Author : Mark Renney

Despite the confines, we are encouraged to want things. Although we can only achieve so much, it is instilled into us, from birth, how important it is to be successful. Successful means a house and the ability to fill it with all that we need plus a little more; big, bright, shining things. A flat-screen TV, surround sound a car in the garage, something sleek and stylish. Despite everything, despite the constraints and the cut-off point, here in the mid-levels there is still a lot of choice.

We are middle-management material and work only for particular corporations and particular government departments rising only so far in the ranks. I think it is harder for us here in the mid-levels because we are so close and many of us could easily make that little leap upwards if allowed.

I often stay on at the office after my colleagues have left for the day. I don’t use the computer nor my own devices. I don’t want my presence recorded. I am not breaking any rules but am aware that my behaviour would be considered a little odd.

The lighting drops to an energy-saving level and in the half-light I sit with a newspaper trying to read. But mostly I listen to the noise coming from above where they remain hard at work. At regular intervals, I fetch a drink from the vending machine. Carrying the little plastic cup, I wander as I sip from it. The coffee is always too hot and bitter. I listen to their laughter and I try to pick out individual voices, one-sided telephone conversations. I can’t make out the words but it all sounds so focused and urgent.

I hear those that leave out in the lobby and I flinch but they don’t look in through the glass doors. They don’t see me. They are far too pre-occupied, eager to get home, or perhaps they are heading for a restaurant or bar. Maybe their day’s work isn’t over and they still have much to debate and decide.

Eventually, I have to think about leaving in order to catch the last train. It is still a hive of activity up there and this annoys me. I want to outlast them, be here when they aren’t. I consider booking a hotel in the city or sleeping here in the office. A clean shirt, a different tie, and who, come the morning, would be any the wiser. But I don’t bring in that shirt and tie. After all, it’s only one floor and what would a lull, in the early hours of the morning, prove?

Many in the mid-levels decide not to enter these tall buildings. Despite the fact that they have garnered the necessary experience, ticking the right boxes, they choose to keep working for the smaller companies, those that operate out of the storefront offices both here and in the suburbs. They don’t have the security, the retirement plans, extra holidays, and bonuses but if they work hard they can earn almost as much out there. They call it the ’Real World’ and this is frowned upon by those above but ultimately they haven’t any choice but to accept it.

I made that leap from there to here as soon as I could. And that is all I have managed to do. I step into the lobby, push through the doors, and make my way to my desk in the far corner. I haven’t ever been required elsewhere, I haven’t even as much as stood on the stairs.