Friday, August 16, 2013

Lock and Key

So low was my status in the doctor’s surgery that I felt I had to rush even in the toilet, to push the urine out as fast as it would go. But this time it had served no purpose. I found I was locked in. I had relieved myself speedily but the filing duties I was rushing back towards were out of reach. The dodgy lock had jammed for good this time and as I jiggled the key franticly, the door remained indomitable. The receptionist was only a feeble cherry-pip-spit away from me, but the squawking mothers and jabbering babies in the waiting room proved a significant barrier. Their unrelenting squall noise drowned out my knocking.

My forehead and neck heated up, and my armpits began to emit an unpleasant smell. I called out “Excuse me” in beetroot-faced embarrassment, far too quietly. Knowing that nothing short of a gun in the ribs would give me the confidence to raise my voice enough to be heard, I began to envisage the near-future: I would not be missed for hours. My water-shy, iron-bladdered colleagues rarely visited the toilet. It could be hours until someone's internal organs requested that they reached for the staff toilet key. Only then, finding it absent, would they think to wonder where I was. Only then would they find me.

But by then it would be too late – according to my histrionic prognosis – by then I would be a drooling mess on the floor, unable to respond, eyes rolling back in their sockets, tongue lolling; driven rabid by the conflict between a congenital shyness and the need for a hearty holler. But if I gave up the struggle and sat on the toilet lid in a puff of defeat, gave up and waited for salvation, then perhaps I'd get in trouble for skiving off. And so the minutes slunk away as I rattled the hand-hot key in a lock that had disowned it. Occasionally I croaked “I'm afraid I'm locked in here! Could you alert a member of staff...”, or “Sorry to disturb you, I'm experiencing something of a technical hitch...” and so on.

This would be my downfall. The lock's clunking refusals were dull knells signalling my demise. From here it was only down. I could see myself in rags at end of a telescope looking at the future. Beads of sweat began to loose grip of their squat-holds and roll down my face. Seconds stretched into minutes, minutes into further minutes. Hours were felt to pass but angst prevented any true recognition of the passage of time. It was perhaps four minutes.

And then suddenly, with none of the subtlety of a nuanced fable bearing its soul, none of the gracefulness of a mythic denouement, the lock relented and I opened the door.

I walked back towards my duties in a daze. The receptionist glanced up idly as I hung the key back on its hook. There was filing to be done. Drudgery swept me back into its soporific mists. Almost nothing had happened.

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