It is sunny outside but inside the room with the florescent ‘dinky donk dink’ lights is chilly. Training. Doesn’t matter what it is for, the excitement palls in a room like this…and training is always done in rooms like this. I don’t mind the uncomfortable plastic chairs that look as if they could fall apart but are always heavy and difficult to lift (and you know you are going to have to lift them when it comes to those horrifically embarresing exercises that begin with the words ‘Now I want you to get into pairs..’)
I don’t even really mind the formica tables wit the faux wood patterns chipping off, the sharp corners and the hidden gum stuck to the bottom. No, what I hate is the zombie carpet. Nylon tiles of nightmare off-orange, hardwearing chemically enhanced, zombie carpet.
I had no feeling about this kind of carpet until I discovered the true secret behind its escalation back in Lusaka when I was 7 years old. I had joined the Zambian equivilent of Brownies and was, as a hippie, barefoot, thug of a child, having some trouble remembering to clean my fingernails and get my buttons alighned; so it was a foregone conclusion I would be out on my ear as soon as I had convinced my poor parents to cough up the kwacha for the uniform, joining fee, first set of potential badges, annual fee and sash.
It had been a day of training for the ‘Hostess’ badge or some such and we had been forced to lay tables for over two hours. I refused to believe there was directionality for the desert spoon and had been told to sit down cross legged in the corner in disgrace. It was my excitement at being forgiven and allowed to join the group for the last 10 minutes of games that made me careless. Had I been more wary I might have heard the nylon carpet beneth my bottom hissing with anticipation…
‘Duck Duck Goose’ kicked off. For this game all sit in a large circle and one girl runs around the outside patting (well whapping actually) the heads of each girl whilst whispering, ‘duck, duck duck’ . When she came to her intended victim she wacks even harder and shouts ‘GOOSE!’ and both girls leap up and run in opposite directions as fast as possible around the circle and the first to crash back into the space left by girl 2 is the winner. The loser starts over ‘duck duck..GOOSE’
Whap! ‘GOOOOSE!’ Its me!
Slightly dazed by the wack on the head, I leap to my feet treading in the lap of the girl next to me and wheel around elbow in the face of the girl opposite. I care not! Around the circle I fly swift as a speeding small child with long banana feet can speed. Only I misjudge the circle and spin out of control landing and sliding for 10 yards across the…..da da daaaaa….zombie carpet. When I try to stand I find the carpet has burnt the skin off both my knees and they are virtually smoking. I also notice through my blurry teary screams that the carpet has grown more tiles….oh yep. I kid you not. The carpet now extends into the hall.
‘The carpet is growing!’ I wail. No one believes me and I have my Mental Competence badge ripped off my uniform the following week.
And that, my dear friends, is why there is so much off-orange, hard wearing, chemically enhanced nylon carpet: miles and miles and miles of tiles….from conference halls in Beijing to staff rooms in Brussels the stuff continues to grow insidiously underfoot fed by every drop of coffee, juice, sandwich crumb and especially blood and flesh it manages to find. That is also why any room with the stuff in feels slightly menacing and if stuck in said room for any length of time people become agitated and then slightly..well homicidal. If you listen you can hear it hissing… Beware!!!!..