The 9 Stages Of a Day in the Office Without Air-conditioning
You’re nearly at the office. Thank god. It’s been an arduous journey in today. Always is, on a Tuesday. It’s a cursed day after all. Mondays may get a bad rap for being the gateways to the slog of the work week, but at least you’re always ready for them. The whole of Sunday is spent preparing, consciously and unconsciously, for the high dive into the shit pool that is to come. On Mondays, not only are you reinforced against the assailing horrors, you’re still bathed in the glow of the weekend too. You can still smell the potent aroma of a freedom just lived, so that gives some additional comfort. On Tuesday, that’s all gone out the window.
Tuesday always finds a way to derail things. You always gotta be ready for whatever a Tuesday might bring. You might step in dog poop. Maybe a pigeon will drop its cargo on your head. Other, non-faeces related shite might happen. Who knows. It’s a Tuesday. You should always wake up suspicious on a Tuesday. As soon as you awake, make direct eye contact with the day. Set your jaw and tell it, unblinking: ‘I know what you’re up to, you mug.’ Rarely, if ever, will that actually prevent the Tuesday from doing whatever bullshit it’s spent the rest of the week planning. But nevertheless, at least this way you can salvage some of what at least kinda feels like agency.
It’s not even 9am, and this Tuesday, the 19th June, is already leaving you in no doubt: It’s a Tuesday alright. A hot one. Too hot. You woke up about six times during the night, sweating like a kebab in a shop window and rotating just about as much, trying to shake the heat to no avail. Opening the window didn’t help. The air had no movement to it. Still doesn’t. That’s the worst of it. That, and the goddamn humidity. Heat is one thing, man, but still, humid heat? Your biology was not configured for this.
Regardless, coffee is needed. And so, clutching that cup like a life preserver and sweating with empty caffeinated energy, you stalk determinedly through your office doors.
‘Here we go. Here comes the sweet, cool embrace of artificially circulated air. Thank fuck.’
What fresh hell is this? Why is the aircon off?! Is this someone’s idea of a joke? Most days in England, aircon is an unnecessary luxury. Today, trapped in this polluted London bubble of soggy, unmoving air—today it’s a goddamn human right, and to deny it means going against the Geneva Convention, or some other, more important, similar-type…-law… thing. You march to the aircon controls by the door with a furious look on your face. There are people already in the office. Whoever is responsible for this will pay. Later. For now, you make a big show of flipping open the cover of the control panel. Let them see you, let them know that after corrective action, wrath will be done. You mash the ‘ON’ key with a sense of righteous purpose not seen since Alexander the Great set out to conquer all the lands of this Earth, but the march to victory gets interrupted. Something’s wrong. The little display does not light up. No digits appear. Panic. Panic that this might not be human malice, error, or oversight. This looks like machine failure. You ask someone. You ask Trevor. ‘The AC?’ he responds, fanning himself with a slim folder of papers, a trickle of sweat crawling down his temple darting to and fro with each folder-generated breeze. ‘Oh yeah, it’s broken. They can’t come in to fix it until tomorrow hahaha!’ You don’t know why Trevor finds doom funny.
‘This is bullshit,’ you think, as you desperately try to reboot your brain into focusing on work for the thirtieth time since you sat down at your desk an hour ago. You know this effort’s going to fail too. That’s the only thing you can know in this heat. Trying to keep the mind on any task that requires more brainpower than longing for the relatively sweet release of night is proving fruitless. The atmosphere in the office is hellish. All the windows have been flung open; not that it matters, with the fuckall difference that that has made: The air is on strike in London today. It refuses to move an inch. Shit, it might even be better down in the tube tunnels. At least there the air is forced to move by the onrushing trains. Goddamit. You know when you’re pining for the tube tunnels that some sort of horrible barrier has been crossed. The conviction echoes around the ever more claustrophobic space that is your mind: ‘We shouldn’t be here. We shouldn’t be here.’
There was life, once, and joy, on this planet. You’re sure of it. Greens and blues abounded. Children laughed. That was before the air-conditioning broke. It seems like a long time ago, past the limits of memory, but the feeling remains: Once, things were different. Now? Now all there is is the heat, and this email that you have been staring at for the past half hour, desperately trying to summon the words to answer Steven from accounting. He wanted something. Something that required an urgent answer, you think? That must be why you managed to even open the email, while all the while around you the world collapsed into ashes and dust. The air shimmers, reality itself appears to stretch and warp, straining against this cruel existence.
They’ve killed Trevor. Sandra, Rumena, and Mo. Driven feral by the heat, they’d had enough. Can’t say you blame them. ‘I don’t mind the heat!’ he kept bleating. ‘It’s really quite pleasant! Makes me think we’ve all gone on holiday together hahaha!’ Well Trevor’s not laughing now. Not with his neck bent that way. Poor Trevor. At least he’s finally got to go on his holiday.
You have to go outside. Surely it’s better outside. You know the air isn’t moving anywhere but surely outside must be better than in.
It wasn’t better outside.
At some point in the past hour, all hell was unleashed. Trapped, sweating buckets, breathing each other’s fumes, everybody lost it when they heard the faint but unmistakable sound of an electric fan emanating out of Linda’s room. As realisation dawned, bloodshot glances were exchanged among the sweating horde. But not out of solidarity. Out of hunger, and territorial aggression. There wasn’t a soul in there who didn’t believe that that fan belonged to them and to no-one else. Wordlessly, with nothing but screeches and hollers, war was declared, and battle came down. Now the office looks like a meteor struck it. The shooting of Apocalypse Now has nothing on Tuesday 19th June, 2018. Desks are overturned. Windows smashed. In a desperate attempt to create Cool Zones, makeshift shelters were constructed out of miscellaneous office furniture and equipment, the hope being that some sort of air bubbles could be created inside them in which the temperature might be slightly lower. None worked as intended. There was no escaping the heat. Savagely and without mercy, everyone took it out on everyone else. Without prompting, as natural alliances bubbled to the surface, the office had split into two factions. Two camps were erected on opposite sides of the room. Many souls had been lost in the initial flare-up. More had followed in skirmishes. Some simply collapsed due to the heat. Now, as the survivors sweated in their respective camps, clothes torn and voices hoarse, all prepared for the final showdown. Linda’s fan. Somehow it had ended up in the no man’s land that developed in the centre of the office. Both sides knew: This was all coming to an End. The battle for Linda’s fan would likely be everyone’s undoing, but there was no other choice. To die in the struggle for the sacred breeze would be to die a good death.
Bodies litter the ground. Blood drips from the ceiling. Linda’s fan lies on the floor, torn apart, unrecognisable. Suddenly, something beeps, and a little light comes on by the door. A breeze, barely noticeable at first but building in strength, suddenly drifts across the wreckage. Somehow, Trevor, slumped over his desk in the far corner, pipes up: ‘Hey, it looks like they fixed the aircon! I thought they weren’t going to get it done until tomorrow. Haha, wow, that’s great! And just as we’re about to leave. You really can’t make this stuff up, hahaha!’