Beep. Beep. Beep. Andy -- Newtown -- 3 minutes
He has royally fu#!ed it. I could spot it a mile off. There was my next passenger, leaning against a telegraph pole at 8:00am on a Monday morning, swaying like one of those balloon men advertising used cars.
Dishevelled doesn’t do him justice. Rip Van Winkle’s clothing had fewer creases than the BBQ sauce-stained, twisted mess of fabric my next passenger, Andy, was trying to pass off as a collared shirt. And I bet that shirt started off on Friday or Saturday night with so much promise. It was chosen among all his other shirts as the garment to bring in the weekend. Freshly washed and ironed; as crisp as the first gulp of beer he had patiently waited all week for. And now look at it. Used and abused, much like Andy’s liver, brain cells and spirit on this dreary morning in March.
I beeped my horn on approach but it did not stir the walking dead. Young Andy had mastered the art of sleep-standing. A good samaritan walking by, a man in his thirties wearing a tailored suit and carrying a black-leather briefcase, attempted to rouse Andy from his slumber. After three failed attempts of waking him by yelling, the stranger took to shaking Andy by his shoulders until his head slowly lifted from its resting place on his chest and his eyes registered some level of consciousness. The businessman gave me a wry smile and a shake of the head before continuing his day.
Andy staggered toward my car and sat down beside me. That smell. What was it? It was a combination of body odour, stale beer, cigarettes and old kebab meat. I was sure Andy was about to add vomit to the mix when he lurched forward suddenly. He slowly reached into his back pocket and retrieved his wallet, a lighter and possibly the flattest packet of cigarettes I’d ever seen. Andy placed the items on his lap and put his face in his hands. I could feel the intensity of his headache as he scrunched his eyes shut in agony. The desperate man looked over at me and for the first time I saw his face up-close. I gasped in horror. I had never seen such a dehydrated person my entire life. The whites of his eyes were stained an off-coloured yellow. They were so dry I feared they would crack and splinter if he blinked too hard or too frequently. His mouth resembled an old bowl of porridge left in the sink all day. His lips caked with flakes and chunks of dead skin. His teeth coated in a clear, gooey film; a day’s worth of filth at least. I couldn’t help but wince as I looked over at my passenger. You poor, poor man.
“Andy, lets get you home mate,” I said as I pulled back out onto Kings St. and headed toward Leichhardt. He didn’t respond, just sat back in the chair and closed his eyes.
We were about half-way down Parramatta Rd when Andy sat upright and attempted to speak. I could only just make out what he was saying.
“Servo……servo!” he pleaded, pointing at a service station on our left. I pulled over and watched Andy disappear inside, only to return with two enormous, blue, Maximus sports drinks. He sculled the entire first bottle before we had left the carpark. The second bottle he nursed like Gollum with his ring.
When I reached the turnoff to Norton St. Andy sat up a little straighter and said, this time with more strength in his voice, “You reckon you could get me to work in the city by 8:30am? Just need to get changed first at home.”
“Haha what? Are you really going to work today?” I replied incredulously.
“I’ve got to. My boss told me if I’m late or miss one more Monday I’m fired. What’s the time now?”
I glanced over at my clock and the time was ten past eight.
“Mate, I doubt we will make it into the city by 8:30 but we can definitely give it a go,” I said, knowing full well we had zero chance of meeting the deadline.
I pulled up out the front of Andy’s place in Marion St and watched him try and jog to his front door. He reached into his jeans pocket for his keys, then tried the other pocket, then his back pocket, before throwing his hands up in the air and screaming, “Fuckkkkkkkkkk!” Without a moment’s hesitation Andy gingerly moved to the front window of the house and proceeded to take off the fly screen. Success! The window was unlocked. I watched on as Andy leant on the windows ledge with his chest and awkwardly wiggled his way through.
He emerged from the house at 8:22am almost a new man. Somehow he had managed to have a shower and get changed in under ten minutes.
“Alright, lets go! I reckon we could get there by 8:40. I will sneak into the office and hopefully my boss doesn’t notice,” said Andy, hurriedly sitting down beside me and strapping on his seatbelt. The awful odour of Andy half an hour ago was now replaced with deodorant, cologne and coconut body-wash but still the faintest hint of alcohol.
As we reached the perpetually congested hell of Parramatta Road Andy started to open up to me about his big weekend.
“I was planning on having a weekend off the beers,” he said, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands. “I even drove to The Union Hotel in Newtown to watch the footy instead of catching a cab. I was definitely, 100% not going to drink. Then, I had a massive win on the punt when Parramatta beat the Bulldogs. It was the last leg of my multi and I won $1500 from a $10 bet. The rest is history. I haven’t been home or to sleep since Friday. I reckon I’ve had a drink at every bar and pub in King St.”
“I honestly don’t know how you’re going to work mate. I would be in bed from now until next Friday if I were you,” I replied, trying my best to spot a gap in the traffic.
“Yeah, I know. I fucken hate this job as well but Í’ve got bills to pay. It’s going to be a tough Monday, that’s for sure.”
I looked up at my clock and watched the numbers roll from 8:29 to 8:30. The very second the time reached 8:30 Andy’s phone started to ring.
“You’re fucking kidding me. What’s the time?” said Andy in a panic.
“Only just gone 8:30 mate.”
“Fuck! I gotta take this.”
Andy answered his phone and I could just make out the voice of a very angry sounding man on the other end:
“Where are you? You coming in today?” said the voice.
“Jamie, I’m just around the corner. I will be there in five minutes.”
“Not good enough. What did I say would happen if you were late again?”
“Jamie. I’m coming in today. I’m seriously five minutes away.”
I could tell by Andy’s voice he was about to lose it with his manager. He was clenching his left hand into a fist so tightly I could see the whites of his knuckles.
“Andy…. You know what?” said Andy’s manager. “I’m tired of wanting this for you more than you want it yourself.”
I’m not sure why this fairly innocuous comment set Andy off like it did, but he truly exploded:
“Are you serious Jamie? What does that even mean? So, you want to make two-hundred cold calls every week flogging a fucking product no-one wants to buy? Do you really want to be told to have your breakfast off your desk at 8:30 every morning because it’s core selling time? Do you really want to be threatened with your job every single time you forget to enter a phone call or a meeting into fucking Salesforce? Do you want to be promised an overseas trip if you hit target only to have it taken off you when you have one bad month? Is that what you mean champ? Is that what you want?”
There was silence on the other end of the line. I could hear Andy breathing heavily. He took another deep breath and said,
“You know what. You can stick your rubbish job up your arse mate. I quit!”
On those words I turned off onto Glebe Point Road and started driving back towards Andy’s house.
He didn’t say a word until we reached his street, where he looked over at me and finally said:
“I think that’s why I go out every weekend and write myself off. I spend forty hours a week in a job I hate so when it comes to Friday night I just want to forget about it all. I can’t remember the last weekend I spent sober actually doing something good. I just go out and punish myself and spend all the money I earned in a job I can’t stand. Anyway, fuck today. I’m ordering a pizza and going to bed to watch Netflix. Thanks for the ride.”
With that, Andy walked back up his driveway, clambered through his window and disappeared for a day a rest.
Andy, mate, I’ve been there many times before.
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