Suited, booted, briefcase in hand and into the car with barely a second to lose.
That bastard knew I had meetings at this show, but he deliberately made me attend this nonsensical course that has absolutely nothing to do with what I do or who I liaise with. I know he’s doing his level to make me crack….
The traffic is terrible, and now it’s starting to drizzle. Shit. I bet I haven’t to an umbrella and turning up to meetings looking like a drowned rat is not an option.
Raindrops run in greasy, gray rivulets down my windscreen, and as reach to flick on the wipers, I hear my Blackberry bleep. A message.
I blindly reach out for my briefcase with my left hand and fumble and strain to force my hand under my five year old, heavy-as-a-paving-stone laptop. Someone honks their horn. The lights have change. I curse and grab at my phone, then look at the message at the next set of lights.
It’s from my assistant.
‘Hi Sista, just to let you know that you left the hard copies of your presentations on your desk! Hopefully your laptop is well charged. Hope the meetings go well, Penny x’
Shit. Actually it’s not that well charged and I don’t have the leads. Better bang out those presentations quickly and not exceed 40 minutes or I’m screwed.
Another car sounds its horn. I quickly turn on the wipers, flick on some music and move off. I can see the venue about 3 miles ahead of me, hopefully I won’t have to queue too long for my parking spot….
B-bump, b-bump, b-bump, b-bump….
I’m aware that my heartbeat is racing at the speed of knots now, and I didn’t bring my beta blockers as I didn’t think I’d need them today.
Will I remember everything on the presentations if my laptop dies? There are six of them and they’re not very big, but I’m so detached and disinterested in their content, and I can’t seem to make myself remember anything nowadays.
They usually read something like this:
‘Launching in September, featuring some brainless bint, a hundred thousand thingummybobs, target audience mass market couch potatoes, brought from the stable of blah, blah, blah, blah….’
Seriously, who gives a toss?
And I know that I won’t get someone to pay us six figure sums to tap into what we’re selling, as do senior management because others give it away for free, but I’m being made to go through the motions regardless, and jump through hoops of fire like a good little circus pony, who will then have to explain its shaggy maned self to the big fat ringmaster at head office when the audience don’t cough up.
It’s pointless, useless, futile and everyone knows it. But no one will admit it because they’re afraid they’ll lose their jobs. I’ve tried, but I’m seen as a trouble maker now and everyone avoids me like the plague….
B-bump, b-bump, b-bump, b-bump….
Getting closer now, just need to follow the signs to the parking bays. Some dickhead is trying to force his way in front of me which is, in actual fact, physically impossible. I ignore him and move ahead. He sounds his horn, his face contorted with rage. Fuck you arsehole, wait your turn.
The queue is reassuringly short. Thank God for that, just a couple of cars ahead of me, it’s ten minutes to 2 so I might still make it on time…
What? It’s full? It can’t be, I’ve booked in advance!
I wind down the window when I get to the info booth.
‘Hi, I’ve booked a space online, so how do I get to it?’
The guy barely looks up. ‘Paperwork?’
I fumble in my briefcase frantically. It’s not there.
‘I haven’t got it but you’ll have my car registration on record?’
Guy smirks to himself.
‘Sorry madam, if you don’t have the paperwork, your credit car…’
‘I have my card!’
Sigh. ‘No madam, you need all three. I can’t help you, sorry!’
Cursing I pull away, resigning myself to finding a meter somewhere. But there’s nothing available.
I’m in big trouble now, I have three meetings that I’m going to miss, and if I don’t get there, my hideous boss is going to have a field day.
I’m back on the flyover now and am trying to find a parking place on my Blackberry with one hand and drive with the other.
About to turn right, and….
I’m stuck! In the box grid! How did that happen?
I’m now stuck in my car and blocking two out of three lanes coming from the opposite direction, cars are blaring their horns at me, people are screaming abuse at me as they squeeze by, and I’m now in full blown panic attack mode, so when the lights change again, I cannot move.
Now I’m going to get arrested, punched or my car is going to get hit by something.
I am in hell.
I turn the music to drown the uproar and when the lights change again, this time hands trembling, I manage to turn the corner, pull over to the far left lane and stop.
Drivers behind me, realising that I’m not going to move again are understandably apolplectic with rage, and scream insults at me as they fly past.
I shakily turn on my hazards and put my head to the wheel, grip hard and hyperventilate.
Rock music is now playing at a deafening pitch, but I am barely aware of it. My mouth is dry. I cannot move for the life of me. Something wet hits my knee and I realise that I am crying.
I don’t know what to do. I can’t call the people I’ve arrange to meet because I know I’ll probably sound like a lunatic. I’m too proud to phone a friend (’50/50?’ some mad voice in my head suggests), and I can’t leave the car because I can’t move.
I just can’t do this anymore.
Just then, a song starts up. I listen. Then listen with great intent. And as the joyful tune permeates my frozen husk, I gradually I start to move a little and manage to lift my head from the steering wheel.
‘Hey bitch! Why don’t you tr….’
I turn to regard my latest abuser, all gold teeth and dreads, who stops his tirade abruptly on seeing my wet, mascara ruined face.
To be honest, I don’t really give a fuck about him. He is the least of my worries.
He frowns, signals whoever is driving to stop (cue more hysterical horn sounding) and shouts something at me.
I turn my face away and fumble in my bag for tissues.
Suddenly he’s there at my window. I regard him numbly.
‘Open the window! I’m not going to nick it!’
What? Oh, he means the car. I wind the window down.
‘Help yourself’ I hear myself intone dully, ‘just make sure you take the phone and laptop too.’
He laughs then smiles broadly.
‘Hey! What you listening to? Tune!’
I peer at the music panel on my dashboard.
‘Buttercup,’ I offer, not very helpfully.
‘I love this!’ he looks me up and down ‘lookit you in yo straight, smart ass suit, who knew?’
I snuffle at this and manage a thin, watery smile.
‘You OK now? You ignore those bastards, no one really means it, innit?’
I nod and run the back of my hand shakily across my forehead.
‘Gotta go’ he rolls his eyes at the blasts coming from behind us, ‘Buttercup you say? I’ll play that tonight in my set. You take care now?’
He briefly touches my hand, winks, gets in his car, which takes off with a roar down the high street.
After ten minutes or so, my breathing is more or less normal, I’ve stopped shaking, so I carefully indicate to come out of my lane and gingerly join the gridlocked mass of traffic and slowly head for home.
That day wasn’t the first day that I crashed and burned in a public place. But it was the first time my ass was saved by a DJ and a song.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of disco….