In your head, a bell rings.
After 25 years you still think that the end of the working day should be signalled by a school bell.
Your watch says it is five twenty nine, and that is all you need to know as your laptop simultaneously turns off and undocks itself. The clock ticks on.
At exactly half past five the laptop is in your bag and you are running for the door.
Excitedly, you shout your goodbyes to everyone, as they try and work out who the blur running past them actually is.
You have somewhere important that you need to be, and you need to be there now.
You really need to get home.
So you swiftly power walk to the tube station and fight your way through the crowds.
You know where you need to be, but so does everyone else.
The heat builds up, but you do what you can. It is really crowded on the platform, but onwards you push until you find a quarter of an inch of space on the train. It doesn’t matter, you convince yourself, you can handle twenty minutes of airless crush on this underground train. Soon you will be home and home is what matters.
The train trundles along and only ever seems to get fuller at each stop, is nobody getting off?
At last you get to the mainline station.
Everyone gets off the train at once, leaving you pressed against the wall. Slowly you shuffle along, squeeze through the exit, and queue for the escalator.
Never mind, you say to yourself re scanning your watch, there is still five minutes before your train. Stay calm, it is still early, there might even be a seat.
Soon you will be home.
You take a couple of breaths as the escalator nears the top and a new batch of air hits your lungs.
You have beaten the system. The tubes may have been an airless furnace, packed in so tightly that you didn’t have to hold on, but you are through that now. You are ready for the last leg of the journey. You are nearly there. You are a winner.
In no time at all you are through the turn styles and walking out into the main concourse of the…
…Somewhat crowded station.
You look up.
The weight of defeat crushes your shoulders into despair as the system wins again. Silently you curse everything.
If only you had paid more attention at school then maybe you wouldn’t be here now. If only you had listened to the teachers.
Instead of listening for the bell.