November 26, 2009

Bad Hair Day

Two floors up, one to go. He tugged the tight collar of his suit; it was barely giving him enough space to breathe. He leant toward the mirror: his purple hair looked faded under the strong artificial light. Shadows had slunk in under his eyes, making his cheeks appear more jowly than he’d anticipated. He ran his hand though his hair, and lightly flicked the gelled tips.

           The lift doors opened; his hair wasn’t quite right, but it would do.

           The board of directions had indicated that the interview room was down the other end of the corridor. He could feel his stomach clenching more defiantly with every step he took. He ran his recent mantra through his mind, which always spoke in the voice of his parents: You’re not quitting your dreams of being a rock star; you’re hiring yourself out to greater opportunities. Giving himself a safety net. Growing up.

           How was it 2009 already? It still felt like the nineties. It should still be the nineties. He used to rave every night; now, he just sat at home, on his own, going mad. His friends had all either settled down or got respectable jobs, and now it was his turn for a life sentence. Society was so ageist: if you’re a child, feel free to do what you want, it’s cute; if you’re a teenager, go off the rails a bit, it’s only natural; if you’re a student, party and do drugs, people have come to expect it; if you’re an adult, bury your soul in a dull job.

           The plaque on the door read: MANDY SUMMERS, HEAD OF I.T. DEPARTMENT. He inhaled; time to exchange techno for technology. Three times, he knocked.

           What was so bad about partying anyway? If you said you were throwing a party, people usually smiled. But change that noun to a verb, as in, ‘I regularly party’, and people are suddenly looking down on you. They’ve forgotten, or never knew, what it feels like: the reverberation in the floors and walls of a pulsing, primal beat; the coloured, strobing lasers that shoot through gushes of grey smoke; the fast-flickering white light that lets you experience slow time; the sense of communal freedom; the freedom of self oblivion; all held together within an untiring drone…

           ‘Come in,’ a voice from inside called.

           He opened the door: a smartly dressed woman sat, perfectly upright, behind a wide desk. She nodded toward a seat opposite her. He took it. Her formal smile was filled with a firm and patronising authority.

           ‘You’re here for the I.T. job?’

           ‘Yes.’

           ‘I’m Mandy Summers. Now…’ She rifled through some pieces of paper. ‘There was a small problem with your application.’

           ‘Oh… really?’

           ‘Yes.’ She withdrew and studied one of the pieces of paper. ‘Here it is. You gave your name as James Jonbert, a.k.a, Kurtz.’ She gazed at him intently.

           ‘Um, well, Kurtz is my band name. I’m the guitarist, and I help write some of the songs. The other name is uh, my real name.’

           ‘Yes, well…’ She took a pen and scored a line through his stage name. ‘Only your real name will be necessary here.’

           He tried to raise a smile. Why was he even doing this? Kerouac, Epicurus, Slash – none of them would. He was basically putting himself forward to be another mindless, faceless slave, in a mindless, faceless company of them.

           ‘Now, we have a strict chain of command here…’

           Great. This was where the interview was really going to drag on…

           ‘… and your superior will be a couple of years younger than you. Are you okay with that?’

           ‘… Yeah. Sure.’

           ‘It would be beneficial for you to remember that your superior is one in a long line of young people to have entered the company, which demonstrates the scale of development it is possible to make here.’

           She paused, her formal smile stamped upon her face.

           ‘Um, yeah… that’s part of what attracted me to the job.’ He smiled to match his interviewer’s.

           ‘Well it is a very sought after job, and we look forward to you joining the company. However, there’s just one more item we have to which we have to attend.’

           He ran his hand through his hair. What now?

           ‘Your hair. It’s not really in keeping with our company’s image. We would ask that you stop dying it, and make it a little more… presentable.’

           ‘Presentable? But I’ll be working in the I.T. department. No-one’s going to see me.’

           ‘Even so… it’s a necessity if you want the job.’

           ‘But…’

He ran his hand through his hair.


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