My 5 ’til 9
Posted on March 15, 2005
I am lucky, I realise, to have a career that never quite rears off into the cold shoulder of predictability. The daily commute into the fast lane however is made more comfortable with some on board snacks, as I tend to sandwich my work day with hours of bread and butter and banality, enjoying the reliability of my morning, noon and nightly routine.
In the morning before heading to the office I listen to Radio 1, have a bowl of Choco Hoops and watch one half of Will & Grace (meaning the first 15 minutes – not just Debra Messing). At lunchtime I come back to the flat, make myself a cheese and pickle sandwich and watch Neighbours. It’s all very mundane. And then something special happens.
Some time after 5pm I leave the world of work for a galaxy far, far removed from reality, an indoor shopping centre named after Charles Darwin, in which only the fittest survive the January sales. Now, in March, I’m certainly in good company and every weeknight trip for my microwave meal is as pleasant as it is necessary.
Marks & Spencers, I’ve noticed, is something of a hotbed for attractive, affluent, middle-aged women, and the security guard has noticed it too. He stands by the automatic doors, leering in his mock militaristic outfit of authority, more Village People than city cop, and occasionally radios his colleague – over and out – when the hotbed heat up.
I pass them both and sneer before making my way to the food hall, only accessible by way of the women’s underwear section. In a store layout designed by someone who, one can only imagine, is having a laugh, the frozen foods section is just beyond the g-strings and d-cups. Occasionally the thoroughfare is blocked and I make a face, the best I can, of a man buying for his wife. It is always my fear that in that situation a clerk might offer her assistance, in which case my course of action would be to, a) say that I was “only looking,” b) ask for something in my size, or c) buy the lingerie and find a wife.
Luckily tonight that didn’t happen, and I’m comforted by the thought that it probably never will. And so I picked up my microwave meal, as I always do, and thought to myself that while my 9 ’til 5 might never be the same there are some things in life I can always rely on. I headed for the automatic doors and the leering guards, now watching the lingerie section with vigilance, and smiled.