Write On Wednesdays Exercise 15 – Give yourself some time to notice the people around you. The people who may cross your path each day. The lady in front of you at the supermarket, the man who helps the school kids cross the road, a neighbour, a waitress in a cafe, a librarian, anyone at all. Choose one person, someone you don’t know, and this person will become the basis of the week’s writing exercise. Describe this person as you see them, describe their surroundings. Then imagine a problem, create conflict for this person. Describe the conflict. Describe how your character deals with the problem. The conflict might resolve itself, it might not. It is up to you. Perhaps, the lady in the supermarket has forgotten her wallet. Does she bursts into tears? Maybe the librarian finds a lost child. The aim is to show how your character responds to conflict and in the process, reveal something about that character. Tell us their story.
It’s been a crazy morning. The office has been buzzing with a million people needing a million things and the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Delivery drivers streamed in and out the front door bringing with them somewhat exotic scents hinting to the fact that outside has become a hotbed of humidity. I haven’t had one second to myself today and as I look down at the time on my monitor, I can hardly believe it says 11:54am. I turn my attention to an email I have been avoiding for an hour or so and force myself to try and decipher its meaning. Hitting reply, I form as intelligent a response as I can without completely revealing that I do not understand the true purpose of its arrival in my inbox. I shove back from my desk, excuse myself and race downstairs to the sandwich bar underneath my building. As I approach the counter I see, as usual, many people milling around. There are three people who work at the front end of this place, two of them making sandwiches and one taking orders, etc. The girl who takes my order does so nearly every day. I look at her distribute change to the man in front of me and in a flash realise that I don’t know her name. I step up to the counter and smile as she recognises me and confirms my order, “Number 6?” she beams at me. I nod in appreciation and hand over my $7. As I loiter by the two or three tables and chairs they have set up in the gap next to the preperation area, fidgeting with my mobile and spying on my sandwich prep to make sure no black pepper goes on there a tall woman with big hair and huge stilettos pushes past me and announces her order. I watch as the girl who took my order looks abruptly up and notices, offering apology and a request for the order to be repeated. The woman scoffs and leans forward on the counter, repeating every single syllable of her order. The girl at the counter is looking distressed as she rings up the till. The woman asks for a Diet Coke and screams “WHAT?” as she is informed the fridge is behind her, she can get one out herself. The girl scurries around the counter and gets a Diet Coke from the fridge and holds it out, only to be met with a dry “ta”. I watch as she runs back to the counter, ready to serve the next person, her face awash with sadness. I see her struggling to keep it together as she clumsily drops a $5 note and breaks the straw dispenser. I see her workmates shooting her looks of sympathy and transmitting memories of (probably many) conversations they’ve had about horrible customers.
My lunch is ready. The thought jolted me back to the moment and as I took my sandwich I smiled weakly and said to the girl, “I’m sorry, I don’t know your name?”. She looked surprised and happy, and answered me, “Anna”.
Thanks again to Gill at Ink Papen Pen for hosting Write on Wednesdays.