Business As Usual
(© Jack Bantry)
Whenever the weathers good I sit here on this
bench at dinnertime and eat my packed lunch. Today itís a beef sarnie, a packet
of salt and vinegar crisps, strawberry yoghurt, and to wash it all down, a can
of coke. I like to get out as much as I possibly can to take in some fresh air.
As I take a bite out of my fresh sandwich a
shiny new black Volvo estate pulls into the forecourt of the petrol station
across the road and stops next to one off the green unleaded pumps. A middle
aged man gets out and walks to the rear of the car. Partially obstructed from
view, he opens the petrol cap, inserts the nozzle and begins to fill up with
premium unleaded petrol.
Sat inside the car are the manís family,
probably heading into town to do some shopping, his wife is sat in the
passenger seat and two kids are fighting in the back.
I have a mouthful of coke and take another bite
out of my sandwich.
Two old ladies stumble past with their bulging
shopping trolleys, talking about how discourteous young people are nowadays, as
they head off in the direction of the bus stop. I shake my head. Some old
people can make you laugh without trying to.
The man across the road has finished filling up
his car and walks across the forecourt to pay for his fuel.
The sun beats down from the clear blue sky,
warming my uncovered arms and face.
The traffic moves non-stop as people go to and
from town in the hectic dinner rush hour. This is a busy street leading
directly to the town centre from the ring road and the motorway.
The buildings lining the street are mostly
Victorian terraced houses, built at the turn of the 20th Century
when horse and carts would have travelled up and down the street, now its cars
and vans of all sizes and large delivery trucks carrying goods into town.
The ground floors of some of the terraced houses
have been converted into small businesses like the one I work for. In the gaps
between the terraces other businesses have taken hold: a couple of petrol
stations, like the one across the road, a Kwik-fit repair garage, and the odd
newsagents and general store.
I take the final bite out of my tasty sarnie as
the man steps out of the petrol station shop and walks over to his car,
stroking a hand along it as he goes past like itís some kind of prize
possession. He starts up the motor and drives off.
That was fifty years ago, just after Iíd left
school and started my apprenticeship. Now Iím about ready for retirement.
I sit here on the very same bench looking across
at the abandoned filling station eating my dinner: corned beef out of a can.
The place looks like a bomb has hit it. All the
windows are smashed, the canopy has collapsed, and the pumps are concreted in.
Petrol was made illegal long before it had time
to run dry. †Pollution in the air was killing people. Death from terminal lung
and heart disease was on a major increase, wiping out twenty-five percent of
the population. That had been the final straw, after people were getting CJD
eating beef; brain tumours from mobile phones; and people were and are getting
cancer from genetically engineering food.
People went crazy when they found that
organisations were making huge amounts of money and werenít concern with the health
of the people making them the money. I can still remember the demonstrations
and following riots as though they were yesterday.
Society has never been stable since.
I put my empty wrappers away in my bait box.
Food has never been the same since either. A large number of animals have
become extinct because of the pollution. I grow a lot of my own vegetables.
I pick up a bottle of water from next to me on
the bench. I purify the water at home.
At least the road is quiet. Most of the local
businesses have gone. I can enjoy some peace and quiet during my lunch break.
The pollution seems to have lifted a lot over
the last couple of years. I sigh, thinking of the destruction we have brought
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