Sheila Walker sat at her desk in an office cubicle surrounded on three sides by her colleagues. On the fourth side was a common corridor which was mainly used by people when they were hurrying off to begin private phone conversations. Sheila had worked for the same firm since leaving secondary school in 1996.
“At least they let me go home in the evening,” thought Sheila on bad days when the drudgery was especially unbearable.
Sheila entered customer data into her firm’s insurance system. Time dragged. Today, it felt like 3pm already and yet the clock on the wall, the digital clock, said 11:45 a.m. Sheila was spending her lunch break reading her emails aloud to herself, a habit she found difficult to stop.
“What is this person talking about? I have never been on E-bay let alone started selling things. I have never owned a plasma TV…” Sheila was puzzled.
People were walking by talking on their phones as she continued to read…
“It’s totally, like, well yes it is – yes, like totally…”
“…I have already contacted you once and have sent you the money…” read Sheila
“…with Denise in Accounting? Was he drunk or something? Put the pictures on Facebook…”
Sheila continued: “Please get me back to me as soon as you can with further information about the shipping of the plasma tv that i have bought from you. I am looking forward to get your reply. Thanks in advance. The item is a Samsung PS50A457 50 Plasma TV + 3 Year Warranty. Member since 08-Feb-12 in United Kingdom Location : West Midlands, United Kingdom. This is bizarre – I am going to ignore this.”
Someone holding a phone and smiling came into Sheila’s cubicle
Sheila looked up, smiled, and said “Thanks Dermot…is this for the insurance system?”
Dermot made the sign of the phone and pointed at his ear. He left smiling.
Sheila looked at the file and decided it could wait as she was on her break. She looked at her next email, which she thought might be from a customer. Sheila said to herself ‘Donald Smith – I have never heard of him – I wonder what he wants?’
A young woman listening to a blackberry then appeared at the entrance to Sheila’s cubicle. The girl spoke in a monotone voice devoid of any emotion “Are you coming then Sheila?”
“Hi Liz – where are we going?”
“I sent you an email – we’re going to the Indian for lunch to celebrate Barry’s birthday. I’d have texted you too but you don’t have a mobile.”
“I didn’t get that email unless it’s in my spam folder.”
“So are you coming then or not?”
“I’ve brought my lunch, sorry, but I only sit 6 yards away you know, you could have walked over and asked me – face to face.”
“It’s easier to send an email to everyone and I did put the lunch date on Facebook and LinkedIn. I texted everyone in the office too with directions and the GPS location if you’re driving. I tweeted the details and also wrote about it on my blog. Twice.”
“It’s just around the corner though Liz, who’d drive?”
“The forecast on the weather network, the BBC, and MSN was for rain, so I thought I’d cover all eventualities. Anyway, I must be going the others have gone already – talk to you later.”