Since the dawn of mankind we as a species have continued to develop our ability to communicate. Ever since our progenitors discovered they could grunt to convey ideas, we’ve created new means to get a message from our brain and into the brains of others.
From these first tentative steps toward peak communication, from grunts and smoke signals to pigeons, from Maritime flags and sign language to the culture shifting Alexander Graham Bell invention, all the way through to the modern marvel of interconnected satellite computer webs, we have strived to open our channels of communication for the betterment of our planetary society.
With that in mind I share this tale…
It was a Friday night in the big city, and I assume in most of the surrounding area. This particular city is an irrepressible grey at the best of times, so on this rain-soaked mid-autumnal night the grey was almost tangible.
The rain was relentless and commanded submission. The only way to adequately deal with its malevolence is by trying to protect your electronic devices as well as you can and changing your stride to best keep out of its way.
Similar to the way you would deal with sketchy hoodlums that clog the street corners in shady suburbs.
On this particular night there was no escape. The rain was unavoidable.
At this time of the eve the streets were clogged with 9 to 5’ers hurriedly attempting to make their way back to the refuge their bank owned abodes afforded them. Still, no amount of artificial accrued wealth was enough to shield them from the relentless rain.
There are some things money can’t buy.
Huddled at street corners waiting for the little green man to tell them it’s ok to cross the streets, streets that long ago had turned into gushing rivers of water, they wait.
The little green man appears and away they go. The suited and briefcased race towards each other like rival tribes rushing toward a battle of epic proportions, then slip between each other as effortlessly as water through your fingers.
Doing my best to escape this extremely dedicated precipitation I race as fast as I can the nearest train station. On the way to my destination the opening strains of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit emanate from my pocket, indicating that someone is using the most conventional of communication methods to contact me.
I answer the phone to my friend drunkenly demanding to know where I am and why I wasn’t where I said I’d be. I patiently explain that I’ve was just held back at work for, what turned out to be, no discernible reason…
“We need your input on this”, I was told by The Powers That Be. Told. Not asked.
“You’re the one with the most experience in dealing with him and you’re the only person he listens too.”
Hearing this I instantly recognise that my ego is being stroked to induce compliance.
I regret making it so blatantly obvious to management that stroking my ego is the most conducive way to get me to do things I don’t want to do. However, I am helpless to do anything but comply.
After a pointlessly lengthy and time murdering discussion about the most appropriate route to take, The Powers That Be proceed to disregard all of my supposed experienced input and do what they always intended to do.
All of my rage.
As I’m explaining my tardiness to my increasingly drunken and now empathetically enraged friend, I reach the ticket booth at the train station and notice a sign that declares…
Not wanting to break the social conventions I hurriedly explain to my friend that I have to go and that I’ll see them soon, presuming I don’t drown.
“Hello sir, how are you this evening?” the plump balding ticket seller asks, in a sufficiently pleasant but slightly robotic tone that suggests his interest in my evening is as low as my current body temperature.
For the record I loathe being called sir, or anything that falsely elevates me to an imaginary “superior” status. But I let it go, because I’m not one to get hung up on the little things.
“Hey man” I respond, “I’m slightly damp, but I’m surviving. “
“Bit wet out is it?”
“Indeed it is man, indeed it is.”
“So, how can I help you sir?”
“I’d like a one way ticket to…” I begin before being cut off by a phone ringing just to the left of this portly specimen.
We both look at it, then at each other.
It rings again.
“Excuse me a moment sir” he says as he lifts the receiver and begins one half of a conversation about whatever it is people in train ticket boxes have conversations about. I happen to catch a few key phrases: “It’s pretty quiet”/”Almost knock off time”/”Where you heading after work?”/”Yep, I’ll be there.”
I re-read the sign.
Bewilderment creeps over me and after a significant duration he finishes using his phone at the counter and we share this inevitable exchange.
“That’s slightly sketchy isn’t it?” I inquire, ever so innocently.
“What’s that sir…”
“Using the phone when the sign clearly states NO PHONE USE AT COUNTER.”
“That’s for customers sir”
Now slightly affronted I continue.
“What? Why? Why is it just for customers?”
“Customers often hold up the line by talking on their phones.”
“You mean like you just did?”
This honest and factual assessment of what had just happened was met with an audible sigh.
I continue unphased.
“You’re aware of the irony of what just happened right?” I’m unsure if I used the word “irony” correctly or Morissette-y.
“How can I help you sir?”
“You can start by acknowledging the irony!”
At this stage the man visually slumps, like the last sliver of his already eroded serenity has just left his body, and lets out another, more prolonged, audible sigh. He then says…
“It was a work matter sir.” He’s not even attempting to sound convincing.
“Really? Are you sure you weren’t planning your Friday night frivolities?” I ask as my eyes narrow and I shoot him an accusatory look of disbelief.
“It was a work matter sir.” He repeats.
“Simply repeating something doesn’t instantly make it more truthful man!”
All out of sighs he shakes his head and looks to the ground for answers, unsure about how to get this unrelenting asshole to just purchase his goddamn ticket already.
The truth is, I realise I’m being obnoxious and exasperating. I’m aware this guy doesn’t deserve this. But I’m tired. I’m wet. And I’m late.
I’m also aware that if I had let this possibly ironic infraction slide I’d be on the train already…
As if sensing my thoughts inspiration strikes and he verbally retorts with a precision blow.
“Ironically,” he said, “now you’re holding up the line. Sir.”
Looking down the line I examine the growing collection of equally rain drenched individuals. All looking harried and exhausted at the end of the working week. All wearing the same expression of weariness.
Turning back to the now smugly smiling ticket seller I acknowledge his effort.
“Well played man, well played.”
I grin, bow my head slightly at being bested, purchase my ticket and be on my way.