Mondale - Training
AT 5:55am every work day the train left its terminal at Beachport and began its first of many commutes to the city. It arrived in the CBD at 6:34am, looped the city circle once and then followed the tracks back to the terminal. It then repeated the process with only a couple of breaks until the end of the day.
Besides a forgettable period each evening, the train spent its entire life travelling from its home to the city, and then back again.
‘My life is a lot like this train’s...’ thought Dale. It was 8:38am and a bulky school bag in front of him was wedging him further into the armpit of a large Italian man, who stood gripping one of the handholds bolted into the roof of the carriage’s standing section. In Dale’s backpack was a Malcom Gladwell compendium that every morning he planned to read before losing the seat lottery. With only tired feet and no personal space as distractions Dale was forced to spend his commute philosophising with only his immediate context as stimulus.
‘My youth could be compared to speeding past a crowded platform...’ He mused.
After the next stop - where a litter of well-dressed children evacuated towards the closest private school – Dale was at least able to turn his head to view the filled rows of seats in the carriage main. He surveyed their capacity enviously. Every occupant sat at ease. Some watched TV shows on their tablets and phones. Several snoozed, their heads propped against headrests or swinging free to the gentle rocking of the train. Among the sea of faces he saw Karen, one of his many managers. Her book floated free on her lap and her dozing head was perched against the window. Dale initially felt jealous, but after the train arrived at the city and Karen still sat motionless while everyone disembarked he felt at least a little mirthful.
‘Back to the ocean,’ he muttered. ‘That’s where our bodies seem to instinctively take us.’
A small girl stood next to her mother, staring at him. Dale turned quickly and headed to the exit.
The morning lift to Dale’s level was as packed, but shorter in duration than the train ride. The crowd still pushed him into other people’s comfort zones and to his dismay he found himself being pressed closer to the back wall and into the shoulder of his new manager Karl. It took considerable core strength for Dale to keep his cheek from landing against Karl’s thick chest where his bold, red tie loomed like a forbidden pillow.
‘Good weekend? Good.’ said Karl once he’d recognised Dale as one of his subordinates. ‘Listen, Dale. I got an email some time last week saying you still haven’t completed this year’s ethics training. You need to do that in your first week. Please do it ASAP. Can you do that for me? Thanks.’
Karl returned to his blackberry as the lift reached their floor and Dale hustled to follow Karl’s strides towards the cubicles. By matching his pace Dale didn’t have to worry that Karl seemed to intentionally not hold the security door open for him as they entered.
When Joe arrived at the desk next to Dale he found his HR designated buddy buried deep in the Enterprise Portal website searching for his HR designated training courses.
‘Let me help you with that,’ he smiled. ‘Check under this unrelated sub-heading and then right click on this obscured part of that image map.’
‘Thanks.’ Begrudged Dale, grateful for the assistance but not the outcome.
‘No worries buddy!’
‘You seem cheery.’ Dale noted.
‘That’s because it’s Monday. I start every week by catching the later train in. It means I get extra sleep, plus there’s always a seat then. Looks like your course has loaded.’
Dale’s monitor showed a short video, and then presented him slide one of 93.
‘Ninety-three pages?’ Dale asked Joe, in case he’d pointed him towards some sadistic variation of the real ethics training.
‘That’s how much ethics there is to know, I guess,’ said Joe. ‘Whatever you do don’t fail the test at the end or you have to sit through it all again.’
Two hours into the morning Dale was a quarter of the way through earning himself a picture of a certificate that he could print with his name imposed on it. Karl appeared over the top of the divider.
‘Dale. Have you passed the ethics training yet? I need you to have that done before the planning session this morning.’
‘Not yet,’ said Dale. ‘And wasn’t that supposed to start an hour ago?’
‘We’re still waiting for Karen to arrive’ admitted Karl.
‘Oh, I saw her asleep on the train this morning’ said Joe. ‘She was drooling on herself a little. Maybe she missed the station?’
Karl shook his head in disgust.
‘Alright Dale, I need you in the meeting room in ten minutes to run this session. Can you finish the training by then.’
‘I can’t skim this whole thing in ten minutes and pass the exam at the end. It doesn’t let you save.’
‘Can you not read it and then cheat to pass the test?’ asked Karl. ‘Joe, wasn’t there some thing where you could view source and it told you the answers.’
‘You want me to cheat on the ethics test?' said Dale. 'I don’t... Wait. Karl, is this all part of the ethics test? Are you testing me right now? Is Karen going to walk out from behind a corner?’ Dale looked around for corners. Karl stared at Dale. Joe looked out the window.
‘Listen, Dale,’ started Karl. ‘There are leaders and followers in life. Do you want to make the rules, or follow them? If are going to succeed in this world it’s time to start cutting out the bullshit.’
The speech and the faint whiff of vodka on Karl’s breath convinced Dale that this wasn’t part of any ethics test.
The rest of the day left only blurry imprints in Dale’s memory. There was a training session, Karl wielded double entendre masterfully to enable himself to yell at someone in the conference room and someone on the phone simultaneously for completely unrelated problems. There was a lunch that might have been last week and a long period without food that sucked the colour from the afternoon. Dale stood on the platform, exhausted and waiting for the train to take him home. It arrived and he turned his body sideways to squeeze into the crowd. When the train reached his stop Dale joined a throng of relieved commuters who spread wide across the platform once free of the carriage, and then just as abruptly formed into a single file queue as the train slowly moving again, blocking their passage from the platform to the exit. Once the train had gone a slow shuffle commenced down the split-level ramps that led to the pedestrian crossing. While he waited for the crowd to gain momentum Dale caught movement from behind him and turned his head to watch two youths jump from the edge of the platform and onto the crossing, risking the three foot drop to bypass the slow moving impasse. Dale watched them walk carelessly across the car park as he shuffled past the tiny fence.
‘I should be a winner,’ thought Dale. ‘I should break the rules, jump the fence and beat the queue to leave the car-park.’
That wasn’t what he did, though. Instead he waited patiently, finally reaching the other side of the car park and then eventually joining the next slow moving line in his car, waiting to turn onto the suburban streets.
‘My life is a lot like my life.’ Thought Dale.
Meanwhile, at another station closer to the sea, a similar blob of slow moving people blocked another platform’s egress. From behind them all Karl took two quick steps and leaped the guard rail to the walkway below. His thick, red tie swung over his shoulder as he flew, and then fell back into place perfectly as he landed and then strode towards the exit.