Day 67. 161 pages, 58,131 words.
I headed directly to the elevators, and the second floor where Trainee said the rubbish handling whatever-it-is happened. All the bins and recycling stations and weird old-style chutes ended up there, where dump trucks carried the stuff off once or twice a week. I didn’t know the schedule, but Trainee was so pleased that I was now Cleaning and Maintenance’s headache that she told me a lot about it during the elevator ride back towards the ground floor.
We left Creepy on the landing outside Conference Room 4, possibly planning some sort of daring assault on the upper floors or maybe just thinking about how easily he could sneak past me, navigate the spreading swamp and sink-hole, go home and watch TV. You never could tell. Either way, as long as he was out of my hair I didn’t really mind.
Neither, apparently, did Trainee, who had given up trying to get either of us to leave. As long as I was taking my giant drug mushroom to the waste pickup point and then making myself scarce, and as long as Creepy wasn’t interfering in GDP&N business but rather the loftier L&E business that was outside Trainee’s pay grade, she was happy. I suspected she’d informed ‘security’ of the situation anyway, and I can’t say I blamed her. She even waved as I got off the elevator on the second floor.
I didn’t meet Anton at the waste pickup point, and nor was there a huge festering garbage pile covering the floor, with knee-deep water with things in it, and periodically-closing-in crusher walls, the way I’d half expected. There were a lot of wheely bins, a lot of those janitor carts with bags and mops and squeegees and stuff, and a lot of filing cabinets and shredders and pallets and things of that nature. It was really rather tidy, and not at all what I’d thought a waste pickup point would look like. At the far end of the big space, there were a couple of huge roll-a-doors where, presumably, dump trucks came according to the schedule Trainee had babbled at me and which I had already forced myself to forget because I didn’t want the information occupying important space in my brain.
Anton wasn’t down at the waste pickup point, but Gordon was. Gordon and Sheila.
Classically phlegmatic – you know, I’d always thought that word meant something else? I mean, why does it have the word phlegm in it? I always thought it meant that you coughed and snorted and gurgled a lot of throat-slime all the time. And then I found out, from a fellow by the name of Mumbly Joe who’d had more than his share of run-ins with doctors, that the term phlegmatic really is related to phlegm, at least sort of, and back in the old days when doctors thought the four humours were a thing – you know, yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm – they said that phlegm was linked to apathy. So a phlegmatic person did have lots of phlegm, although the humours type of phlegm wasn’t the same cough-up-a-lung snotty stuff we call phlegm, it was just some sort of mythical secretion. The two things really weren’t related at all, but the two words were, because of …
Where was I? Oh right.
Classically phlegmatic, these two waste pickup overseers were sitting at what would have been a desk, on the upper levels. Down here, it was just a table which was being used for some spare cleaning equipment, a computer monitor, and an Uno deck. Gordon and Sheila were playing Uno.
“Nah,” Gordon said in response to my question. “Anton hasn’t been down yet.”
“Draw three,” Sheila said, laying down a card triumphantly.
“Go fish,” Gordon replied, putting down a card of his own.
“Snap,” Sheila added, and picked up the entire discard pile and started swearing and muttering as she sorted through it. I don’t think either of them knew how to play Uno. But at least they were happy.
“Oh wait,” Gordon said as I turned to leave, “he did come down.”
“Yeah. Left his bin there with the others from the top floors.”
Gordon seemed supremely indifferent to the fact that I, a complete stranger, was apparently planning to rummage through the garbage of the top-secret upper floors of the L&E building. Apparently ‘I’m looking for something Anton picked up’ is some sort of code-phrase like ‘the weather in Cairo is unusually clement in April’, and meant I was not a security hazard at all. I shrugged and crossed to the little row of bins Gordon had pointed at.
As soon as I idly opened the first one in the line, I realised that L&E really should have better garbage security than Gordon and Sheila.
“Damn clement Cairo weather,” I murmured, staring at the contents of the bin.