Part of the Furniture by John Clark
I started a new job the other day. To be truthful it was really an old job. I had been there eighteen months previously and had taken a short break, like eighteen months’ worth of short break. So here I was, stomping up the stairs in my shiny new steel-capped boots, stomp, stomp, pause, stomp, stomp, pause, past Blondie at Reception and bee-lining to the canteen for the day’s opening round of cappuccinos. I thought that I had made it unobserved, but no, clever Miss Reception popped her blondie head over the desk. ‘Why, good morning mate. Don’t think that you can sneak in past me. I’d know those footsteps anywhere. You know, mate, you’re almost part of the furniture.’
Well, that certainly set the old brain department heavily into thinking mode. ‘Part of the furniture, eh,’ I thought. ‘If so, what part of the furniture does she think I am?’ ‘Maybe I’m a shiny new computer work station. Maybe a utilitarian but useful set of shelves. How about the important table in the Board Room, or even the equally functional one in the canteen? I can’t quite imagine myself as a filing cabinet or even a humble white board, but perhaps that’s what she thinks of me. Insignificant but vaguely useful.’
Caressing my number two cappuccino, I returned to the lair of the blonde one. ‘Tell me, oh wise and gentle lady (I was mindful of the harassment regulations – I couldn’t call her an old biddy or worse), what particular piece of furniture did you have in your elegant head when you referred to me as one of the same? Am I a valuable Chippendale writing desk, a teak chest from exotic Asia, a stylish work station fashioned from the shiniest chrome and stainless steel, or do you think of me merely as a footstool, something that can be trodden on daily and ignominiously discarded when it becomes a bit tatty round the edges?’
The blonde one was quick off the mark with her response – perhaps she’d been thinking about it over the weekend. ‘You, my dear man, would be best embodied as a chest of drawers. I can picture you now. No longer fresh from the factory, a few nasty scars on your polish, a wonky leg, and one of your drawers obstinately sticky. I think it’s a male trait. Nothing works perfectly all the time. Yes I know you promised to have it fixed, but that was eighteen months ago. Have you had it seen to? No, don’t answer that, if it was working properly you’d be sliding it in and out all the time, just to show that you could. It’s a male thing.’
Well, she had me there. My ambitions of being regarded as exotic, valuable or stylish were rapidly quashed. ‘In the eyes of the world I am but a chest of drawers, and a scruffy malfunctioning one to boot,’ I thought morosely. Gone were the fantasies of chrome and stainless steel, the priceless antiquities and the lightly-oiled teak from far-off lands. I will have to face the cold hard facts. I am mass produced in some urban sweat shop, my joints are cheaply stapled, not dovetailed in a tradesman-like fashion, and my varnish is already peeling under the harsh Queensland sun. No wonder that the young and sexy duvet has never given me a second glance, even when all, and I sincerely mean all, of my drawers were smoothly functioning. I can never aspire to consorting with even the lowest coffee table in the executive dining room.
In my new job, I have been told that I am almost part of the furniture. And so I shall remain, unobtrusive, marginally useful at the moment, but prepared to be discarded at a moment’s notice when my metaphorical drawers have finally all jammed shut.