Lust for Life
Ian pulled into the parking lot of the Arqia corporate headquarters building at 9:15 a.m. on a Wednesday. He opened the car door and took a deep breath of fresh air, the smell of apple blossoms calmed his mind for a moment. He reached into the backseat for his laptop case and pulled the zipper open a few inches, one last check before going inside.
Ian walked through the parking lot toward the building entrance. When he got to the front door of the building, he saw the elevator door open and a group of people go inside. There was only one elevator in the building, he knew it would be another seven minutes before it came back to the lobby. He picked up the pace of his walk, today was not the day to be late for work. When he made it to the elevator, the door was half way closed. Todd, Ian’s manager stood inside the elevator in front of the control panel. Todd made no effort to hit the ‘Open Door’ button, he shrugged his shoulders and smirked at Ian.
Ian watched the door close and heard the ding of the elevator arriving on the second floor. Taking the stairs would have been an option but the management company in charge of the building deemed them a security risk and kept the stairwells locked, you could only go down the stairs, not up. Ian was stuck in the lobby waiting for the elevator to come back down.
He looked down at his laptop case again, the extra weight tugged on the shoulder strap. He opened the zipper again, it was still there. He tried to get the image of Todd’s face out of his mind, no matter, this would be the last day Todd had the opportunity to focus the anger from his own poor life decisions on Ian.
Ian took a deep breath and exhaled while counting to ten, he repeated that exercise five times. After getting his heart rate back under control, Ian ran through the scenario of the morning in his mind. His plan was simple, but nothing Ian had ever imagined himself doing, so he rehearsed his lines and the physical movements. He assumed that once the time came to execute the plan, he would freeze from fear, if that happened he wanted muscle memory to take over.
While waiting for the elevator Ian had plenty of time to think through his life. A video stream of his life had been playing in a loop inside his mind for weeks. As much pain as the video caused him, there was no way to change the past. The pain was not from traumatic or violent events, it was from a series of decisions that Ian made. At the time Ian believed he was making the “safe” or “adult” decision. None of the decisions Ian made at crucial points in his life were wrong or even decisions that a normal person would consider bad, they were perfectly logical. That was the problem, they were too logical. Those logical decisions Ian made created a snowball of unhappiness and somewhere in the last few years the snowball of unhappiness hit a major down-slope and picked up speed at an alarming rate.
The ding of the elevator snapped Ian out of his thoughts, he stepped inside with four other people. They all stared at the elevator door in silence. Ian looked down and examined his wardrobe, cheap brown dress shoes from the clearance rack, light brown khaki pants a little too big, bright blue collared dress shirt in a box complete with matching tie. Todd required the IT Desktop Support team to wear collared shirts and ties, the excuse he gave for the dress code was that he wanted his team to look respectable. The real reason was control. Over the last eleven years, little things like the dress code wore down Ian’s resolve and slowly ground his soul into a fine dust.
The door opened on the tenth floor, Ian smiled and thought to himself, there’s a last time for everything. He walked to his cubicle and sat down with his laptop case across his legs. He was careful to take out his laptop without anyone else seeing what else was in the bag. He didn’t want to arouse any suspicion before the 9:30 a.m. weekly team meeting.
A head popped over the cubicle wall, Ian looked up at a smiling face with the frizzy brown hair and black glasses. “Good morning sunshine! Happy Wednesday!”
Ian nodded. “Happy Wednesday, Denise.”
“Did you see that email from Dave Jackson, the Director of Sales?”
“Haven’t had a chance to open my laptop yet. What is it? I just helped him set up the automatic rules to categorize his email. What else can he want?”
Denise raised her eyebrows and shrugged her shoulders. “Well apparently he isn’t happy about it. He’s saying that you made him lose some important customer emails. He CC’ed the whole department complaining and named you specifically.”
Ian nodded. “Sounds like a problem.”
“Sounds like your problem. Let’s go. Don’t want to be late for the team meeting,” replied Denise.
“I’ll be there in a minute. No need to wait for me.” Ian set his laptop in the docking station and set his badge and parking pass on top. He did a quick scan of his cubicle, he spotted a pen with the Arqia logo next to his keyboard and stuffed it into his pocket.
Ian walked into the “Ten Million by 2020” conference room at 9:29 a.m., all conference rooms at Arqia were named after company goals, the names alone took a small chunk of soul from every Arqia employee. Ian sat down at the corner of the conference room table near far end of the room.
Eleven members of the Arqia IT Desktop Support team were seated at the conference table, another three team members dialed into the meeting. Every meeting at Arqia started with every person in attendance stating a piece of “personal good news” and a piece of “professional good news”.
Todd, Ian’s manager, looked around the room and took the phone in the center of the table off mute. “Good morning everyone. Who do we have on the phone?”
“This is Melanie, hi Todd.”
“Hi Melanie. Adam are you there as well.”
Todd stared at the phone for a moment. “Adam if you’re talking, you’re on mute.” Todd paused again.
“Hi this is Adam. Sorry, I was on mute.”
“Adam why don’t you get us started, with good news personal and good news professional,” said Todd.
Ian sat through the incredibly painful recital of good news from each team member. It was the in person version of scrolling through the carefully curated Facebook timeline of a friend whose real life is a complete and utter train wreck.
Finally it was his turn, Ian heaved his laptop case on the table and took out a plain manila folder with a stack of papers inside. Each document had three quarters of a page of text. Ian got up from his chair and began to hand them out to each team member.
While walking around the table Ian let out a sigh. “Good news personal. It’s a beautiful Wednesday morning, the apple trees are blossoming, the weather --”
“Ian, this portion of the meeting is strictly for good news personal and good news professional. I have to ask that you please respect the rules and structure of the meeting. If you have something you want the team to discuss we can handle it later,” said Todd.
Ian smiled. “No problem, Todd. The paper in front of you is my professional good news.”
Ian watched Todd’s face twist with confusion as he read the document in front of him.
“Ian, I don’t understand what this is. It’s titled ‘Ian Roberts, Obituary’. I don't get it. And you haven’t done any of the things listed here.” said Todd.
Ian nodded. “Very perceptive, Todd. I haven’t done any of the things listed in my obituary, so I’m starting today.”
Ian turned and left the conference room. In the elevator he took off his bright blue collared shirt and tie. He stuffed the shirt and tie combo into the trash can on his way out the front door, his cheap brown dress shoes and socks went to the same grave.
Ian rolled up his pant legs and walked to his car in bare feet. He pulled out of the parking lot and cranked up the volume on the radio. Lust for Life by Iggy Pop filled the warm spring air.