“Fucking hell! Why the frigging fuck am I in this fuckin’ office on Christmas Eve! There’s nobody else here! It’s like a bleedin’ ghost town! What the fuckin’ bleeding, bloody hell am I meant to do when Governance aren’t here to release the code and QA haven’t checked it anyway!” He was distinctly unhappy. The whole project had been a disastrous maladministered heap of mis-managed poor design as far as he was concerned; he was grateful to be just one of the developers (even though he was actually the development tool expert) so none of this heap of crap fell on his head.
But someone in their wisdom at HAL Enterprises had agreed that he – Dick Smith – would turn up on site right up to Christmas Eve to ensure smooth deployment. When Dick pointed out the abject stupidity of trying to deploy code on Christmas Eve when no-one was going to be around to use or support it, he had been told that it was a billable utilisation day and his bonus depended on him being there. “Yeah, fucking right” he had thought “a bonus of 50 pence and a thank you email”. But he’d turned up anyway. He was, when all was said and done, a professional. He did the job as well as he could regardless, or even in spite of the dumb fucks in his company HAL Enterprises or the customer – who were often as dim as a 10 watt bulb in a large cave.
He was diplomatic to their faces, but he did lose it sometimes when people were so incompetent.
The office was like a morgue. The one consolation was that the usual 15 minute daily meeting which always extended to 45 minutes because bumbling piss-brain management wanted to ask lots of irrelevant questions to pretend they knew about IT, this meeting actually only lasted 10 minutes because Pete Postlethwaite (RSC Manager (Northern Regional Development Office)) and June Tabor (Senior Manager - Change Unification National Template, she never abbreviated it!) both wanted to get back to watching ‘Pinocchio – Now It’s Personal’ (the movie) or drinking eggnog respectively.
He went downstairs bought some sandwiches and juice from the supermarket next door, grabbed a coffee just as the on-site Starbucks was shutting, and grabbed the lift back up to the 18th floor. It stopped on the way up at the 10th, the doors opened; no-one was there. That annoyed him so bloody much! Just as the doors were closing again, a very well-heeled, high-heeled, toe blocked the sliding door. It slid open and she stepped in. She would have said something; some greeting or other, but Dick’s face was a picture of angry irritable bad temper and she stayed silent.
Despite the fact that he hated her with an unreasonable passion simply because she was there, he took in her shape, man is programmed to check out anything remotely looking female. The red dress clung to her; unfortunately her figure didn’t do the dress justice. The tight dress showed up the spare motorcycle tyres she had stuffed around her body. Somehow she managed to make the dress with its plunging neckline and high hemline, the deeper red tights, and the bright red shoes look elegant rather than slutty; but there was no mistaking the fact that this was not a good look for someone north of 5 stones overweight. Her face bore the distinct lines of a dark growth of hair on her upper lip; she smiled her thanks and he noticed her teeth were uneven and rather yellow and a mole on her cheek completed the rather unattractive visage. The outer layer of clothing alone would have cost at least three or four hundred. The underclothes were from the kind of lingerie chain that charges more the less material they put in. And this bra and pants had very little material, not that he could see them of course.
She pressed 25. The lift continued on its way. At floor 18 it failed to stop. Dick cursed under his breath. The doors slid open at 25 and she stepped out, for some reason that Dick could never explain to himself, he followed her. The doors slid shut and the lift disappeared. They both stopped and looked around. The floor was empty, no internal walls, nothing. In one corner Dick could see step ladders and cables; this floor was being re-furbished.
“Shoot!” said the well-dressed woman. “I meant 24.” She turned and pressed the down button, nothing happened. No light lit up, no sound of a lift machinery kicking in to action. Experimentally Dick pressed ‘up’, that was the same. “That shouldn’t work, shouldn’t even be there, we are top floor here” she said. The lift selection had been disconnected during the work; why the lift had worked from inside was, to Dick, just another example of the incompetence of the management here.
“We’ll have to walk down I think” he said, his voice far more level than it should have been, given that he was not feeling calm. Still, this was at least more interesting than sitting watching the screen in the office – internet access was severely restricted so porn was out, Storiesonline was out, even the BBC was locked out. He’d worked late one evening and tried a few sites that he’d hoped the filters wouldn’t realise were nude women (he told himself they were art); but they did.
He’d been walking to the corner stair well as he said the above; he pulled at the door. It was locked. The same applied to each of the other five stair cases; the builders were under strict instructions to stop any thievery of building materials and all access to the stairs were locked off at the close of the working day. Christmas Eve was not a working day for the builders, who were all in the Randy Duck pub having their Christmas drinking session.
“We’ll need to call security” Dick said, though a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach suggested that he knew what the result would be. Sure enough, the internal telephone by the lift had been unscrewed from the wall so the wall could be painted properly. Hanging by its wires, it had disconnected several of them.
“Don’t you know which wire should go where?” Asked the woman
“I’m software, not hardware. Do you have a mobile phone?” Dick had left his phone on his desk, he hated to be rung whilst he was out from the office, so it was his habit to do that. She wasn’t carrying even a clutch bag.
“No, I’m afraid not. Oh dear, perhaps if we wave from the windows?” He nearly responded that this was the dumbest idea he’d ever heard, but as usual he was diplomatic and merely suggested that at that height no-one would see them and even if they did, they would think they were just waving, not calling for help.
“Not drowning, but waving. To misquote the poem” he said. She looked at him and smiled. ‘you have no idea what I’m talking about you dumb bitch’ he unkindly thought.
“I was much further up than you thought, Not waving, but drowning” she adjusted the lines back to him. ‘Oops, my mistake’ he thought.
What to do? He was stumped. Perhaps they could smash a door? No, these were solid fire doors, designed to protect the stairwells in the event of a fire.
“Won’t security come round?” She asked. Well they would, normally, but they had been reduced to a minimum by the last round of penny-pinching ‘transformation’ in the company, and this week they were reduced further by holidays. The guy on the door wouldn’t be round until 8pm at the earliest. Dick and ‘the woman’ didn’t know this, so they shared his ‘Hand-cut Cheddar and Semi-Organic Rocket’ sandwiches. He wondered why ‘hand-cut’ made any difference and what the hell semi-organic was; just a way of adding a pound to the price, he concluded. “Thank you, that was nice of you” she smiled at him. They drank from the bottle of juice, he noticed she had no qualms about necking the bottle that he had drunk from. Some women would hesitate, he liked her a little for that.
“So, Christmas ... all ready?” He asked, he had absolutely no interest, but it was something to talk about.
She talked on in a cheery way about her cats and how she liked to curl up with them on the sofa and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the Doctor Who special. She wasn’t a big eater (the evidence contradicted her, though she hadn’t said that one sandwich wasn’t enough). She liked to watch a little television and read a book or two. She put up some decorations but nothing like the ridiculously overblown light show of her neighbour who would turn his house into Blackpool on speed!
“I have simple tastes”
“When do you open your presents”
“Oh, well it doesn’t take long. When I was a child of course it was so exciting and the heap of presents seemed to be miles high, but now there are one or two so it doesn’t take long. Yes, we have a secret Santa at work, and Daddy sends me something of course; but that’s about it.” She paused like a subject change and then continued
“I always make the cats something they can tear apart to get at. I love watching them.
Oh, last year was hilarious, I put a radio controlled mouse inside and as they tore off the paper I set the mouse to run. Half of the cats jumped a mile, the other half set off after it but would back away if it turned and charged at them.”
“How many cats have you got?”
“Not many really, ten I think. Tiddles had kittens just after I got her, and I couldn’t bear to part with them; they were so lovely”
She said she liked to walk on Boxing Day, how she would walk miles across the fields, and how quiet it was because everyone was inside. She said she loved the peace and quiet, but always hoped for snow as it made her think of home. It slowly dawned on him that she didn’t go to her family, and they didn’t come to her. This woman, dressed up to the nines, was alone at Christmas. No wonder she, at least, didn’t mind coming in on Christmas Eve.
“And you?” she asked He explained how he usually went to his parents; this year was different. They had died within two weeks of each other – back in January so it wasn’t too raw now, but it had broken the tradition. His brother and he had tolerated each other at his parents’ house but that was as far as it went. He and Dave had never seen eye-to-eye on anything: politics, religion, art, environment. Whatever it was, even in football they had picked different teams – Millwall and Charlton Athletic. He was happy not to go to be honest, they would almost certainly argue because Dave was such a dick.
“I thought you were Dick?”
“No, I mean ... oh” he could see she was laughing “yeah, I see, “ he smiled too. “believe me I’ve been called a dick a lot in my life, sometimes with plenty of justification. Like getting out of a lift at the wrong floor”
“But if you hadn’t then I’d be stuck here on my own”