He had only been in bed for six hours, since ten o’clock last night. He wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep. The customary early morning disturbance down the hall had effectively broken the spell. Besides he was tormented by a reminiscence of the 9/11 terrorist attacks upon the World Trade Centre in New York City. He couldn’t imagine what would have driven them to do that, to kill themselves and others in a plan which was perfectly premeditated. He added to his misery by imaging what the killers must have thought as they boarded the plane, as they walked up the aisle past the other passengers fretting about their seat adjustments, as they knifed the pilots.
Business was bad at the moment. The combination of the global economic downturn and his own wariness of discount shoppers ensured that neither the telephone lines nor the reception rooms were occupied. He tried to rationalize the dearth of business, but the paranoia was impossible to dispel at least while lying in bed. At last, throwing back the duvet, he got up, determined to do something constructive, something tangible to placate his general sense of inutility and defeat. He had always known that nothing ever just “gets down” unless one does it. His world was a lonely one in that respect. There had never been anyone else to rely upon to do what had to be done. Nor had he ever thought for a moment that anything would be accomplished while lying in bed. As frightening as the prospect of perpetual industry might be, it was even more disabling to think about it in an inert state. Often he had reflected that it was man’s fate to labour, and given his own complete lack of financial planning the condemnation was both apparent and real.
It had become a morning routine, like reading the newspaper, to fire up his laptop computer to consult his email accounts, both home and office. There were two interesting emails today, a welcome one from a possible buyer of his Steinway (part of the plan to overcome man’s fate), the other a whining reply from a tenant about arrangements to show the apartment. The Steinway email raised a conflict with a weekend social engagement but he decided to eclipse it and opt for the business transaction instead. A somewhat curt reply email was sent accordingly. He didn’t even know the people who were throwing the party, a farewell gathering for mutual friends whom he had already said good-bye to only recently.
The other email precipitated all sorts of anxiety because it reflected the bad temper and manners of the current tenant. He knew what he would like to say to the tenant but his better judgement (and maybe even a bit of wisdom of age) prevented him doing so. In any event, he would have to contact the prospective tenant to determine when he wanted to see the place, and that would have to wait several hours before making a morning telephone call.
Then it was the machinery of breakfast and preparing for the day. The juice glasses, lemons, limes and pomegranate were already laid out, along with the assortment of cereal, flax seed, salba, raw nuts and almond milk. Afterwards there was no need to continue dithering upon the computer, not only because the news of the emails had been exhausted and the bank accounts checked, but more especially because it was time to get at it. The agenda was mounting.
Because it was such a splendid day, beaming sunshine and rapidly rising temperatures, he easily convinced himself to ride his bicycle to work once again today. Besides he had already satisfied his urge to drive his new automobile by driving it into the City to have it washed. All that before six o’clock this morning. Now it was time to get some exercise, modest though the effort was.
The jaunt from the house to the office was mostly downhill and probably took no more than ten minutes. Somehow the rise from the River to the main road seemed less demanding than usual. Perhaps it was the adrenalin to attack the monsters on the horizon. As he sailed into a landing at the front of the office building, he glanced about the property to inspect it. Yesterday the maintenance fellow had come to cut the small patches of grass which surrounded the building. He half-noticed a scrap of paper and a wayward stone; he would collect them momentarily.
Once inside the office, after cranking up the computers and turning on the several lamps, lights and computers, he further surveyed the back of the property from the rear office window. There was a piece of white paper on the back lawn adjacent the parking lot. He would get it. Before doing so, however, he decided to polish the brass plagues on the front of the building, the professional sign and the heritage designation. The moderate temperatures lent themselves to the polish, and the promise of three consecutive days of sunshine made the effort worthwhile. The ceremony was at times a performance, and this morning it attracted the attention of a chap coming out of the bakery shop carrying a coffee and something in a small white paper bag. He and the chap chatted together briefly, exchanging comments about the chap’s No. 1 Brooks Brothers tie which was remarkably similar to his Old Boys’ tie from boarding school days. It surfaced by no small coincidence that they were both erstwhile members of the Fraser Highlanders, a note upon which they satisfactorily disengaged.
Then he attacked the collection of debris. It was never beneath him to be seen stooping to pick up shreds of paper, pop cans, rocks and even cigarette butts, especially when in full view of others. The publicity fueled his pertinacity. He was also convinced it sent a message to others, as it probably did. In his mind, keeping the property unsullied was just part of the plan to repel the unremitting wave of mediocrity. The building reflected as much upon his business as did his own appearance, in which lately he had engendered a renewed interest by sporting his great-grandfather’s gold pocket watch and chain. The fashion was a significant step down from the former days of a three-piece suit but it nonetheless captured he thought a palpable level of sophistication for a seasoned rural practitioner. It was also he knew a metaphor for the new mantle of discretion and modesty which had arisen following the consignment of his more costly and ostentatious jewellery. Apart from the pocket watches (three in all from his ancestors) he had kept only a custom-made signet ring engraved with the family escutcheon.
After scouring the property with a resolved air to collect the various bits of paper, bottle caps and other debris, and after having washed his hands as though a ritual purification, it was time to address the matters at hand. He began by retrieving the telephone number of the prospective tenant who had called yesterday. It was by now almost 8:30 a.m. which he guessed was not too early to contact anyone on a weekday. The call was answered and arrangements were made to see the apartment two days hence. He then sent an email to the cantankerous tenant advising him of the arrangements, in a polite though stern manner. Subsequently the tenant materialized to acknowledge receipt of the email. The tenant had all the appearance of contrition for having been so uncooperative about prior attempts to arrange the showing. Now, instead of insisting upon prior notification of the intention, the tenant advised that he was normally absent during the afternoons, and that permission for showing was granted accordingly.
Another day at the office had begun.