection, his eyes focusing on themselves in the mirror.

“You are the best.” he whispered, “Nobody can match you. You are the best.” Peter lowered his hand but kept his stare straight. He took 5 deep breaths, holding the last one for fifteen seconds. Then he exhaled and stepped out of his office.

A corridor linked Peter’s office to the main call centre. A set of double doors at the end prevented anyone in the main building from seeing Peter but everyone inside knew the moment of his arrival was approaching and they clapped in rhythm to welcome him. As he walked towards the doors Peter timed his steps to fit with the clapping, allowing the beat to pump through his body and fill him with energy.

Once at the double doors he stopped and placed a hand on each one. He could feel the clapping feed into his fingers and he tensed his arms ready for the big push. Taking a deep breath first, Peter pushed on the doors; flying them open and causing the call centre employees to jump and cheer and shout.

No matter how many times Peter lived through this moment he never tired of it. The sound of the crowd noise ringing from having so many people trapped into one space in his ears. The look of the people jumping up and down, waving, desperately trying to find a piece of ground that gave them a clear view and stopped anybody else moving in to block that view. The pheromone buzz that hung in the air from having so many people trapped into one space.

Breathing in the warm, adrenalin, air Peter strode to his desk, which was positioned at the same end of the call centre as the double doors but on a raised platform so that the others could see him at all times. Upon reaching his desk Peter stood and raised his arms to acknowledge the crowds’ cheers. This caused the assembled staff to cheer louder, the sound echoing off the high steel roof to further amplify the applause.

Keeping his hands in the air, Peter looked down at his desk, There, as he’d requested, was an A4 piece of paper headed ‘Things To Do’. Peter smiled. The paper gave structure to the day, allowed him to focus solely on the task in hand without distraction.

It’s role as the playlist could not be underestimated. Once it hadn’t been there and Peter found himself unable to do anything at all for ten minutes, eventually he’d pulled himself together and got on with job but he knew that his performance that day was ‘satisfactory’ at best and he’d swore never to go through a day like it again.

Peter lowed his arms and sat in his chair. The other staff knew what this meant and they lowered the volume of the office. Wild enthusiasm gave way to nervous anticipation. Would he be up to scratch? Would he do anything new today? Would he perform the old favourite of ‘I understand what you are saying however … ‘ in response to a customer complaint?

It was time to find out how good the day would be.

The next seven hours were both a blur and a memory that stayed forever. For Peter, focused every moment on what he was doing, forcing himself to push the boundaries of what was possible, the passing of the day was a haze. His memory of it hid in shadows until later when he would look back and re-assess what happened. Learn from the mistakes and endeavour to repeat the successes.

For the staff the day was etched in their minds. Every call Peter took, every query resolved, every decision took they were awed by. Wishing that they too had the opportunity to grace the same stage, imagining what they would do in the same situation, how they would feel inside. Given time though the memory would fade away. Only the highlights would remain making their recollections of the day all the more impressive.

At five-thirty Peter hung up the phone for the last time and removed the headset. As he rose the other staff also stood and cheered. Another glorious performance had passed. They clapped and chanted his name as Peter slowly made his way back towards the double doors. All the time he walked Peter waved. It was an amazing trick but each member of the audience thought he waved directly at them.

Once on the other side of the double doors Peter paused. His shirt stuck to his chest and his back due to perspiration and his breathing was deep. It had been a good performance but now it was over. Outside the crowd from this morning would be back. Peter respected their dedication but he wasn’t in the mood to respond to their clamour for attention.

Choosing instead to slip quietly out of the side door he sneaked back across to the staff car park and into his car. Once safely in the driving seat he looked at himself in the rear view mirror. Five years now he’d been performing five days a week in the same office. It showed in the cracks around his eyes, in the nicotine stains around his fingers, and the weariness in his heart.

Every night he felt like this, wondering how much longer he could maintain this standard. Every night he considered quitting and going into semi-retirement; perhaps helping up-and-coming office works with their performance.

But he knew he’d never really quit. The draw of the crowd was too strong. He’d be here again tomorrow and revelling in every moment. Peter started the car engine and began the drive home.

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