Off to the Races · 28 April 2010
JOE stretches in his chair and reaches for his coffee cup. He finds that it is empty. He looks at the clock on the wall and sees that it is 10:42, almost time for the midmorning break. He makes his way toward the coffee machine when he sees BOBBY hurrying with a handful of papers going toward the copy center (which also houses the shipping and receiving area of the company). Joe hurries to Bobby’s side and puts his free arm around him.
Slow down there slick. You’re not going to get copies right now, are you?
Sure. I only need a couple pages done and figured I could get them to the copy center before break.
Joe shakes his head from side to side. Bobby looks at him questioningly.
How long have you been here Bobby?
About eight months.
(knowingly but deadpan)
So you haven’t seen the races.
Bobby looks confused. As he nods “No” and shrugs his shoulders, all of the confidence that he had when he was on his way to make a few copies has gone. He is feeling like a new kid again rather than somebody who has had a little experience.
The new interns are here for the summer and so today is the first day of the races.
Joe looks at his watch as they approach the copy center. He pulls Bobby out of the aisle/hall between the cubicles and copy center.
Better stay out of the way.
They have ducked into an empty cubicle right across from the copy center (the cubicle houses the coffee pot and fundraiser stuff that parents leave for their coworkers to buy) and as they look up and down the hall, they see heads pop up to watch the races.
What’s going on?
Joe points and directs Bobby’s attention down the hallway to their left. Sounds of running start to fill the air.
Watch and see.
Joe looks at his watch and sees that it has turned to 10:46. From around the corner come three young interns. It is obvious that they are interns because the two young men have wrinkled shirts, skinny ties, and mismatched socks. The one young woman has a perfectly pressed blouse and skirt (just above her knees). She is between the other two carrying dress shoes in her right hand and just about clocks the intern trying to pass her on the outside of the corner. She elbows the other intern and shoves her way into the copy center first.
Bobby stands in amazement with his mouth wide open as the three interns grab small head-sized boxes which are beside larger boxes. They jump into the large boxes, sit down, and put the smaller boxes onto their heads. The three have on their game faces and leer at each other. They are lined up looking in the same direction. As if on cue, they all look straight ahead. From inside the copy room, somebody yells.
The three interns lean forward in their boxes and appear to be racing. They lean sideways periodically as they move their arms in a steering motion. Bobby looks at Joe in amazement. Joe is just smiling and laughing. He pours himself a cup of coffee from the coffee pot and puts a quarter in the cup beside it. Others have gathered around and poured coffee for themselves as well. A few just get water from the water cooler. All except Joe and Bobby watch for a few seconds and then head back to their own cubicles or other gathering spots where people take their breaks.
While the race continues, Bobby watches on and Joe starts to explain.
You see Bobby, those interns are out to conquer the world. And the company, of course. They are so young and naive that they think they can do it. They have not yet been beaten down by the system and figured out that life is just drudgery and then you die. They really think that they can make a difference. And that they can have fun doing it.
Bobby looks over as Joe pauses. Bobby’s look turns from confusion to concern.
The reality is that this “race”
is just an escape. These kids will eventually realize that they can’t make a difference. They will realize that they can’t just keep going off in their boxes and having adventures all of their lives. They will eventually grow up.
The finality of the moment and the thought hits Bobby as the race is over. The interns get out of their boxes and the female intern raises her hands in triumph. She pulls the box off her head and shakes her staticky hair which just makes it stand on end worse than it had been. The male interns shake her hand and even though they cannot be heard clearly, appear to vow that they will get her next time. They come out of the copy room waving toward the voice of the person who started the race. The three interns laugh and joke around as they return back the way they had come.
Joe gets some more coffee in his mug and starts to walk back to his cubicle. Bobby stays where he has been rooted during the whole race.
Well. Are you going to get your copies or not?
Bobby comes out of his daze. His face changes from a look of confusion to one of resolve. He starts toward the copy room and a smile spreads across his face.
It is the next day. Joe stretches in his chair and reaches for his coffee cup. He finds that it is empty. He looks at the clock on the wall and sees that it is 10:44:30, almost time for the midmorning break. And the races. He makes his way toward the coffee machine. Just before he rounds the corner, the clock turns to 10:45:00. A few seconds later (after he rounds the corner but before he is out of harm’s way), Joe hears a rumble of running from behind him and barely gets out of the way as the three interns almost run over him. They are closely followed by Bobby who yells at Joe as he is running by.
(almost out of breath)
Hi Joe. I decided not to grow up! Formula One today! Come on. Grab a helmet.
Bobby turns into the copy room. Joe gets to the break cubicle and watches. The interns already have their helmets on and are strapped into their Formula One race cars. Bobby is still standing in his car as he puts on his helmet. Then he sits down and gives a thumb’s up to Joe. Joe smiles wanly and gives a half-hearted thumb’s up reply. Bobby smiles widely as he turns toward the starter.
After Joe pours his coffee, he looks back into the copy room. As he watches the interns and Bobby, the boxes on their heads and in which they sit turn into the helmets and the race cars that they imagine they are in. Joe starts to smile.
(quietly but happily to himself)
Tomorrow. Maybe I’ll join them tomorrow.
© 2010 Michael T. Miyoshi
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