About Me

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Emergency Exits and Excuse-me letters

Having run a quick 4.5 km, I thought I’d soak-in both the sweat and the feeling of being Michael Johnson on marijuana. Hmm.. Make that Ben Johnson on steroids. I sat down on the nearest and if I may add, only chair, in the gym. Hands locked in prayer-mode and beads of water falling off the brow; I stared down my unstrung shoes to the point where the lace tied themselves up. I knew they were scared of my setting off on another 4 km. Well, atleast someone took me seriously. And I thought to myself, if these strings took me seriously, the ones preceded by a capital g couldn’t be further behind.

The sadistic thoughts behind the gym-instructor's face were always prominent, like a streak of sweat left on the leather that binds treadmill handles. It says “come stick” when it actually means “come suck”. So when I heard my name being called out, I didn’t really jump with eagerness at the instructor’s voice – a la jack-in-the-box. My movements mimicked that of an antelope wearing a “my first name is Dinner” jacket and walking into a lion’s den with some ketchup bottles for antlers. Maintaining his curtness and stressing on his 22 inch biceps, the instructor suggested I go for a stroll instead of sitting there doing nothing. And the smirk he let hinted that He could have sleep-walked through 4.5 km on a Sunday morning. The options were easy to analyze – do more crunches if I loiter in the gym or stroll in the parking area if I didn’t. Which one offers greater comfort? Easy choice there! Fellow-followers of the religion of fitness saw a quick blur of 85 kgs leave the doors.

Half a minute later, retaining the antelope gait, I found myself at the watering hole gulping down a cool mug of beer water. The evening was meant to get a little more exciting.

Wasn’t long before I was joined by an old acquaintance – Curiosity. He hadn’t changed much. The shine on his coat was still on and so was that tiny curling of the lip he called a smile. Between the facial expressions of this acquaintance and the sadistic streak on the primary tenant of the gym, I could have said a 100 Hail Mary and thrown in an “Our father in heaven” free. Just to stay clear of trouble. Wasn’t to be. So we spoke, of times gone by and plans for the future. I suggested we take a little stroll and watched Curiosity promptly lead me out. He took a different path out of the building and I followed behind, murmuring “why not”?

The words were written in font 28, bold and italicized to stress on its importance – E M E R G E N C Y E X I T. Couldn’t have sent the message home better I thought. A lot that one can do with red paint nowadays. The acquaintance suggested I step out of that door and take in some of that fresh air. I tried the door. It wouldn’t budge. Must have been awhile since it was opened I thought and pushed harder. And what happened!?? The door came right away to life and shrieked with all the strength a door in this part of the country would shriek with. The door may as well have grown fists of iron and punched me in the gut. Wasn’t long before I saw two of them security folks run towards me, all the while giving the door a very worried look. I sensed small amounts of trouble and looked around for help. Curiosity had comfortably vanished and instead his third cousin, Shit-scared was hiding behind the curtain.

I had to remain calm. With the kind of cool that Al Capone might have waved with at security cameras on robbing the Bank of Scotland, Chicago, I waved a hand at the guards and said “false alarm”. I had developed an accent before security could have said “European”. I started to walk on to the other entrance hoping to find the first flight to the Seychelles. My quota of running for the day was long over and the well-guised attempt at running would best be described as ‘limping’. The security guards took a minute to dress up the wailing door in fresh nappies and caught up with me. I had by then moved to whistling a tune from Kill Bill and was appreciating the brilliant paint peeling off a corner in the lounge. Another 4 security guards, one carrying a fire extinguisher joined the other two. It ain’t a polite world no more. My smile was not returned by any of the guards. In the politest of tones they asked me to take a seat. I was willing to take one in the lounge if they’d let me run away after taking it. Of course, Al Capone wouldn’t have done that – oh no, certainly not on CCTV atleast. So I sat down relaxed. By now I had whistled 3 of the songs I had heard last and was on my way to copy-righting one of my own.

The head of security walked in pretty soon. 5 of the 6 guards pointed their hands to their foreheads. I guess they were hinting to me that the head of security was high on beef but low on thinking. The 6th guard quickly recognized the critical frequency of the nearest pillar and started vibrating in resonance. Nice picture he made. But certainly not a better one than me. I stood up to shake hands with the security head. Took me a second to learn that smiling was banned last week in their department - cost-cutting. I guessed they needed the money to buy a microwave for burning people who set-off emergency exits.

Wasn’t long before he put me through a test, an easy one I’d say. “In atleast 100 words, write a letter to the Access Control Room, Subramanya Arcade 1, IBM Bangalore”. I swear I heard him whisper “(10 marks)”. It was credits like these that took me through Lucknow. And there I was on the convocation day, about a year ago, querying everyone I met about using Communications-I knowledge from term one in corporate life. The answer my doubting friends is “Yes, you do use Communications-I skills in corporate life – in the gyms”. I put my best hand forward (the one that pushed the emergency exit door) and sat down to write the letter. 20 minutes and a total of 18 sighs from all guards later, I had signed off with a flourish. I smiled at the letter and caressed it affectionately. I added the date to the top right-hand corner of the page. I smiled and caressed it once more and handed the baby over to the security head.

As the entourage walked out of the doors, my hand involuntarily tried waving a good-bye at them. The next day, the inbox was populated with a mail from an id I’ve not seen before – access control. Couple of managers copied on the mail, it said security had stressed upon me the importance of not sounding off alarms like that. The damn liars had not mentioned a word about importance the previous night. Atleast, the ‘stressing me’ part of it was true I thought.

Of late I notice from my corner eye that there is a guard aiming his prying eyes in my direction, every time I stroll in the corridors that have the emergency exits. Process improvement measures I think to myself and take my place in the lounge.