To tide this place over while I continue work on the site redesign, I wrote a short story based on the first time I ever went to dance classes. Characters, names, and settings have been altered, but it's a pretty accurate account of what happened that first time.
I'll have the story in its entirety in the Writing section when the redesign is complete.
I came to work this morning as ready as I would ever be to face the day: I got my 8 hours of sleep, woke-up before my alarm, managed a healthy breakfast which involved an honest-to-God piece of fruit (not the dried-up bits and pieces you'd find in a cereal), and had so much time left I caught an earlier bus and didn't even bother to listen to my MP3 player - I wanted to take in all the charms of the early morning. If I were one of those fitness-obsessed types, I would have squeezed in an early morning run (if I had the strength in my legs to carry me over long distances), or maybe even biked to work (if I had a bike to ride, and the legs to pedal the thing and myself over long distances).
"Morning Beth," said Janet, as I walked to my desk.
Janet's probably the only person nowadays who calls me Beth. Everyone else I know seems to prefer Liz for no real reason - I never introduce myself as Liz to anybody - but with 4 syllables to choose from, E-Liz-A-Beth, everybody's bound to pick one or the other. I even had an old school mate call me 'E' for a spell, but that was only during some phase where he addressed everybody by the first letter of their name.
Nobody's ever called me 'A' though. That'd just be weird.
"Morning Janet," I replied, a bit of my morning cheer seeping into those 2 small words.
"My, someone woke-up on the right side of bed this morning." said Janet somewhat accusingly, stopping her typing to look across at me over the tiny slab of metal that acts as a boundary to our conjoined desks. "Finally discovered caffeine? Or those magical B vitamins?"
"No. Just a nice long rest and a healthy breakfast." I said, sitting down and turning on my computer.
"Bah, natural remedies. Give me a syringe full of coffee any day and I'll show you all the wake-up call you'll ever need."
"We've been here before Janet. I'm never going to join the dark side and be another coffee junky."
"Pff, wait until you've had 3 kids, then you'll be begging for all the extravenous help you can get!"
We both laughed then. It was normal for us to bash heads and challenge wits and perspectives. Our little verbal playfights were just that - playful - and always ended with both of us laughing or smiling. I never seriously try to sway her to my point of view, and I don't think she does either, but over the years it felt like a little bit of her had become a part of me.
Being the ever-practical person, Janet liked to dress more casually and comfortably which I guess would have been quite normal anywhere else, but in our office environment surrounded by so many suits and ties, she actually stands out, which I always thought was funny given that you dress-up to stand-out. Or so I thought anyway. I used to be one of those people, wearing the power-suits, hair in a bun, and a skirt so tight it reduced my stride to granny steps. Today it's a shirt with a grey cardigan, nice black pants, and shoes that look like dress shoes but are so comfortable I could run in them. If, you know, I actually did running.
Janet returned to her blazing one-billion-words-per-minute typing, and by then my computer had brought itself out of its overnight slumber. I went through all my e-mails and messages that had accumulated since yesterday - ignoring general newsletters, replying in short sentences to simple queries, selecting 'yes' to upcoming meetings - and soon enough I found I had finished everything on my proverbial work plate.
I had only been at work an hour, and already I had nothing left to do.
"Hey Janet, have the customer come back to us with the estimates we gave them earlier this week?" I knew what the answer was going to be, but I was getting a bit desperate for work. Here I was in such a good mood, all energized and ready to face the day, and I had nothing to use that energy on.
"You should know the answer to that." replied Janet, not taking her eyes off her screen and not pausing from the flow of her super-human typing. "They said they needed a week, and at least a week they will take. It's like some law: any work will take as long as one says it will take - never less. I'm sure some psychologist has already named that rule after themselves somewhere."
"And no monthly reports to finish yet?" I asked, grasping at straws for any kind of task to do.
Janet faced me and looked at me funny, like someone had tattooed 'stupid' onto my forehead. "Beth, it's the middle of May. You really have nothing left to do?" she wondered, figuring-out from my line of questioning that I was short on work.
I breathed in and sighed heavily.
"Why don't you go check your Facebook? Isn't that what everyone else does when they're bored at work?"
"Geez Janet, what kind of managerial technique is that, encouraging employees to faff-about on company time and resources?"
"Hey I'm just here to foster a working environment," shrugged Janet, "and if there's no working to foster, then I'll make sure it's a comfortable environment. Besides, what do you think I'm doing?"
I stood-up and leaned over my desk to peer at her screen, and on it in a full browser window was the signature blue and white of her Facebook profile page.
"Seriously?!" I whispered loudly, wondering if I might get her in trouble by bringing attention to her screen. "What's with all the fast typing then?"
"For minutes at a stretch?"
"Really long comments and messages."
I sighed again and sat down heavily on my chair, making it bounce on its compressed-air spring. I spun around once on the chair while thinking about what I should do - anything but Facebook - and then stood up and decided I needed to make myself a drink - a non-caffeine one, much to Janet's chagrin. I took as long as I possibly could to mix some boiling water and a plain, nameless tea sachet, and after that I took a really long walk around the floor of my building, staring long and longingly out the windows and into the city.
I made it back to my desk, tea half-finished, and looked at the clock as I sat back down. 20 minutes used-up. Great, now I just had to repeat that another 12 times and I would make it to lunch. Whoopee.
A 'new mail' notification popped-up at the corner of my screen and I almost fell out of my chair as I tried to put down the cup of tea and reach for the mouse to select it with the same hand. It was from Daniel, a long-time friend of mine.
From: Daniel Hale
To: Elizabeth Sharp
Subject: Dancing tonight, wanna come?
Hey Liz, my flatmate bailed on me for tonights dance class and ive got these vouchers for the class that im trying to use but i need someone to come with me or they wont take them. Wanna come? Some details about the class below.
Oh yeah, lunch later today as well, see you at 12 at the usual curry place.
I read and re-read Daniel's e-mail, trying to make it passed the glaring misuse of capitalization and the lack of apostrophes, to get at the gist of his message.
I looked at the extra info Daniel attached about the classes, and it felt like I raised an eyebrow and kept it raised the entire time I was reading about it.
Dancing? Daniel wants me to join him at a dance class?
Wait, Daniel's been going to dance classes?
From: Elizabeth Sharp
To: Daniel Hale
Subject: RE: Dancing tonight, wanna come?
Umm, hey, are you sure you intended this for me? I mean, dancing? I don't think I can do dancing - remember that time I spun on my office chair and fell off? I'm clumsy and injury-prone and I'm pretty sure I have a centre of gravity located outside of my body and far to the right.
And when did you start taking dance classes anyway?
I must have told him a million times about that day I fell off my chair, 1) Because he's forgetful, and 2) Because it was probably the most exciting thing to happen to me at work for an entire week - I stare at a computer screen for a large part of the day and communicate with people mostly over e-mail; I don't get exciting work stories.
Well there was that time that I was trying to talk to one of my co-workers while filling-up my cup with hot water and putting too much of my attention on him instead of my cup. Maybe that's another reason I don't wear such expensive work clothes anymore either; because I keep spilling scalding hot liquids all over them.
Yay, Elizabeth with the unexciting work stories that always end in personal injury. That's me.
From: Daniel Hale
To: Elizabeth Sharp
Subject: RE: Dancing tonight, wanna come?
lol, you crack me up Liz. Yes, im asking you to come along. Youre pretty good at timing and rhythm and all that stuff, youll be fine :)
See you at lunch right?
I replied and let him know that I'd make it to lunch, but I left my answer for dancing wide open. I wasn't exactly eager to go, but a large part of me was asking the question: Why not?
Work trickled through to me in little bits over the next few hours, but all that time I kept trying to make up excuses for declining Daniel's invite to dance classes. Maybe something else would come up? Maybe I should visit my parents tonight? (I haven't seen them in a few months.) What if I do visit, and I find out one or both of them are really sick and need my help? Or maybe I should get that chinchilla I've always wanted and spend the evening getting the little guy acclimatised to my apartment?
I found I didn't really have any good excuses, and with just half an hour left until I was to meet Daniel for lunch, the nagging question was getting stronger: Why not?
Still, I had half an hour to go, and the flow of work-related e-mails ceased. I didn't think I needed to make another tea, not so close to lunch. I spun around on my office chair trying to think of other things to do, when I noticed Janet glaring at me.
"What?" I asked her.
"You really should stop spinning on your chair." said Janet, in her 'strict mom' voice. "You remember what happened the last time you kept spinning on your chair right?"
I stopped spinning and Janet, looking pleased, stood-up and went to the kitchen. With nothing to do and spinning on my chair banned for the moment, I pulled out the last resort.
I went to check Facebook.
"You win this time Janet..." I muttered under my breath.
(to be continued...)