I walk to work and I walk home again. It takes me about 40 minutes and I enjoy it. I use the time to listen to podcasts, read my Kindle, or just think. It's my time and I use it to prepare myself for the work ahead of me or to recover from it afterwards.
Now though someone else from my office has started walking the same way.
This is not the first colleague to pass me on the way to work. People have been walking my way for some time but we have a mutual agreement to ignore each other. We realise that the walk to work is sacrosanct, not to be cheapened with office gossip or talk of weekend plans. At best we give each other a short curt nod as one of us powerwalks past the other. It is an arrangement with which we are happy.
"Simon!" she shouts at me as I walk past her, "Simon!" For a moment, I consider pretending I don't hear her. I reach for my ipod to turn up the volume, but it's hopeless. She'll keep shouting at me.
I turn to look at her, mouthing curses, then take off my headphones and twist my mouth into a smie!
"Hi, How you going?" I say, switching into extrovert mode, and we begin our small talk peppered 20 minute trek to the office.
Don't get me wrong, it's not that I dislike this person, but I don't do well with small talk at the best times. Small takes effort and thought, working out what to say next. I especially don't do well with small talk when I'm not expecting it. My walk to work is a hallowed moment of non-communication, a few minutes in the day when I know that I won't have to deal with someone else's life, preperation for 7 hours of customer calls. The last thing I want is someone else to talk to.
She carries on oblivious. She is friendly and polite, and shows an interest in me, and talks, and tells me stories, and throws my whole day out of sync.
Finally we arrive. I thank her for walking with me and retreat to the relative quiet of my desk, where I can sit down and read for few blessed minutes before the calls start coming in. Then I log in and the day begins.
Finally as 5 roll around I pack up, tired, slightly stressed, but glad the day is done, ready for my walk home, 40 minutes to unwind, nothing but me, my thoughts, and the sounds of a city that is heading back home.
And then I look up and see my new walking buddy smiling at me.
"Are you walking home tonight?" she asks...
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