NYC Midnight #ssc2022
Genre: Political Satire
Subject: A collaboration
Character: A cheapskate
I quietly turn my back on them. It’s going to be another one of those days.
Spit Polish is already inflated with too many words. Old Op Shop, in stained, brown cardigan, doing the usual snorts in the usual way, strides around the room, chest puffed out.
Shiny Shoes smells like they’ve spent another night sleeping in the pub down the hill. Fortunately, they seem to recognise their own whiff (far too much cologne). Unfortunately, they choose to sink into my favourite old armchair over in the corner. (Leather does have a way of holding all sorts of memories).
A few others, deemed less important by those who feel themselves more important, are seated around the edge. Shoulders slouched on uncomfortable chairs, notebooks in hand. Their air is perceived indifference, waiting for the ‘wise’ words of the important people who make the important decisions.
We all know this is horseshit.
The ones with the real power never show themselves, of course. In fact, I have never even heard them, let alone seen them. I know they exist though. It seems their tyranny arrives via funny little grey people, who pop in every now and again. Or sometimes, something obscure comes through on the big screen.
More often than not their influence is completely hidden behind other actions that motivate the masses to do things. Sometimes against their will it seems. But as we all know, fear has a funny way of getting us to do stuff that we may not otherwise.
This I know for sure.
The one who always wears the funny hats, Shuffles I like to call them, has draped a knee over the corner of the big central table, casually flicking the end of a ballpoint.
Completely distasteful. Even I know that table holds importance. Just the smell of it invokes history – I don’t think they even make things out of that wood anymore.
Then there are the two at the other end of the table – Ice Drop and Lavender. They have their own agenda, making eyes at each other as they do, thinking they are just a little bit smarter than the rest. And to be fair, there is some truth in this. Shame they’re so full of themselves.
Woah, what’s that?
I spin round. Someone new in the room! Oh wow, now that’s class! I haven’t seen anyone from that neck of the woods in here for some time. All smiles and radiant hope. I like her instantly. Trustworthy. I pull myself up, there may be hope in this day after all.
The rest of the room pretend not to notice her. Although this is the reason they are here, of course. Actually, let’s be honest. They don’t like to make a fuss when new people arrive. Seem to deem it unnecessary, inappropriate or similar. The reality is, they do like to remind themselves of their own self inflated importance.
Hopeful, I call her.
She stands centre stage for a moment, casting her eye around the grandness. Seems she’s rather impressed - by the room that is. She even goes over and runs her hand gently over the back of the big chair at the big desk, a touch of, could that be nostalgia, at the corner of her mouth?
It's about this time that Spit Polish decides to acknowledge her. Being the most senior person in the room, the succession of words ceases abruptly. Everyone, including Shiny Shoes, comes to attention.
This always makes me groan a bit, although, I’m not really in a place to pass judgement. This lot – always eager for favours. It’s like, who sits best in class gets to lead the rest to the lunchroom.
Spit Polish goes through the usual blah, blah welcome speech. And that’s what it is, for sure. A fatuous effort to make Hopeful feel like one of the team, albeit it fleetingly.
You know, other important stuff to attend too, so make it quick eh?
Oh, the shame! I roll my eyes and flop down.
Hopeful brings up the big screen. She’s prepared and enthusiastic. I really do like her. Other than Spit Polish and Old Op Shop, who really do need to be seen to be engaged, the others show their usual disinterest, shuffling through their phones or gazing out the window.
It’s all a bit of a ruse of course.
The reality is these things generally go straight over Shuffles’ head. Although capable, Shiny Shoes doesn’t usually focus long enough to comprehend. Too absorbed in how best to scratch the next targets back.
So many colourful pictures with very few words flick across the big screen. Seems there is some sort of Potential Calamity heading our way! It appears it’s really going to affect the masses, and not in a good way, if it all unfolds. Hopeful is talking with great conviction, obviously keenly committed to seeing her proposal materialise.
I also sense a little trepidation.
I’ve got to give her credit though. I think she’s acutely aware convincing them is going to take some doing. I can see she’s up for it though. Turns out my day is definitely not going to be so dull after all. I get myself more comfortable.
I see Ice Drop and Lavender have ceased peeking at each other over the tops of their phones and seem to have taken a genuine interest in Hopeful’s cause.
Wonders never cease.
They too can sense this has merit. Although, the devil in me would suggest they can smell the opportunity. You know, win them a few more fans.
Ironically, the last time they tried that stunt it all backfired. They both ended up with their tails between their legs, on the end of one of Spit Polish’s sermons about the importance of public integrity.
And of course, making the party look good.
Hopeful carries heartily on. She’s really on a roll. And then, yep, right on cue old Op Shop cuts in. Huffing and puffing, noise is made around the assumed cost and the enormous waste of time such an idea will create.
Hopeful must hold some sort of importance, as Spit Polish signals Op Shop to quieten down with the calculated flick of a stern eyebrow. Op Shop is subdued for the moment.
Hopeful continues to do her best to capture her audience. She keeps referring to a Collaboration. Bravely, it appears she wants the room to collaborate with the masses.
Not a word I’ve heard uttered in here for a while, although I do suppose it is the very reason they all come together. By the looks on a few faces, it suggests it’s a completely foreign concept.
I know she knows this is not the norm. I mean, actually listening to the Great Unwashed and then actually working alongside them – like equals!? It just goes against the grain. Don’t get me wrong. They like to throw out the odd bit of encouragement – give the dog a bone right? A couple of tax breaks here, build a bridge there, couple more dollars over there.
It’s how it rolls.
I can see Old Op Shop scratching an ear, always a sign of agitation. With a few minutes to spare, Hopeful concludes with some excellent reasoning as to why this is imperative. She then looks expectantly, first at Spit Polish and then Op Shop, before scanning the room.
Shiny Shoes is leaning forward. Whether in an act to appear interested or just to release a bit of hot air, I’m unsure (hope no pickled onions were consumed last night). Waves a hand with a grunt and sits back to stare out the window.
Never get much out of that one. Maybe a ‘very good dear.’ Oh, and should the person be attractive (with a particularly low neckline) a barely polite comment along the lines of how well they’ve presented themselves. This is offered in this moment.
Spit Polish knows where the buck stops, but Old Op Shop will have a lot to say on this one. The others on the side-line perk up. Here’s one who might just get the nod.
Of the duo up next, Lavender speaks first, as is the norm. The ole good cop, bad cop routine.
They’re careful not to disclose their version of the truth. Rather, Lavender pokes around the edges. First praising and then focusing in on the merits. Clarifying once again the why and checking the facts versus assumptions.
Ice Drop gets the signal and plays the part by picking holes in just about everything before giving a wee nod over to Spit Polish, indicating it’s done. Of course, no acknowledgement to Hopeful directly. Likes to put people ill at ease.
Spit Polish takes a good look at Hopeful, sensing that this woman is indeed the real McCoy. Fresh, smart, inspired. Reminds Spit of the days when first becoming important in the public eye.
Truthfulness and desire to see a better tomorrow had led to the convincing win. Now, all that is a distant memory as the pressures of keeping the masses (quietly) under control has overtaken the dream to bring about a more hopeful future.
And now before them stands that very opportunity. Ready. Willing. Able.
Spit Polish surprises me for a very small moment and acknowledges Hopeful with a few words of encouragement. This of course irritates Op Shop no end. Protocol demands who should speak next.
Spit Polish allows a wee sigh to slip out. Could it be regret? Looking over at Old Op Shop the hand is waved to open the floor.
Op Shop jumps up. The old, scuffed slip-ons hiding a pair of holey socks. Never missing an opportunity to demonstrate miserly ways, the old cheapskate starts with a very poor summary of the concept presented. Even Shiny Shoes raises eyebrows with a look of confusion but says nothing.
Old Op Shop argues that a collaboration will soak up far too much time, which we don’t have with this Calamity knocking at the front door.
And here was I thinking it was a Potential Calamity.
Trying to get the opinions of those who don’t know what they’re talking about is a complete waste of time and taxpayers’ money!
Unbelievably, even for Old Op Shop, the suggestion is then made that the notion of collaborating with the masses is tantamount to cooperating with the enemy.
In the act of being transparent, important to note that I’m paraphrasing here. The word ‘enemy’ is my word not theirs (although it infers the same).
Hopeful, forever hopeful, listens to the groundless arguments with gentle eyes and a saddening heart. She straightens her shoulders when Op Shop finishes and looks directly at Spit Polish, who feigns something in an eye and rubs it.
I sense her wisdom. She is wise enough to know not to speak, as ultimately her words will hold no weight should the master not give the nod.
We’re all, well almost, looking with some anticipation at Spit Polish. More than one in the room is hopeful, most indifferent and another now asleep.
I know Spit is deeply aware of the enormity of the decision. Having watched the mannerisms of this individual for some time now, I can tell by the way they have pinched thumb and middle finger together, they are conflicted.
I feel somewhat pleased by this.
I also sense Spit Polish might have come to a different decision a few years ago. So bloody tired. Now set in comfortable ways, empowered by those that will be silenced yet again, Spit Polish resigns with an inaudible sigh and gives a quick and efficient ‘sorry, not today.’
Unsurprisingly, a bone is offered, it’s part of the ploy.
The request is made to modify the proposal and present it to a focus group. Said group to comprise mainly of present members, of course.
I see Old Op Shop’s dowdy face twist into a smile of smug satisfaction. The rest already starting to ready themselves for the next recipient of bad news.
Hopeful, on the cusp of expressing her obvious exasperation, takes a deep breath and has the fortitude to gracefully nod. She pushes her card (again) over to one of the others.
I am, however, incensed and get up to tell them so.
With my legs spread firmly on the worn wooden floor, I bark out my displeasure.
How can they not see that her argument is sound?
This is a bloody good, appropriate approach!
And guess what? Not only might you stop the Calamity but win some brownie points in the process. Elections coming up soon? I mean really, think about it!
They all stop in their tracks, as they do when I robustly voice my opinion. The usual quizzical enquiry hangs on their foreheads before they turn back to their deeds of the day.
Hopeful looks at me with a mix of gratitude and compassion in her eyes.
She gets it. She knows I know.
Even if I am just the dog.