Ajay pulled his phone out of his pocket to check the time. Damn. Running a bit late. Bloody buses. His lecture started at nine and he still needed to pull some files off the multi-function device.

He started to jog across the park towards the main building, fumbling in his messenger bag as he went for his USB stick so he’d be ready to print when he got there. He slowed down briefly for the revolving door, poised to accelerate towards the lifts as soon as he got through. He ran straight into a large man wearing an ersatz police uniform.

Ajay was lightly built. He bounced off Ian McKenzie, who put out an arm to catch Ajay as he fell backwards towards the revolving door.


“Now then, young man. What’s the hurry?”

“I’ve got a lecture in five minutes. Sorry about that, I wasn’t looking where I was going. But I do need to get on.” Ajay stepped to the left, as if to continue on his way. Ian was still holding his arm.

“I’ll just check your ID, sir.”


“New campus policy. Everyone must be carrying their ID cards at all times. Everyone’s had an email.”

“Well, I’m new, and I haven’t got an email account yet. Or an ID card.” Ajay shifted his arm slightly. Ian held on.

“No ID card?”

“No. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be late for my lecture.” Ajay tugged his arm harder, and Ian let go, but took a step to the right, still blocking the way.

“Do you have any proof of your identity, sir? Driving licence? Passport?”

“I don’t drive. And I don’t carry my passport around with me. I’m British.”

“That’s as may be, but for all I know you could be anyone. You have to carry your ID card.”

“I don’t have one.”

“Have you got a letter from the Head of Department?”

“A letter from…?” Ajay tailed off. What the hell? “No, I bloody haven’t. I’m just trying to do my job, here.”

“As am I, sir, as am I.” Ian smirked. “It’s the rules. I’m afraid I can’t let you enter the building, sir.”

“Oh, for God’s sake.” Ajay put his hand in his pocket.

Ian shot out his hand and grasped Ajay’s arm again. “Steady on now, sir. Just stay calm.”

Ajay looked at him incredulously. “I’m just getting my phone out. Just because I’m Asian, it doesn’t mean I’m armed, Mr McKenzie.”

Ian dropped Ajay’s arm as though it were on fire.

Ajay continued “I was going to suggest that I could phone my Head of Department.”

Ian looked pained. “Good idea.”

Ajay didn’t know what Gordon’s number was. He dialled the switchboard.

“Gordon Flack, please.”

“Thank you.”

The phone rang a couple of times, then clicked through to another number. “Gordon Flack’s office.”

“Betty? It’s Ajay Mehta. The new lecturer in Corporate Accounting? Replacing Bob Barker?”

“I’m downstairs, but as you know, I haven’t got an ID card yet, so there’s a, an, er, a gentleman here who won’t let me into the building. And I should be in a lecture now. And you know we aren’t allowed to cancel lectures.”

“OK, I’ll do that.” Ajay held out the phone to Ian. “She wants to talk to you.”

Ian took the phone. “Ian McKenzie here. Who’s this?”

“Betty. Hello. How’re you doing?”

Betty was clearly offering Ian a piece of her mind. He held the phone slightly away from his ear.

“OK Betty. Well, you know the new rules. I’ll have to make a note.”

“Alright.  Just this once.”

Ian passed the phone back to Ajay.

“I don’t know how to hang up.”

Ajay pressed the ‘end call’ button and put the phone back in his pocket. He took another step to the left.

“Just a minute, sir.”

Ajay looked him in the eye. “I thought Betty had vouched for me?”

“Indeed, but I still need to make a note. New rules. You’re allowed three stops without an ID card, and after that, it’s disciplinary.

“I don’t have an ID card. Take it up with HR. Now let me go. I’m late for my lecture, and we aren’t allowed to cancel sessions.”

“Just a moment, sir.” Ian had a notebook out. “A J May-tar, did you say?”

“Mehta. M E H T A. Accounting department.”

“Alright sir, you can go now, but remember your ID card next time.”

“I don’t…” Ajay realised that further discussion was pointless. He pushed past Ian and ran to the lift. As usual at this time of day, it was on the fourteenth floor. He pushed the button.

By the time he got to the lecture theatre, it was quarter past nine. Two or three students were leaving the room.

“Here I am!” Ajay said, cheerily and entirely pointlessly. “Just got a bit delayed. We’ll start now.” He stood still while the students turned and headed back into the room.

He followed them in. There were about thirty students still there. They were mostly packing up. A low groan went round the lecture theatre as they realised the session was going ahead after all.

“Fucking typical.” thought Ajay. “If I hadn’t turned up at all, they’d have complained to Gordon that I wasn’t there. Now I’ve turned up, they’ll complain that it wasn’t cancelled.”

He realised that he hadn’t printed out the slides. No time. He bent to the presentation equipment and inserted the USB key, then logged onto the computer and loaded them up. The room was a bit restless. He straightened.

“OK everyone. My apologies for the delay. I got held up by the security man. No ID card. Does everyone know about the new rule about carrying cards?”

They all nodded. Ajay felt foolish. “Oh. Well, I’m new around here, as you know.” He tailed off. Perhaps he shouldn’t make an issue out of that. He needed to look authoritative. He faced the class and straightened up.

“OK, well, sorry for the late start, but let’s get going now. Today we’re going to be talking about, about…” he turned slightly so that he could see the screen, “…about  assets, liabilities and amortisation.”

The students started to scribble. Ajay felt slightly panicked. Oh God. He couldn’t even remember the title. He had no printout and no idea what slides were coming next. He was using Bob Barker’s slides, which he’d slightly adapted, and he couldn’t really remember what was in them.

He realised that he could look at the screen on the desk and see the slides without turning round. He clicked forward to the next slide and started to read it out.

Half an hour later, he’d got to the end of the presentation.

“We seem to have caught up some of the time. Now, has anyone got any questions?”

A student in the front row raised her hand. Ajay smiled encouragingly at her.

“Will the slides be on Burst-E?”

Ajay nodded vigorously. “Absolutely. I’ll do it as soon as I get back up to the office. Any other questions?”

He looked around the room. Nobody looked back at him. Most students were packing their bags. He raised his voice slightly. “OK. Well, if you think of anything, drop me an email. Otherwise, see you next week, same time.”

The noise level rose as the students got to their feet and headed for the exits.

Ajay closed down the Powerpoint presentation and removed his USB stick. There were still ten minutes until the official end of the session. He sat down for a moment. The people from the Associate Teachers course he’d just started did harp on about the importance of reflection after every session.

On the plus side: he’d finished on time, and had got through all of the material on the slides.

On the negative side: He’d been late. He’d probably more or less read out the slides. And he must have read them too fast, to finish so early. He had no idea whether anybody had understood, because he’d been too flustered to ask them any questions, and they hadn’t asked him any.

Action plan: be more prepared next time. Leave time to ask them questions.

Ajay stood up. That would do. He’d write that up later for his portfolio. He picked up his stuff and headed up to the office.

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