I pull into the parking garage at the corner of Mason and Jefferson. Signs are plastered all over the yellow ticketing kiosks saying the parking rates are increasing effective next week. I tap a button in the center of the kiosk; it spits out a ticket and the yellow stop bar in front of me rises. I take the ticket and drive up the ramp.
There’s not a spot open in this concrete mess until I reach the fourth level. All the spaces on the first three levels are full, even the handicap spaces. I don’t reach this one open spot until I’m almost at the fifth level. They’re definitely not having any problems pack this place in, and the signs didn’t say anything about renovations. I’ll just assume this is a case of greedy management.
The guy who parked next to this spot parked like a sausage. When I finally get into the spot with no damage to my car, no easy feat, I consider keying the Mercedes that parked like an idiot. Mercedes, huh? No wonder they don’t feel bad about jacking the prices. I’ll leave the Mercedes alone. I get out of my car very carefully, and reach back in to grab my audiobook of Stephen King’s It.
I take the elevator down to the first floor and exit the building onto Jefferson Street. As I cross Mason I see a fat dirty gray seagull standing next to the Ward’s House of Prime party shuttle in a parking lot outside Bank Mutual. He ruffles his feathers at me. I don’t think he can fly. “Don’t worry, I’m not flying anywhere either,” I tell him. He waddles away. I take a left on Wisconsin Ave and shortly I’m in the arms of work.
I walk through the glass turnstile into the modest lobby. A framed aerial photograph of downtown Milwaukee and a contemporary painting hang on the dark blue wall opposite the lobby entrance on either side of the elevators. An elderly Native American man in a blue suit sits behind a desk framed by two rubber tree plants next to the elevators. His face reminds me of the Indian chief with the tear in those anti-littering commercials from the ‘70’s. I pull a security badge out of my pocket and flash it at him. He nods. I hit the button on the elevator and watch for the overhead notification light to flash on.
“You listen to audiobooks?” the security guard asks, pointing to my copy of It.
“Yeah,” I say, “with school in, I don’t really get a chance to read what I want, so I listen when I can.”
“I listen to books too,” he says.
“Oh cool, what are you listening to now?” I ask, trying to be polite.
He holds up a copy of Awaken the Giant Within. I think my polite smile is faltering a little. “Just some Tony Robbins,” he says. The response is so nonchalant that I get the impression he thinks everyone listens to Tony Robbins, or at least should. This elevator is taking forever.
“Oh nice,” I say. I try to keep up the pretense, but I think my facade is falling. “I’m listening to Stephen King’s It.”
“How do you like It so far?” There’s a big grin on his face. He found the funniest joke in the universe.
“Just starting It today,” I say. Mercifully, the elevator doors open. I hadn’t been watching the light.
“Well, let me know how It goes,” he says. He looks fit to burst.
“Will do,” I say as I enter the elevator. I hit the button for the second floor and the “Close Doors” button.
There’s a reason I try to avoid talking to people at work. During the semester I’m here three days a week and I have to see these people when I’m here. In small doses they’re perfectly pleasant people. I don’t need them dispelling my fantasy image of them by giving them more of my time in this building. I used to think that security guard was a decent fellow. Now I can’t unlive that horrid experience.
I step out of the elevator on the second floor into a sea of cubicles. Quickly, I make my way to my cubicle before more human contact makes me too ill to work the rest of the day. I already don’t feel like staying here, but if I left early I’d still have to pay full price at the parking garage.
I sit down in the seat at my desk and turn my computer on. There’s a multicolored mini-slinky next to the monitor on my desk; I pick it up and juggle it a little. It’s like my totem. I put the slinky down and I reach into a drawer and pull out a set of ear buds and plug them into the computer’s headphone jack. I open the CD tray and pop in the first disc of It.