You know those days, you’ve probably had one recently. I have, and I’m going to tell you about it. I’m talking about a day where you become convinced that there is a deity and they’ve singled you out for their sport and amusement; you trip on every pavement and slip in every abandoned dog mess and generally feel like no-one in the world has as many minor calamities as you do.
When my alarm clock went off on the morning of this day I should have phoned my boss and told her I’d become physically attached to my mattress and was waiting for a home visit from my GP. Instead, I dutifully hauled my backside out of bed and began the catalogue of disasters.
I missed the bus, partly because I burned my hand on my brand new waffle maker and partly because the heel of my shoe had a disagreement with the sole of my shoe and they decided to part ways (the latter misery only arose from the fact I was running for the bus because my car wouldn’t start). Initially, not a major problem as Lovely London has one cabbie for every four inhabitants and I only live seven miles from work. It transpired however that my designated driver had just started in the job, and while he was a very jolly Pakistani chap named Ibrahim, he hadn’t even learned the word knowledge, let alone the best way to get to Westminster. With a beautiful white smile he only charged me thirty two pound fifty to drop me at work nearly two hours late.
At that point I briefly thought my luck had changed as it appeared that a shoe shop had just recently opened around the corner from my office; my optimistic stance was modified slightly when I discovered the cheapest available pair of shoes that I could viably wear to work would set me back nearly a weeks wage.
With a light wallet and a heavy heart (and remarkably stylish shoes) I wandered into work to receive a loud earful from Jan, my boss, about timekeeping, missing deadlines/meetings/conference calls and overspending on my period three budget. While agreeing enthusiastically with her list of reasons why I was utterly useless I spilled orange juice on my cream winter coat. Shall I continue? Or do you get the point?
The rest of the day continued with many more little events (in conjunction with the quotidian reiteration that I’m really bored of my job) but I was beginning o become numb to the little jabs at my right to have a good day; even starting to enjoy trying to outwit fate and dodge my calamities.
Then just after lunch my bank manager phoned to say my account had been frozen due to ‘an out of character spend’ earlier that morning. As it was Friday I now had the exciting choices of a) squeeze in a visit to the bank or b) face a weekend with no money. I chose a), but with the hindsight of Jan’s (aggressively profane) ten minute rant about me knocking off an hour early after arriving two hours late, b) was probably the sensible option.
The trip to the bank was surprisingly peaceful for me, not so for an unfortunate pedestrian who had been hit by a car and then, having been throw roughly into the road, had had his leg run over by a bus. I’d normally rubber-neck into this sort of event and tantalise that dark part of me that we all share; but on this day, I did not. Having smiled at the man as we’d passed on the pavement about three minutes before the car mounted the curb, I felt somehow involved through a mystical communication of my luck and walked on to the bank.
Can you believe the bank wasn’t busy? I know that is what you were expecting, I certainly was! But it really wasn’t. There were only about twenty people in there and at least eight of them were staff, there was still a queue of five other customers at the counter, but I could see how busy the staff were, all rushing about. With papers. And pens. And mugs.
I looked around for a spare bank uniform to harass with what I thought must be an unusually important query. I was anticipating that today I would probably be waiting in the queue until two minutes before the bank closed, only to be told I was at the wrong desk.
“Did you see that accident?” A deep voice, clearly directed at me, pulled my attention to a short, bald man with big, friendly eyes.
“What?” He was very well dressed with an expensive suitcase, but my expensive heels made me tall. I looked down on him.
“The accident. There was a man, he got hit by a car and then… a bus!” As he said that he almost laughed, not mirth, but a human expression of glee that it hadn’t been him.
“It was awful.” I felt inexplicably guilty and stared at my shoes under the guise of respect and sobriety. As he went to further a conversation that really didn’t need to start, all the lights went out. With an audible clunk.
The room wasn’t any where near pitch black, there was gentle winter evening light illuminating the bank to almost the same degree it had been before.
Following a little group sound of surprise we all looked at each other and laughed. A woman who had been on her way out and was near the door turned round and looked a bit confused. I watched as she gingerly poked her foot around in the space near the door.
“Excuse me?” She addressed the nearest member of staff, “this door, well, it’s not opening.” An officious young uniform marched over. She stepped back and forth three times and waved her arms about in front of the door, it still didn’t open. She sighed over dramatically and plodded panto-like to a lever on the top of the door. She paused with her neat shiny nails on the lever as the other uniforms looked on in envy at her starring role in the break of routine; and then yanked it hard.
The girl looked totally confused as she repeatedly pumped the lever on the door frame. After she’d resorted to yanking it with both hands and using her left leg as leverage against the door frame a young male colleague got involved and pretty much repeated her process. The uniforms were then joined by a suit with a name badge, and they all became involved in the yanking of handles on various doors and windows around the bank, which then escalated into the smashing of a fire exit panel. No amount of smashing, yanking or confused swearing resulted in any door, window or fire exit opening.
“Nothing’s working.” the original pro-active girl declared. “The air conditioning has gone off! We won’t have enough oxygen!”
“Melanie, shut up. That‘s idiotic.” The suit was in crisis mode. He pointed roughly at the nearest uniform. “Call the Police. Tell them the doors have been vandalised and we need help as soon as possible.” The uniform scarpered.
“Ladies and Gentlemen.” The suit addressed us all, “please remain calm. We are experiencing some degree of technical issues.” A chuckle went round, “I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you, my staff will gladly make you a tea or coffee from the staff room while we wait for this to be resolved.” We all turned to watch as he confidently ushered a huddled group of uniforms towards the staff room, and, visibly enjoying the attention, he turned back to his customers and continued, “When you get home you can tell your partners you got stuck at the bank!” He shrugged at the lack of response to his joke and opened his mouth as if to say more.
Instead his expression morphed into one of horror as a voice I hadn’t heard before spoke loudly from behind me:
“You certainly are stuck at the bank.”