From the moment I packed the children off to school this morning, I sat down at the computer in the junk room, and raced to help one of my co-workers prepare a demo for a client he will be visiting tomorrow. After clearing the decks with that, I threw my suit back on, shut the laptop and dropped in it the backpack, and set off for the railway station. London again – central London this time, for a product demonstration I hadn’t prepared for at all. I guess I was the token techie – really there in case any awkward questions were asked.
The journey into London would have been entirely uneventful, had the rest of the universe cooperated. You might say acquiring a train ticket was the first hurdle, and I only just cleared it.
You see – we live on the end of a railway line. Not literally of course – I don’t live in some kind of Monty Pythonesque cardboard box alongside the railway sidings, with a puddle to wash my face in. The town we live in has a railway station, and it marks the end of the line that leaves London in our general direction. When I say “railway station”, I’m perhaps exaggerating a bit. It’s more a platform, than a station – a stretch of tarmac alongside the railway track. There is nowhere to buy tickets, so you are at the mercy of a man selling tickets on the train. He generally appears a few moments after the train sets off, and somehow only ever manages to sell three or four tickets before the point when you might change trains to head into central London – which is exactly what happened.
You face a dilemma, watching him ponderously selling tickets to each person – playing over the awkward conversation you’re going to face with railway station staff if you arrive with no ticket. The man directly behind me in the railway carriage was just the sort of person you don’t want to run into when you know your chances of obtaining a ticket are low – his answer to the question “do you need a ticket?” was “I don’t know”. The next five minutes were spent selling him three separate tickets. The rest of the carriage full of passengers started to visibly sweat.
In the end, the guy selling tickets got a move on – aided and abetted by people claiming they had a ticket (they could have been lying – nobody will ever know) – so I avoided the face-off with station staff.
The next hurdle was the London Underground. Usually getting from one place to another in London is pretty straightforward – you look at the map, and figure out which line you need. What the map doesn’t do is include “reality” – where some of the stations are shut, some of the lines are being “upgraded” in various places, and suddenly getting from A to B is a bit like navigating the stair-wells in Hogwarts. I even tried to be clever – short-cutting my journey by skipping a station – but then discovered my clever ruse had been cut off my further un-announced engineering works. Needless to say, I did finally get to the station I needed to, but it had become more of a mental challenge than a mundane journey. Not fun.
I arrived in Oxford Street with half an hour to spare, so dived into the nearest Pret a Manger for something to eat and drink ahead of the meeting. Just after sitting down and taking the first bite of my baguette, my phone started going nuts in my pocket.”Where are you ?””Across the road from the destination – grabbing something to eat””We are standing outside – we must have passed in the street”And so it was that I wolfed down the rest of my baguette, threw the drink bottle in my bag, and found my co-workers standing in a side-road from Oxford Street – suited and booted – ready to enter whichever potential client we might be visiting (I really had no idea).
While queuing up for visitor badges, I started to notice something. All the staff coming and going through reception were female, and they were all gorgeous. Not just pretty – they were unnaturally beautiful, had perfect makeup, and immaculate clothes. It was very weird indeed. One of my co-workers commented about it. We were directed to sit on some plush couches while waiting to be met, and wandered down to the end of the lobby area – which had a 20ft tall print of a striking woman adorning the far wall. I had no idea who it was, but thought it looked pretty cool, so took a photo and posted it to Instagram.
After a few minutes we were met by a guy in an open collared shirt, who took us for a walk around the building, and into the inner sanctum of the building through a back entrance, into a particular lift, and through a number of key-carded doors. We eventually entered a large open office filled with row upon row of pretty women sitting at computers, with paperwork everywhere – people running here, there, and everywhere. Again – 95% of the staff were female, and they were all stunning. It was like a scene from Ugly Betty. No. It WAS Ugly Betty.
Obviously I can’t tell you exactly where I was, or what I was doing there, but I can give you a clue – on the way home I checked my phone and noticed a comment on the Instagram photo of the print in the lobby. It was Beyonce.