A Windy Day
Three weeks after my unusual weekend, an invitation for a formal, sit-in-an-office interview fell through the letterbox. After six months of waiting, the glacier had silently lurched forward a few inches. This had the effect of sending my mother into a state of high, extremely vocal anxiety. I wasn’t surprised; much of life affected her that way.
Six days later I arrived in a slightly sweaty mess at Police Headquarters having parked my jalopy far away to prevent prying eyes examining it. As mental preparation for the big day, my father had let me know that my high-ranking interviewer’s status was only two steps away from being a deity (Chief Constable), which as you can imagine had been a great help steadying my nerves. I was almost petrified with fear by the time I arrived at the headquarters building. If only my bowels had been petrified too. Alas, since I’d woken that day, three visits to the smallest room had done little to quieten my demons and an internal cauldron was unhappily bubbling away by the time I strode, perspiring enthusiastically, through the doorway of the large and impressively dull headquarters. Thankfully, the doors were open, and we avoided a nasty incident involving the imprint of an oily teenage face upon nice, clean glass.
The entrance to the headquarters was under the iron control of a pair of three-hundred-year-old gentlemen in pseudo-uniforms. They sat/slumped at an isolated desk, and appeared to be the full extent of the security measures. This, by the way, was at a time when the IRA was not without the ability and inclination to spread mischief in the form of explosives and bullets. All I had to do to breach this outer layer of protection was quickly take a couple of steps to the right or left. I fancied my chances but thought better of testing the defences.
The spritely one of the two was almost upright in his chair and could breathe without mechanical assistance. After slowly and painstakingly issuing me with a visitor’s badge and thereby granting me access to the unguarded area next to him, he directed me by pointing over his shoulder with a gnarled thumb to the elevator doors immediately behind the two of them. He proactively identified the necessary floor to get off at; “Fourth floor, kid.” while his slack-jawed colleague with a drip on the end of his nose – and an oxygen tank by his side – watched in silence and apparent distaste over the top of his mug of formaldehyde. By now vibrating at an inappropriate amplitude in my cheap suit, I rode the shiny, silent, stainless steel lift to the fourth floor. The machine jolted a little as it stopped, but the doors opened with an authoritative and smooth ‘swishhh’. Unable to avoid leaving a little colonic olfactory message behind me for the next occupants, I stepped out into the corridor just as a small man with his head buried in a newspaper came around the corner and stepped straight into the malevolent grasp of my little gift. As the doors closed, strangled coughing noises could be heard.
On TV, the world of the police is exciting, vibrant and dynamic. Every important office has an open door and there are always plenty of police officers in full uniform, including their headgear. Detectives in shiny suits hurry hither and thither and occasionally thither and hither. Crime is a tangible foe, and the heroes of law enforcement shall never rest until it is vanquished. High-ranking officers drop in on subordinates at regular intervals to pester them with awkward and suspiciously well-informed questions about individual cases…however…
In the absence of other humans, I sat in the waiting area of a suite of pleasant, climate-controlled offices with my feet all but entirely obscured by extraordinarily deep carpet and…well, I waited. This would be the most important conversation of my life so far, and yet I felt waves of drowsiness begin to wash over me in that uncannily church-like atmosphere. As I was to one day find out for myself, it is largely true that police stations are busy, exciting places to be – if devoid of anyone wearing their headgear indoors – but the truth is that the higher up the rank structure you go, the more important you think that you have become. The more money that you earn, the quieter and less urgent working life becomes.
Once – having mastered the correct handshake – you reach the level of an assistant chief constable, professional life is conducted in hushed halls where deep, luxurious layers of carpet cushion every potentially distracting or alarming footfall. Secretaries perform the annoying details of office life such as answering the ‘phone and cancelling any police-work-related appointments arranged by mistake. Lush greenery – almost exclusively yucca or ‘umbrella’ plants – fills every corner of warm yet austere offices. At such dizzy metaphorical heights, people speak only in whispers and doors close softly and respectfully for fear of offending the delicate sensibilities of the county’s top cops, most of whom have rarely seen an angry human up close.
Unfortunately, in those hallowed, antiseptic and most carefully climate-controlled halls awaiting my fate, I suddenly had an overwhelming, sacrilegious urge to again break wind. This was, however, not an ordinary kind of urge – not the “Oh dear I may surreptitiously make a faintly detectable noise/smell!” kind of feeling which I had satiated in the elevator mere moments before. No, this was the kind of seismic rumbling that you just know will result in a window-rattling concussion, followed by muffled yells of surprise, cautiously opened office doors and expressions of alarm and/or wonder. It was going to be nasty if I unleashed this Kraken.
Wisely, and with no little clenching, I sacrificed my long-term health and the comfort of my inflating lower intestine. Alone with my thoughts, I fought a rising panic about whether methane can travel upwards through the digestive tract. Looking around to occupy my mind, I spotted a portrait hanging on a wall outside what I took to be a super-important person’s office. To my consternation, it was a picture of the anonymous little fellow who had jumped into the foul-smelling elevator just as I was leaving it. What a strange coincidence… The pounding in my head grew a little louder as I read the small plaque on the frame: ‘Mr. Daedalus Groaning. Chief Constable’. Oh well, I thought, he couldn’t sack me for farting in the lift – not before I’d even become an employee. Could he?