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It was a muggy Sunday morning in April and the clocks had just gone back. This meant Winsome Foot, had annoyingly arrived one hour early for work. She instinctively went to go grab a morning cappuccino but on reaching Bar Aroma she remembered her ‘essentials’ card was in debit til next week’s payday and no businesses took cash anymore. Also her bank account and retirement savings had recently been absorbed into the coffers of T.I.T.S., the reshuffled uber Ministry of Treasury, Infrastructure, Transport and Social Services. The irony of this arrangement, her hard-earned savings trickling down across the community, had not gone unnoticed. For under the Team’s new regime, any woman past her use-by-date (of fifty) was barely allowed to participate in public life.

Win shrugged ‘no matter really’, there would be free instant coffee in the tea room at work. She did take a moment to inhale the smell of freshly ground beans, recognising tones of oak and liquorice. Her nose still had it! An optimist at heart, she strode back to the majestic revolving doors of the T.B.T. (Terra Brand Team) tower block with a faux caffeine high. After all she was lucky to have a job and the two-hour walk to work kept the doctor away. She just hoped that the air conditioning might be on today.

A gush of warm air met her as she stepped into the foyer. ‘Does the comfort of weekend casual staff not matter? Or perhaps the whole building might be on a reduced energy saving strategy to reduce all costs and resources for the greater good…in these very difficult times.’

She usually took the stairs but today her feet felt sensitive and rather swollen. She stepped into the lift with some fellow telephone market researchers; H, Siouxie, and Kris. These laydees were her friends and she drew comfort from knowing that they were also of a certain age. Officially known as ‘Hags’, they were likewise not allowed to own property, drive cars, ride on public transport or even belong to the local library.

As it ascends, Win studies their reflections in the shiny, scratched surfaces of the elevator walls. A motley crew of hags indeed! - weathered from life, its disappointments, random wardrobe choices, no means or inclination to do hair and make-up, yet all still unique, interesting and experienced. Surely?

Her fingers fumble to trace the contours of her own mirrored profile. A happy hardworking girl, smart, well presented, successful, desirable, dutiful daughter and loyal sociable friend. If someone had told Win thirty years ago, that in the future she would be living in an abandoned rusty panel van, childless, single and below the poverty line, she would have given a wee giggle. So much promise early on. But too late now to do anything about that. Ding. The lift doors open to Level Seven. Or is it?

On the opposite wall to the lift doors is a poster, which says ‘VERBATIM IS CURRENCY’. Winsome mouths the words out of habit and employee respectful dedication. Taking a couple of steps down the corridor, she begins to wonder if they might get the posh seats today.

As much as the CRUCIAL20 virus has devastated the world and its natural order of things, rattling citizens on every shore to the core, there have been some unforeseen advantages here at T.B.T. Since all the full time staffers are working from home, to stay safe, Win, H, Kris and Siouxie sometimes get to use the fancy executive office suites on the top floor. Harbour views. Instead of squishing into the gloomy cubicles of the low-ceilinged call-centre area.

And it so happens that this Sunday is one of those expansive vista days.

© Harriet McKern 2021

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