By Dawn Knox
The insistent bleep of the alarm cuts through my dreams. With a groan, I wake, knowing that today for the first time in months I’ll be working in the office. No late shower and tracksuit today. No leisurely breakfast either. I grab a piece of toast and after a few mouthfuls of coffee, I’m off.
Well of course it is.
I’m wet by the time I reach the station. So is everyone else. The doggy smell of damp wool fills the carriage, and the windows steam up. Wafting from my left, overpowering perfume and from my right, garlic breath. Masks reassuringly everywhere – except on a few who bare their mouths and nostrils, regardless of others.
Once, when life was more predictable and orderly, people caught the same train, sat in the same seat or stood in the same spot. But when the pandemic disrupted our routines like a kaleidoscope turning, everything shifted. Schedules and behaviour changed. Now, the patterns are fresh and unfamiliar.
London is packed. And wet. No room to put up an umbrella but that’s not stopping most people. Where once, we barged and elbowed through the throng, now, many are hesitant, appearing to have lost the knack of moving swiftly through the crowds to their workplace. Only the unrelenting, unforgiving traffic hasn’t changed.
I arrive at work. Panic! I’ve lost my identity pass. But how? I haven’t used it for months. It’s lying at the bottom of my bag after having been neglected for so long. The electronic gate doesn’t recognise it and the security man scowls. He’s going to be busy today. The queue is already growing.
I take the stairs but am out of breath by the third floor. Must get more exercise.
At the door to my department, I pause. Dread and gloom press down on me. I swallow and shove the swing door open with my shoulder. Inside, fluorescent lighting and the familiar smell of cleaning products and stale coffee.
Slaps on the back and elbow bumps. Smiling faces and cheery greetings. Excitement tingles through me. Perhaps the day isn’t going to be so bad after all.