Day 1 – The government shut down today and unfortunately, I was still inside when it happened. My name was Russell and I was a low-level paperwork pusher. You’d figure in 2013, where you can pay for Starbucks with a smart phone, the government wouldn’t really need paperwork. Much less the sheer volume I dealt with on a daily basis. But this journal wasn’t about my job. It was about how I was stuck in a shut-down building. All the exits were locked. The security cameras were running but I was pretty sure the guy hired to watch them was furloughed. My cell service was Government Issue. They obviously saved $70 on a monthly plan. If we canceled 165 billion cell phone plans, we’d have the debt paid-off and maybe I could go home. Supposedly, even a cell phone without a plan could dial emergency services but I think the towers were Government Issue. No service anywhere in the building. The landlines were also down, even the internet. I wondered how close we were on that debt.
Coffee was a tradition at my work. It’s interesting how I didn’t really notice the social aspect to coffee. I felt alone when I sat down with a cup of coffee in an empty break room.
Day 2 – You’d figure somebody would have checked on me. But I was assuming anyone who would come has been furloughed. Luckily enough, the power and the water came from the city or else there would be some smelly trashcans. I’ve calculated 242 mugs of coffee with cream and sweetener (anywhere from white sugar to green stevia). 563 mugs of hot water with cream and sweetener and 712 mugs of just hot water and sweetener before I run out of hot beverages. Though each of those numbers should be reduced by 1/3 because I usually have two mugs in the morning and one in the afternoon. Did I mention I was really good with numbers? Between the leftovers in the break room fridge, a food wheel (AKA Wheel of Death), candy machine, and soda machine, I probably only had a few days of real food, and probably two weeks of sugar disguised as food. Hopefully, the Affordable Care Act would cover my early onset diabetes.
Day 3 – I was bored. At first, this was kind of fun. I was alone and free to explore. I pretty much had access to the first two floors, half of the third, and part of the basement. On every floor, there was the occasional locked door. I spent the second day digging through co-worker’s desks. I found some dirty little secrets. Ted spent money on flowers and gifts. The gifts were delivered to a woman who wasn’t his wife. My boss was skimming money from the government. She had expenses listed for office equipment but no actual office equipment. The cute girl, who worked three cubicles down, had a hunky boyfriend. And to think of all the conversations I wasted. There should be some rule to identify such important information early in the flirting process. And Gerald, he was exactly as boring as you think he is. No secrets.
This was Three Cubicles Down’s desk. I assumed the landscape pictures and calendar ready for 2014 was because she was adventurous, but when I found the picture of her and her boyfriend in the desk drawer, I had to question. Was it escape?
Day 4 – I decided that four days was enough to be excused of a destruction of government property charge. I probably would have been excused much earlier but I always played it on the safe-side. For example, Three Cubicles Down: Boyfriends didn’t deter most guys but it deterred me. I figured if someone cheated to be with me, it would only be a matter of time before they cheated on me with someone else. I’d rather enter into a relationship with a clean slate. Of course, my last relationship didn’t end with a clean slate but there was no reason to jinx it from the beginning. But I digress; I tried to break the windows in the lobby today. They were tough. I smashed everything from a chair to the laser printer that I could barely carry, much less throw. I felt like I was in some sort of bizarre, modern, highland games. The printer shattered and the window held.
Day 5 – I was fairly sure the government wouldn’t be back up anytime soon. So I had decided to ration the food. However, the coffee would last well beyond the food so I actually increased my intake of caffeine. I wondered if drinking more coffee was causing me to be so anxious. I was betting it was being trapped in a building for five fucking days. The windows were sturdy. I tried to bust out all of the exterior ones with no luck. So instead I wrote “trapped” on all the windows hoping somebody would swing by. There was no interior roof access. I was even desperate enough to set fire to my boss’s office. It was strangely satisfying as she was a micromanager. At any rate, I figured it would help her with the embezzlement wrap by destroying the evidence. I thought the flame would have the added bonus of starting the fire suppression system, which should alert the authorities. Instead, it burned and filled the second floor with smoke. Apparently, the fire sprinklers were furloughed. Luckily, the building was solid concrete, glass, and metal. I slammed the door to her office and the lack of oxygen eventually choked out the fire. For now, I was sticking to the ground floor tonight. The smell alone makes me want to throw up.
Day 6 – I missed my parents. They lived out of state and I didn’t really talk to them much. But when I did, they seemed to make my troubles disappear. They got me through my last break up. At least enough to attempt speaking terms with Three Cubicles Down. But I never really talked with my folks otherwise. It wasn’t that I disliked them. I was living my life. I’d go to work. Played some online games, maybe streamed some television shows and repeated the process. I didn’t really have IRL friends-only the occasional party here and there. I invested so much into my last relationship. I didn’t really know what to do when I was on my own again. Once my parents convinced me that the world hadn’t ended, I didn’t call them back for the last few months. I didn’t know why. Things were going well. I wished I called my parents more often. They would come looking for me.
The Wheel of Death is on the left. It was installed because people complained about not having healthy options. The “healthy options” turned out to be fruit doused in corn syrup and some “veggie” snacks with more cheese than carrot.
Day 7 – I was drawing larger lettering for the word “trapped” in the lobby after my morning coffee when I saw the first person who wasn’t a photograph in somebody’s office or on a hard drive. I almost missed him because I thought that I was delusional. But he was real. The parking lot was empty and the trees were just beginning to turn. I took the bus to work the day I was trapped or else they would have seen my scooter and… This was embarrassing… but I was trapped because I nodded off on the toilet. I had an argument with my ex the night before all this happened. So I ate an entire bag of chips and a bottle of hot salsa from New Mexico. They take their heat seriously in New Mexico. I also drank two bottles of cheap wine, the kind with sulfates. Turned out the chips had gluten. I was gluten intolerant. Gluten wouldn’t kill me. It just caused digestive issues. So anyways, it was a trifecta of stomach ick and kept me awake much too late for a work night. Sleep deprivation and scooters were dangerous, especially when most people in my city drove pick-ups. So I played it safe and took the bus. Whoever closed shop on the first day locked me inside. If I only risked the scooter ride… Anyways, the parking lot had a lot of leaves because of the lack of gardening. In the middle of a swirl of leaves, a man stood in the parking lot. He wore a long, black overcoat, a baseball hat, and a pair of sunglasses. He stared expressionless at the building. I screamed and pounded on the glass. I slammed the chair and office equipment but he did not see me. Or least he didn’t change his expression. While I dug through the receptionist’s desk for an object to make some noise, he disappeared. The parking lot was empty except for the leaves dancing in the wind.
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