The Gate Keeper: Chapter 18 (In which lunch is shared)
by Andrew Miller TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande is an agency in crisis. Their ‘basket of boutique services’ strategy has bombed. Only a massive new project can keep the doors open – all eyes are now on the corporate tent at Mangaung. Far in the background, an emergency replacement executive PA with decades of experience makes important decisions. Interns rise, board members take unexpected steps and things begin to change…
Things begin to change as the TBWSJWBN hierachy is suddenly and decisively subverted…
In which lunch is shared
Phil took a last hit on his joint, threw the butt out the window, drove a few times around the traffic circle and then decided to head to the Hyde Park shopping centre for a solo lunch. It wasn’t something he did often, but every now and again eating alone in a restaurant felt right, like the kind of thing an adult with a firm grip on their life, career and place in the world would do.
He slipped past the razor blade Hyde Park moms and their prams and found a table at the pink place just outside Exclusives. Once he was actually seated he felt completely over-stoned. That weed was extremely skunky. He ordered a glass of iced water and downed it all, then asked for a steak roll and sat back to watch the world around him.
It was not a pretty sight.
Three tables down, Tim Broadbent sat alone, an adult seemingly in charge of his life, career and place in the world. Even though the only time he’d been close to a skunk of any variety was on a family holiday in Canada, he was in a state of anxiety similar to Phil’s. His heart was beating too fast, the people around him felt and smelt downright oppressive and, deep down in the lower fathoms of his heart, he was questioning serious things.
It would soon be time to let go, Tim Broadbent was saying to himself. He was pretty much seventy, the mandatory age for board retirement. Yes, they had asked him if he would be willing to give his sage advice for a year or two longer, but really the game was up. His career was now, finally, at long long last, a thing of the past. These days were now those days.
On the one hand, he relished spending more time with his family, walking on the beach and so on. On the other, he questioned how he would survive without the rub of all the youngsters against his life, and his identity. Was he really this old? Was it genuinely all over? He watched a particularly attractive young girl swish past his table and ruminated further.
There was something undeniably positive about being surrounded by youth. Not the youth one has spawned personally, but the youth of the wider world. To work and think and get things done side by side with people in their twenties and thirties. It made one feel alive. He watched the girl’s very pert backside sit itself at the table next to him. Then he realised that he actually knew that backside, and the person attached to it, at whom he was staring.
Vati had bolted from His office like a little girl. She sat for three minutes and twenty two seconds, waiting for him to wake up, and then ran. Straight past Mama E, without a glance, and then out of the office block itself. It was all just too weird. It was barely 12:00 noon on a Tuesday and He was out cold, snoring wildly in his big leather chair. It was too much to even think about.
She hopped over the road and into the Hyde Park shopping centre for some lunch. She sat, asked for a menu and then looked around, only to find Tim Broadbent, that ancient TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande stalwart, gawking at her like she was a Playboy bunny.
Phil chewed on his steak roll, focused, then re-focused, then chewed some more. Yes, it was her. The planets, after all these years, after decades of waiting, had finally aligned. He picked up his plate and walked over to her table at exactly the same time as Tim Broadbent was calling her over to his.
And that is how the intern, Phil the graphic designer and the chairman of the TBWSJWBN board came to share a long, awkward silence before attempting lunch at the Hyde Park shopping centre.