I can’t even tell you what everyone was watching on the day the news changed my life. It involved many running banners and episodes of day-time television interruptions, but that was all I could tell you. I have to be honest and say I haven’t even bothered to find out after the fact. It obviously wasn’t huge. No Berlin wall or nine-eleven. By the weekend there was no indication that something dramatic had occurred, and it wasn’t until the weekend that I sat down in front of the television or checked my social media. I was busy with more important things.
I worked in an office back then. It didn’t matter what the corporation was called, or what business they purportedly involved themselves in. The sort of occupation I had was relevant to all corporations, in that it was basically useless to everyone but part of the bureaucratic process.
My job was simple. I was to write policies that would be used to ensure other workers wrote their reports correctly. But to ensure my manager looked good to the board if a report did not follow the policy, he insisted that the policy is changed. So each day, I received a bunch of reports and would update the policy. I would then send out the new policy for people to read before writing their next reports. There was even a worker who would write a report on how the policies had changed. That report never seemed to follow the policy.
I was halfway through reading my fifteenth report for the day when I decided that the only way I would survive without running directly into the bullet-proof window in the hope that it would miraculous crack and drop me fifteen stories onto the pavement below would be to get a hot caffeine-based drink. Coffee would be the preference, but if it was boiled tar with caffeine injected, I would probably drink it.
Getting up from my ergonomic back-breaker, I stretched my knotted muscles and the crack of my spine echoed in the cubicle-filled room. It was then that I realised I was the only drone in the hive. It bothered me that I had not noticed early, and therefore could not appreciate the rare silence it brought.
Stumbling through the maze of-half-high walls and roller-ball chairs, I made my way to the break room where I discovered where the other drones had disappeared to. A see of black and white, ill-fitting suits were spilling out the doorway of the small break-room, necks stretched to watch the small television that was sitting up in the corner of the room. On the screen was a middle-aged white man, speaking seriously over his glasses, as if saying something sober and important. It was impossible to tell what he was saying over the gasps and murmurings of the other staff. A red banner raced across the screen, with text too small to read from outside the room.
There was no way I could get to the machine through that crowd.
I turned away and stumbled to the elevator, hammering at the down button when I got there. It didn’t make the damn machine come quicker, but it let me vent my frustration at having to buy a coffee down at the cafe, which I knew would be busy. It was always busy.
“Martin, don’t you have anyone to call?”
I turned around to see a faceless drone. Behind them, other drones were going back to desks, phones at ears.
“Nope.” I turned back. I had no one to call. And nothing to say to them if I did. What a strange thing to ask me. Besides, if I said anything else, it would have to include the fact that I cut the cord to the phone on my desk to avoid my boss annoying me for another copy of the policy or his boss annoying me for printing out new policies every day. It wasn’t worth it.
The elevator arrived.
Perhaps if I had my coffee already, I would have more fully appreciated that the elevator trip was not interrupted even once before it reached the lobby, nor did I have to push through a crowd of people getting on when I left the vertically moving coffin. Instead, the crowd was around the security desk, glued to the small television there. A clear path to the slowly revolving doors. If I hadn’t had to leave the building to get my caffeine fix, I might have called it my lucky day right then and there. But that was not the time.
Outside of the glass skyscraper, the pathways were empty and the cars still. Stranger still, no one was honking the non-moving traffic. It could almost be called quiet over the idling engines and some dog barking down the street. At least it would be easy to cross the road. Another fortunate event if it wasn’t for the fact I should not have to have left the building in the first place.
I arrived at the small cafe across the street to find myself walking in immediately. No long line. In fact, I was able to walk right up to second place, with the woman in front of me already talking to the long-haired man at the counter.
If the break room was not so crowded, I would have just gotten my coffee then. If the building not so quiet, the elevator trip would not be so fast. If the street not so quiet, it would not be so easy to get across. Without all those things, I would not have been second in line at a cafe in the city half an hour before the lunch rush.
Most importantly, I would not have been standing behind the woman ordering a flat-white with three sugars. She would not have absent-mindedly turned around and spilt that coffee over my ten dollar suit-pants. She would not have apologised and offered to buy me a coffee and pastry. We would not have sat down and praise being able to get a table at the usually busy cafe. We would not have fallen in love.
I hope that the news that day did not destroy too many lives. I hope no one died. I hope that no one will hate me for saying this, but I am glad that whatever happened did. I’m glad that it drew people to gawk at it. I’m glad that the mindless droll of my job had deadened my emotions so that I could not care.
I’m glad for all of that because it brought me to her.
I may not have known the headline, but the news changed my life.