I wasn't saved by the bell on my nightmare day from hell

16th October 2009 at 01:00
Comment: Stephen Jones

Have you ever had the feeling that the dream you had last night didn't end when you woke up, and somehow you are continuing to live it? If so, you have a window into my worst-ever working day.

It began even before it had properly started. At Waterloo station, I had a choice of two trains. I went to platform 16 and sat myself down on the one scheduled to leave first. Three minutes after departure time, the announcement came. Due to issues beyond their control, the later train, on platform 19, would leave first.

This was the prompt for me and around 100 other commuters to leap from the train and rush to the other platform. We arrived in time to see the doors close and the half-empty train pull away.

As one, we hurtled back towards our original platform, arriving just as that train set off, too - totally empty - along the tracks towards Teddington. Did we imagine it or did the guard really flash us a quick V sign as his door slid shut?

But my class wasn't scheduled to start until mid-morning. I still had time to get there and complete my preparation. Or so I thought.

As soon as I walked into my office, the fire alarm went off. After 15 cold minutes outside, we were called back in. I walked into my office for the second time. Cue the arrival of anxious-looking security staff. The building wasn't safe yet. We had to go out again.

This was in danger of turning into some great cosmic game of Hokey Cokey. We were in, we were out, we were in and on our way back out again. Then, even before we'd actually got out, we were called back in.

That leisurely hour to prepare my class was now more like 20 minutes. I turned on my computer and logged on. Except I didn't. The machine wouldn't let me. I tried another machine. Eureka! I was in. I clicked on to "My Documents". The window opened on to a yawning white space. All my precious files had disappeared.

Panic-stricken, I ran into the corridor and by pure luck bumped into a computer technician. He was on his way to another job but when I promised everything short of having his baby he agreed to "have a quick look".

Three minutes later I was logged on and my documents had miraculously reappeared. But now I had only 10 minutes left. I found the relevant file and hit "Print". Nothing. I tried again. Still nothing. The technician was nowhere to be seen.

Cudgelling my brain, I remembered I still had one remaining paper copy. I dug it out. My class was due to start in five minutes. I sprinted down two floors to the photocopier, slammed my precious copying masters into the feeder and set it for 20 copies. "Out of paper" immediately flashed on to the screen.

I hared back up the two flights of stairs to the staffroom, grabbed a ream of paper and ran back down again. I had two minutes left. A woman was at the machine. She appeared to be copying despite the absence of paper. Then I spotted that she was copying her document all across the masters that I had left behind in the tray.

Had I killed her, I could have claimed justifiable homicide. But I didn't. Instead, I grabbed the nearest thing to hand - my glasses - and threw them across the room.

We watched as they rose into the air and fell to the ground with a clunk. Convinced I had finally gone over the edge, the woman made a run for it. But I hadn't flipped: I had no minutes left, the inside of my shirt resembled a swimming pool and I was about to go - metaphorically speaking - naked into the classroom.

But never mind. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. everything that could happen had happened. All I needed to do now was sit and wait for the men with soothing voices and strong grips to come and take me away.

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