Glimmers of midday warmth couldn’t skim the bite off the November chill as Jack sat in his car on his half hour lunch break. His packed lunch consisted of cheese and pickle bap, tangerine and bag of Cheetos, washed down with water. His first meal of the day. Breakfast of champs.
Entertainment was a Tim Burton interview book, Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 and a view of steel blue railings enclosing the warehouse carpark on a stark industrial estate. He’d started at 7 that morning, and finished at 5, so by 12.30 was at least half way through the day, although he still didn’t feel awake. He shivered, his ’02 Ford Fiesta never really heated up. It had felt like summer the month before, when his view had been a whole lot better.
Jack had been working in Lewes, in an easy office placement, and enjoyed a full hour break, to idle on the riverbank, watching the ducks and dog walkers pass by, sun on his face. Paradise in comparison.
That was the nature of the temping beast, from one week to the next you were never quite sure where you’d end up. The movement, the change of environment, the lack of responsibility were all aspects he’d previously enjoyed, but with ennui he knew he’d been enjoying such drifting for far too long.
Life was change. The supposed permanence of running a business, to being under contract, to not knowing which hourly rate would be next, were but mere blips as minor as each temping role in Jack’s diverse career path. Yet, for all the ups and downs, the route had ended up being circular.
At 45 years old, he was back in a warehouse, just down the road from his first post-college job, past success as brief and meaningless as those failures. Everything was irrelevant, bridges burnt consigned to history with any accolades, irritation of company politics as void as friendships faded away.
So in work, so in life. Love, hate, home, money, elements all so powerfully all-encompassing in the moment, but just as likely to be gone the next. Death could strip a family of their pleasures as easily as birth could grow them, happiness as fleeting as anger, both likely to return as they disappeared each day.
The dream of settlement, to plant a flag down and stake the ground, make a permanent home, but a mirage to stem fears on an endless carousel, as vulgar as it was fine. We’re ants on a rock revolving around a humongous sphere of plasma that will one day explode.
Everything changed, but everything stayed the same. He looked at the clock. Back to work.