‘Lunch today?’ No home-made for James was meeting Mike and Blake at ‘Figaro’s;’ a family-owned and run café with good, inexpensive food. Being near to the office for Mike and James, and not far from his government workplace for Blake, it added the bonus of being geographically in the right place. ‘Figaro’s’ was as usual busy and crowded with the lunchtime trade. James caught snippets of conversations as he wove his way to their usual table.
‘… I told him that if he thought I’d spend another bloody weekend going over that bloody account again then he had another thing coming …’
‘… It’s true. Julie, that know-all receptionist, told me that …’
‘… I’m having their delicious, calorific pasta carb …’
Mike and Blake were already seated. James took a seat, easing his tall and still lithe frame for a 45 year old into his customary seat, knowing what he’d order. They each had their ‘usuals.’ Mike would invariably order pasta, Blake anything that took his fancy from the ‘Specials’ with a decided taste for seafood and James soup with ‘Figaro’s’ wonderfully crusty bread. But … not this time for James. When the waiter briskly arrived to take their order, James spoke clearly: ‘I’ll have a small pasta carbonara, thank you.’
Mike chortled. ‘Good for you, mate. Nothing like some good, olde pasta for lunch to line the stomach and see you through the vicissitudes of the work day.’
Laughing, Blake and James joined in with the joke. Blake’s laughter fell short of the others.
‘No doubt you’ve read the news. The government is about to slash public service again. Not that I’ll get the chop. I feel sorry for those who do.’
‘Mate,’ Mike said with a grimace, ‘It’s like that all around. Chop! Chop! There’s no certainty in any workplace now-a-days; public or private. The best you can do is continue on as best you can.
‘Hahaha … not for us to worry, guys. We’re in our prime, good jobs, happy family. We’re living the dream, guys, living the dream.’ Mike chuckled to himself and both Blake and James joined in. Yet, at the back of James’ mind a thought niggled: ‘Is this all there is?’
Lunch was enjoyable; took James’ mind off any worries. Mike, like Lionel, was good company. While James had been longer at ‘Cohen & Cohen,’ Mike and Lionel had only signed on a few years later. Blake seemed to ride through any change, despite his oft expressions of gloom. Blake was on the rise in the ranks. Mike was living the dream. Within the next few years, no doubt Mike would get the ‘upstairs-kick;’ a much deserved promotion. No doubt Lionel would follow.
It was James’ turn to pay for lunch. As he stood at the counter, credit card in hand, he waved off Blake who was headed back to his government building, and Mike, who was returning to their office. He wriggled his toes in his left shoe because of the pinch. Maria, the owner’s daughter, smiled as James inserted his card to transact payment, and said: ‘So many lunches here, eh?’ Maria gave one of her sunshine smiles. ‘You’ll be owning this business soon.’ James, used to Maria’s banter, smiled as he left a tip in the plate on the counter.
On the walk back to the office, James strolled. This was so different to past times because he’d usually had a head-down-back-to-work gait that parted the lunchtime crowd. This time James felt impulsed to consider: ‘Surely there’s more ahead than the same round I’ve been treading for some time? Am I living the dream? Is this all I want for the next years? Is Amanda quietly pushing me? She’s certainly positioned – in-the-know – because Epoch Enterprise is ahead of any competition and she knows the cutting edge. Am I too set in my ways?’
With these unsettling thoughts whirling, James passed others at their work stations, heads down and focused on the business-at-hand. James noted that most seemed actively engaged in what they were doing. Sure, there were a few who probably were just ‘time serving.’ With no real expectations from day-to-day, just doing the job, they turned up each day. James was shocked to realize that probably described himself. A shudder went through him – a psychic earthquake. ‘How the hell did I get to this point?’ was the thought that blazed through James’ mind. Literally shaking himself up, taking a further step because he’d halted in his tracks, James briskly walked to his work station. He momentarily sat looking at the ‘later’ file and the plumpness of bloated unaddressed business, he kicked off that left shoe which had been pinching all day like of late it did, then, called up on his PC the attachment – ‘Think Outside The Career Square.’
Having dismissed the thought of attending the seminar earlier that morning, now James read each paragraph with intent. He mentally ticked off so many points which addressed himself, his situation and his newly wakened drive for change. James realized that Amanda had been right on the game in sending these attachments; especially this one. Feeling revitalized in a way he hadn’t for months, maybe even longer, James filled out the on-line application to attend. With a slight tremble he hit ‘send.’ James realized that with his application accepted or not, he had made a significant step forward. He smiled to himself in self-congratulations. ‘Who knew what the future might hold and that was to the point,’ James thought as he reached for the phone to tell Gloria that he’d definitely be home on time for dinner that night and to let the ‘brats’ know they were up for a goal-for-goal game of basketball after.
Missed Parts 1 and 2 of Another Day at the Office? Catch up here.