The city of Anxiety

I find myself standing at a crossroads in only what I can assume is the middle of a large town or city.  It first glance all the things one would expect to be there are, shops, tall building, plenty of signs and cars and buses parked at the side of the road.  Then the realisation that something is not right suddenly draws on me, I am stood in the middle of what should be a busy road and I am not getting shouted at, horns blown at me or run over for that matter.  Slowly but surely I allow myself to look around all be it with one eye closed.  No cars, buses, lorries or people on cycles, no pedestrians weaving in and out of each other and the nonexistent traffic.  No dogs or cats or birds, no shop keepers, commuters or tourists, nobody, nothing.  All I had to keep me company was the wind and even that was busy playing with a piece of paper.

I decide it is ok to open the other eye to unsure the other one was seeing things correctly and I under the assumption things cannot get any stranger.  Wrong it suddenly becomes twice as strange, not only do I appear to be alone but things are definitely not what they seem.  Everything appears grey and drab with only the merest hint of a colour here and there.  The bus parked up is not bright red but a dull grey, the shop signs are no longer colourful but dull grey, the roads are no longer dull grey they are, uuummm dull grey.  I look down and move one of my feet against the ground, it raises a cloud of dust which then with effort settles back down to being dust leaving a scuff mark.  Everywhere is covered in a thick layer of dust, dull dust for that matter, the pavements, vehicles, buildings, walls and windows, very little to show but dust.

I make my way over to a nearby shop window and brush off the dust from the window and peer inside.  I am met with nothing but dull grey again as the dust seems to have penetrated everywhere but I do make out shelves full of what appear to be shoes.  Great my first discovery is a shoe shop after the dust that is.  I make my way down the street to the next shop, shoes, and the next shoes again.  After 5 shops I give up and make my way back on to the road and back to the crossroads.  I look down each street, they all look the same dull and grey and with the idea of finding another shoe shop I take of down a random street.

After 10 minutes of walking I chanced upon an alleyway and decide to take a look, well after all it is not a street or road and there do not appear to be any shops so it got to be better.  As I started my travels I noticed a light on one side of the alleyway, intrigued I made my way towards it.  The light came from a doorway unlike the others, this doorway had no dust covering it, and in fact the pavement was dust free.  A neat line separated the dusty surroundings from the doorway.  In need of some contact of any sorts after hours of dull dusty surroundings I stepped across the dusty threshold and pushed the door.  To my surprise it opened and I was bathed in even brighter lights coming from every direction.  I took a look behind me out into the dull grey street just to comfort myself that I was not seeing things and turned and let my eyes get use to this new light.

To my surprise I found myself in what appeared to be the lobby central to which was a large desk.  I looked around and everything was clean, shiny and appeared new, not a speck of dust to be seen.  The dusty air of outside replaced with a clean refreshing air conditioned supplied breeze.  I noticed a single figure sat at the desk busy typing away at a terminal seemingly unaware of my presence.  I approached the desk and murmured a polite hello; nothing so I did repeated it a little louder.  They looked up smiled then looked past me and carried on doing so.  I looked around to see what they were looking at.  There on the pristine floor were dusty foot prints, my dusty foot prints.  I turned back to meet a face of disapproval, a face that made me want to fetch a brush and clear up my trail.

“Mr Lawrence we have been expecting you.” said the receptionist.  Now having come to terms with the dull scenes presented earlier this was somewhat harder to take in.  “You have, how?” I stammered.  “Yes we have, here in the city of Anxiety there is very little we don’t know about.”  The city of Anxiety, now in my mind it would be a colourful, brash and in your face place not a boring, dull and featureless one.  I guess it is different for everyone else, I guess?  “What I am I doing here, I did not ask to come here?” I said.   The receptionist smiled thinly and said “We requested your presence sometime ago but we understand you have been reluctant to attend.”  “Why the hell would I want to attend the city of Anxiety, which is the last place I want to be, that and the city of Depression assuming there is one?” I blurted out.  “Quite so sir and there is a city of Depression as you say sir.”

“But this is all clean, shiny and new hardly any cause for anxiety?” I question.  “Sir misunderstands, the city of Anxiety is out there” said the receptionist pointing towards the doorway and the dull dusty outside.  “This is the office of the Ministry of Information Retrieval, we just rent space in the city for the propose of finding out why you say you are anxious.”  I thought so there is a Ministry of Information Retrieval, it does not surprise me there is a Ministry for everything else. “I see to help people recover then?” I said.  Very coolly the receptionist replied “No sir, we make sure that people are not putting it on sir, taking the Mickey, pulling a fast one, sir.”  “O I see and you want to know if I am doing just that then?”  “Yes sir.”

We this is a new, bemused I felt compelled to continue the conversation and asked “So what do you need me to do then?”  “Well sir do you have your IRP45 form?” queried the receptionist. “uuuuummmm, no when do I get that from?”   The thin smile nesting on the receptions face grew thinner.  “You should have been handed one when you entered the city of Anxiety sir everyone gets one it is standard practice.”  “But I just arrived; sorry appeared here, out of nowhere.” I said.  “That’s what they all say sir, one minute a normal day the next here they are!”  “So where do I get this IRP45 form from then?” feeling ever so slightly frustrated that here are forms even in Anxiety city.  “The Ministry of Information Dispersal sir.” came the reply.

The Ministry of Dispersal, for heaven’s sake, here I am in a place I did not ask to be or even like and I find myself at the mercy of a system that appears to govern for itself for itself.  How did I draw such a conclusion so quickly, 20 years working for local Government and 5 years working for central Government?  Ok after gathering my thoughts I readied myself with a question already knowing that I am not going to like or understand the answer but it has to be asked.  So I asked “Where do I find the Ministry of Dispersal in order to get this IRP45 form?”  Not only did the smile get thinner but I got the full blast of a raised eyebrow too, Spock would have been proud of that one.  After a short pause I got the answer I feared, “It will find you sir just exit from the way you came in and they will do the rest.”

So back out into the dusty and dull city of Anxiety I went feeling even more anxious than I was unsure what is going to happen next.  I turned around to find the doors of the Ministry of Information Retrieval shut and covered in a layer of dust.  But I had only just left there; dust even if it was feeling energetic and having a good day could not cover the doors that quickly and especially as the wind was still occupied with the piece of paper.  I set off in a random direction as that seemed to work the last time thinking I do not understand this anxiety business and that I only wish I had some help in doing so.

Well that is all for now, part two of the city of Anxiety next time, assuming the Ministry of Dispersal can find me that it.

Until next time take care.

Si x

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