The light hurts your head it’s so artificial, and the office is quietly buzzing in that way only occupied cubicles can manage. Restless and bored, the room is working like a twitching muscle. Efficient and pointless. Everyone looks asleep at the wheel while their hard drives turn the data in endless circles.
The lights go out.
A dozen heads lift from the screen and look into the blankness that they are suddenly surrounded by. Nobody is afraid, mostly because they are too numbed by routine to be that quick of mind. A few heads don’t even lift, simply grinding through whatever project that happens to be on the glowing screen without the benefit of illumination. A few of the sharper staff notice this and realize the power isn’t out, and someone must have simply turned off the lights. They guess incorrectly it’s a joke. Then someone pulled the plug on the emergency lighting units, activating the batteries and throwing the room into dramatic unidirectional lighting. Some joke.
That’s when everyone’s guts fell out.
Unrecognizable at first for it’s sudden and brutal beginning, eventually it was identified as music. A good quality stereo can pound the lower decibels so hard you feel it in your teeth. For most purposes that’s overkill, but in this case the people behind that noise didn’t think so. The reaction of the people in the office was instant, and probably deserves an explanation.
In nature there are not many instances of light being suddenly, dangerously, extinguished, and because of this fact large mammals like ourselves tend to react slowly and cautiously when it happens. Add to that the fact our modern life offers us countless chances to experience a sudden loss of lighting and it becomes clear why the staff was underwhelmed prior to the music starting. Nature simply hasn’t hard wired a very good fear reaction into us when it comes to light. There really wasn’t a need to.
That’s not the case with noise.
Nature is full of examples of loud noises that mean nothing less than immediate doom to anyone unfortunate enough to hear them. As well, we humans are primates. Designed and tested on the African plains, our startle reaction to loud noise is bred in the bone. We can’t escape it. When a noise hits us loud and hard, we scatter. There are no casual observers in a sonic attack, we are all participants. So when the music started in the office, loud drums and roaring guitar, the staff literally jumped.
Chairs were knocked over and more than a few coffee cups made their unexpected way to the floor. Some of the flightier in the herd actually lost a bit of bladder control, and were later seen slinking off to the washroom to save whatever dignity they could find. Everyone’s heart rate was up though, and they all had blood pressure readings that would have their MD’s prescribing Ativan for weeks. Clearly the fear response had finally taken hold. Weird things were happening in their normally familiar environment, so all bets were off now in the subconscious, and the group mind began the job of creating scenarios to send them all flying off into the inevitable panic. It was in that overheated emotional environment, that living demonstration of the fight or flight reflex, that the door from the foyer opened.
At first nobody even noticed the door opening. It wasn’t until the two giant light stands, normally used to illuminate construction sites, lit up about five feet outside the door that anyone even looked in that direction. The light was so bright you could feel it on your arms and face, with a warmth that almost felt alive. Comforting. It’s light drew a path right through the room, to the far wall. On the path was a persons shadow.
Silhouetted in the door was a girl.
More curves than should be allowed was about the only way to describe her. She was wearing a bikini, almost, and over her head she was holding a placard. On the placard was a name in big red letters, outlined with small flashing lights, like Christmas lights. After a polite pause she started to stride proudly into the room, high heels clicking gently on the tile. The effect she had on the room was immediate. After the previous assaults on their senses this was an island of hope, still bizarre mind you, but at least not threatening. All eyes traced her progress into the workspace, the furniture looking out of place and shoddy next to her.
Making their way into the room behind her was an entourage of men. They were mostly large, generally past their prime, and they were all wearing heavy orange sweat shirts with the same name on them, printed in bold glittering red letters on the front. On their backs in a fancy script and the same glitter paint the phrase “The French Kiss“. The music was still blasting away, but the men seemed not even aware of it’s presence, looking efficient and focused, the occasional glance between them the extent of their communications. They moved in unison, a tight pack gathered around a central point, moving with purposeful steps. The sight made me think of the Roman turtle formation I learned about in school, where the soldiers would gather together in a tight group in order to minimize their exposure to outside attack. The Romans would put their best fighters in the middle of these formations so if their opponent managed to break through, they would be greeted with ever more powerful fighters. As it turned out, so did this group.
Initially he was only visible as a flash of sheer orange silk. The boxers robe covered his head, so as the group of men entered the room and spread out a bit, he was able to stand a bit straighter and that’s when most people saw him for the first time.
He was directly in the midst of the group, bouncing up and down slowly as he half walked, half jogged his way past our desks. Arms working the air in front of him. Jab. Swing. Jab. Slow, smooth movements. The giant black gloves his hands were in seemed to be moving on their own. No effort, just technique. As the group progressed down the path of light, his face became visible. His eyes were quiet and looking straight ahead. There was no sweat anywhere on his face, and he looked like a person who had a job to do and nobody was going to be able to stop it’s completion. He was gravity.
He made his way through us this way. Surrounded by minions, following the girl and her placard with his name in lights, the music speaking loudly for all of them. We let him through awestruck. What else was there to do?
The staff at this point were pretty much unable to deal with this scene. From full stop to this spectacle in less than thirty seconds was just too much, and so an odd sort of confusion had taken hold of everyone. Nobody knew what to think, and their emotions were so frayed from the first few surprises that some of them seemed like they were viewing the second coming, jaws slack, eyes glazed. Others had caught a bit of the energy and had begun to participate. Hoots and shouts started to be heard from corners here and there. The music didn’t slow down either, it kept up the constant assault on our mental state. If someone had started a fire in the centre of the room it wouldn’t be long before half the staff was dancing around it. Then he started to engage the room.
Making eye contact with as many of us as he could, he raised his arms over his head, making the classic V for victory, and started hopping on the spot. As he did he would look at someone specific and get them to do the same with his eyes. A silent request to join his apparent triumph. Nobody refused. Slow hopping circles, one person after the other joining the victory dance, a winning grin slowly appearing on his face as more of us became a part of his team. Eventually he made it completely across the room, where he stood goading the crowd to greater and greater heights. Building the energy into something we would never have thought possible only a few minutes before.
And then, as suddenly as it began, it ended.
First the lights came back on, and then at almost the same moment the music stopped. The lack of sound after such an excess of volume almost hurt, and our eyes all squinted in unison as the light filled our brains with rationality and civility once again. Meanwhile at the district managers desk, the boxer turned toward the receptionist and in one fluid movement his robe and gloves fell to the floor. At his feet lay a pile of orange silk, the white trim making it look like he had stepped into some giant melted Creamsicle. Wearing freshly ironed business casuals, he looked at her with that same grin and quietly stated, with the utmost of calm and civility;
“Hi. I’m here for a 2:00pm job interview.”