The policeman appeared out of nowhere, like a genie with a wardrobe malfunction.
Why is it that whenever I see the police when I’m driving I’m paranoid about looking incapable/pissed/criminally insane?
‘Oh, bollocks’, I groaned, as he raised his arm and motioned for me to pull over. I shoved half a packet of Polos into my mouth and prayed he’d mistake my hungover pallor for contrition. Resisting the worryingly psychotic urge to put my foot down and trying to ignore the smug-faced bastards driving past, I shunted the front wheels onto the pavement.
‘Good morning Madam, and do you know why I’ve asked you to stop your vehicle today?’
Because you’re lonely and want someone to talk to? Because you want to admire my crappy old Fiesta up close? ‘Erm…’ I frantically tried to remember the Highway Code, or was it the Green Cross Code…Christ, at 7.30am on a Monday morning, hungover, my own postcode is pushing it.
‘You do realise that driving in a bus lane is a criminal offence punishable by 3 points and a fine?’
‘But, but, there weren’t any buses…the sun was in my eyes…’ I trailed off, realising that it was a) pointless and b) pissing it down.
Ignoring my admittedly embarrassing attempt at getting off the hook, he started scribbling in his little policeman notebook.
‘Er, Sam. Samantha. Brown. Samantha Brown. I muttered, trying to hide my bloodshot eyes and feeling like a particularly wooden extra from The Bill.
‘Right Miss Brown,’
Miss? How does he know I’m not married? God, even PC Plod thinks I’m hideous. As I made a mental note never to leave the house with no make up again, he ripped a page from the notebook.
‘I’m required to issue you with this penalty notice with which you have 30 days to comply. And we won’t be sneaking into the bus lanes anymore, will we?’ he cooed.
Seamlessly translating ‘Oh, go f**k yourself’ into ‘Of course Officer, terribly sorry’ and fighting the urge to run over his foot, I trundled gracelessly off the pavement in a vain attempt at a dignified dismount and back onto the familiar route to the office.
I’d been working as an Office Administrator (read Office Peasant) for the past eighteen months. Seventeen and a half of them had been spent daydreaming about stapling my boss’s fingers to the desk and making a run for it. It was only ever meant to be a stopgap to make some quick cash after university to try to relieve my burgeoning overdraft. An eighteen month stopgap is pushing it a bit though. And my overdraft was still growing at an alarming rate, like a greedy baby.
Grimacing at the leaning tower of filing I’d been studiously ignoring for what must be a sackable length of time, I switched on the computer and slumped into my chair. Oh dear Lord, hardly an advertisement for the go-getting young professional, I thought, wincing at my pallid reflection in the flickering screen. I looked more like a ‘before’ picture for Alcoholics Anonymous. Surely this day can’t get any worse?
‘Good Morning Samantha’, trilled Gloria, fifty-something Office Manager and resident Office Mutton. Permanently bright orange, she was dressed to impress nobody in a pair of leopard print ski pants with matching jacket. And handbag. And shoes. It looked like someone had tangoed one of the Thundercats.
‘Hullo Gloria.’ I tried to summon as much enthusiasm as the bits of machinery in my head would allow. I sounded like my head was underwater.
‘Oh my, you do look awful Samantha,’ she said smugly, pursing her frosted pink lips. Thanks for that. She actually took her glasses out of her handbag, put them on, and peered at me. I felt like the resident Bearded Lady. She’d be making notes in a minute. ‘I’ve got some blusher in my bag you know. You’d look much better with a bit of colour.’
That’d be luminous orange then.
‘Thanks Gloria, I’ll be fine.’ As soon as you go away and let me rest my head on the desk, you nosy old bint. I breathed a 40% proof sigh of relief as she sniffed and sashayed off to her desk.
As I got started on the obligatory morning-after packet of salt and vinegar crisps and can of coke, I stared listlessly at the fish on my Great Barrier Reef screensaver. The array of bright colours hurt my head, and clashed with the grey drizzle running down the window. Polishing off the crisps, I rummaged in my drawer for the emergency Kit Kat. Of course I am actually on a diet – there’s an apple on my desk to prove it. Admittedly it’s been there for three weeks, but a brown apple still qualifies as an apple. And I will eat it, as soon as I’ve finished the Kit Kat. And the chocolate croissant. Anyway, one should always eat a hearty breakfast. Especially us high-flying professional types.
‘It’s your turn to make the tea, Samantha. I’d hate to think your talents were being under-used.’ Bugger off Gloria, I thought, flashing her my best fake smile on the way to the kitchen.
‘Surely I’m destined for greater things than making tea and pretending to file things?’ I moaned to Claire, receptionist and my ally against all things Glorified. ‘Three years studying English and I spent the whole of last week rearranging a filing cabinet.’
‘Poor Sammy’, she smirked, helping herself to Gloria’s milk and biscuits. ‘I wouldn’t have guessed you’d been to university’.
‘Cheeky cow. Have you not heard me reciting Keats as I wander through the corridors?’
‘Ah, I thought that was your asthma. Anyway, Gloria’s bound to retire in about ten years, see what you can aspire to? Laters Einstein’, she sniggered, throwing a Rich Tea at my head as she skipped off.
I suddenly had a vision of myself in a leopard print jump suit, photocopying and applying pink frosted lipstick for the next twenty years. How did this happen? I mused, dropping the tea bag on the floor and squeezing it into Gloria’s mug. I’m a 24 year old hungover criminal with thirty years of filing to look forward to. I have to get out. Anyway, I look rough enough being a normal colour - luminous orange would never work.
As I watched the minute hand drag itself around to 12pm, I pondered why time dragged when I was trapped inside the office, but skipped along like a particularly lively ADHD child after an espresso when I escaped for lunch. The office doors were a gateway into my very own Narnia, minus the snow. And the excitement.
As soon as the clock hit 12pm I pulled on my trusty Nikes. Teamed with a suit (I say suit – to be honest the jacket and skirt weren’t even distantly related) I wasn’t exactly an advertisement for the young professional, but my need for a stodgy feast was such that I’d have trotted to Pret in a clown suit. Rescuing Claire from sharing a wafer with Gloria, we headed to lunch.
‘You are coming out for Steve’s birthday dinner later, aren’t you?’ asked Claire seemingly innocently, although there was no mistaking the somewhat threatening glint in her eye as she said it.
‘Er, I’m not sure, I told my, er, mum that I’d help her with the, er, ironing tonight’. Even as the words stumbled out of my mouth I could tell it was a lost cause. It was almost as pathetic as the policeman encounter.
‘Don’t even think about it. You’re coming. I need a wingman and as my only options are you and Gloria, you’re him. Might want to think about putting on some make up though. I don’t want to look like I’m taking you out for a day trip’.
As I needed to conserve my energy for wolfing the large bowl of curly cheesy fries that was heading my way, I simply grimaced in defeat. My fate was sealed. And, to be fair, watching Claire attempt to pull Steve-the-Accounts-God was a slightly more attractive proposition than the Channel 5 ‘My Toddler has a Hairy Face’ documentary I’d had lined up for the evening.