The Gate Keeper (Chapter 3: In which ideas form)
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…
The fat men put out a call for Mangaung concepts. Mama E engineers an opportunity for the intern, and Phil the graphic designer struggles to look up.
In which ideas form
“The old lady says they’ll throw them back before lunch,” she announced to the boys, who did not respond, or even look up. “She said they looked like complete kak.”
She thought seriously about crying. Or screaming. Or stamping her feet. Instead she seated herself carefully at the three inches of Formica they called her desk, shook her mouse awake and pretended to check her email. She wished she too had headphones. Not that she was completely into music or anything, but for the status, of course, and for the sense of work they created. She too wanted to bop her head abstractedly while looking up at the ceiling in a serious yet creative manner. She vowed that if they extended her internship – although she couldn’t think of a single reason why they would, nor a single thing she had done in her time at the agency that would warrant an extension – the first thing she would do would be to buy one of those funky green and pink pairs of skater headphones. Skeletons or something.
“What the f*#!k is up with those people in corporate?” Simon Shone pulled his Sennheisers over his neck, leaned dramatically back in his chair and waited for a reply. Seconds dribbled by. He held his pose and eventually, reluctantly, Phil the graphic designer pushed an earphone off his left ear and said “Eh?”
Vati speared the ball of her semi heeled right foot into the floor and ground her teeth. Three months. And counting.
“They’re demanding, and I quote, ‘concepts for Mangaung that will allow a financial services brand to take up a viable position in the corporate tent. Such concepts should, ideally, centre on youth development, entrepreneurship, women empowerment and / or sustainability.’ ” Simon Shone snorted theatrically. Phil cocked both eyebrows and replaced his left headphone. Vati waited for someone to ask her what she thought.
Back at the executive offices, Mama E typed furiously on her keyboard.
Well really they’re like a bag of Jelly Babies these days. The colours, the clothes, the attitudes, the digital this and that. It makes me realise how dull it actually all was in my day. Even as we thought we were, well, so out there, actually we were just a dull, predictable and unknowingly conservative slab of Top Deck.
And, if I’m honest, I must admit this is a little tougher than I had thought. Age is not irrelevant in this business. I do have stabs of regret. If Gerald hadn’t been such an idiot I wouldn’t have to be here.
Still, they’re my Jelly Babies now, and I must deal with them. I liked that little one who came through on Friday. He said we need fresh young black talent for Mangaung, and she looked bored out of her mind. I should push her. Lord, they talk about Mangaung like we used to talk about the Loeries…
Vati clicked Get Mail for the seven thousandth time. Only this time, miracle of miracles, a message dropped into her in-box. It was from Melinda Ensworthy, whoever that was.
From: Melinda Ensworthy [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 18, 2012 10:45 AM
To: Vatiswa Magubane
I would like enquire as to your availability for a strategic planning session in the executive boardroom at 7:30 am tomorrow morning.
Please will you let me know if you can fit this into your schedule.
Simon Shone glanced over at the intern, who appeared to be very busy doing something. He couldn’t imagine what. He hadn’t included her in a single thing. Not from spite as much as from fear. Heads were rolling all the way down Jan Smuts – the last thing he needed was someone on his turf who could speak all the official languages.
She looked nice enough, of course. Personality wise, and physically there were no questions – none at all. He wondered briefly how Phil the graphic designer had got so lucky.
Phil, for his part, was too nervous to even look up. It had been almost two weeks since the snogging and she had barely said his name, let alone looked him in the eye.