Important Steps

Tony hovered behind Simon’s chair for several seconds. He bobbed to the left, then to the right, trying to move gently into Simon’s eye-line, but Simon’s view was fixed firmly on his screen, which was filled with a complex series of XML commands. Simon was muttering inaudibly as he scrolled slowly down the page. He was wearing his noise-cancelling headphones. Eventually, Tony tapped him gently on the left shoulder.

Simon reacted as though he’d been punched. He rose about three inches out of his chair, twisting to the left as he did so, and then froze. “Fucking hell, Tony, what’re you trying to do to me?”

Tony took a step back. “I just came to talk to you.”

“Well, give me a bit of warning next time. Good thing I wasn’t in the middle of a game of Assassin’s Creed.  I might have been so in the moment, I’d have taken a swing at you.” Simon mimed an uppercut.

“I did try to…” Tony tailed off. “Anyway, I just came to…”

Before he could finish the sentence, Simon had taken off his headphones and jumped out of his chair. Turning his back on Tony, he paced towards the opposite end of the large open plan office. Tony stared after him. Nobody else in the room took any notice.

When he got to the door, Simon turned, and strode back towards Tony. “Might as well get a few steps in, since I’ve been interrupted anyway,” he said. “Keep talking.”

Tony turned towards the door he’d used to come into the room, following Simon’s progress. As Simon returned, he tried again. “I just wanted to…” Again, he tailed off as Simon headed back to the far end of the room. On the next pass through, Simon paused. “You can walk with me, if you like.”

Tony fell into step with him. “Well. I just wanted to ask you about yesterday’s meeting.”

Simon glanced at his wrist. “Just a sec. I need to…two six two oh, 80 for the return, I need to do another four, no, five, runs.”


“Forty paces for the whole room, I need to get up to three thousand steps before I sit down again, I’m on two six two oh, no, two six two two, now, so I need to do another five, well, four and a half now, runs up and down the room.”

“Oh. When you say you need to get up to three thousand…?”

Simon waved his wrist at Tony. He was wearing what looked like a large wristband, or a small watch. “FitBit.” he said. “I need to do twelve thousand steps today, or I’ll fall behind in the league table.”

“League table?”

“I’m in a league, with other people I know, we’ve got a target of sixty thousandsteps each for the week, first one wins a pint, but I’ve got behind. This bloody integration with timetabling. I never get a break to walk.”

The mention of integration reminded Tony what he’d come in for. He parked the league table for another occasion. “Anyway, Simon, I came in to ask you about the Student Record System meeting.”

“Oh? The stakeholder one? Went alright, didn’t it?”

“Um, yes, I guess so, but I wanted to ask you if you thought we should maybe put in some extra sessions, to explain some of the decisions in a bit more detail?”

Simon slowed down. “How do you mean?”

“Well, I thought that, maybe, we should consider providing some sessions, to, er, explain some of the, er, jarg…the terminology that the suppliers might use. To help people to engage more.”

Simon checked his wrist. “Just one more for now. I’m not sure I follow, Tony. I don’t see how it could be any simpler. These are all intelligent people, you know. They work for a university, and I wouldn’t want to patronise them.” He shook his head gently.

They were approaching Simon’s desk again. Simon sat down. He looked at his other wrist. “Christ, is that the time? I need to be somewhere else. Um, I don’t really think there’s an issue here, Tony. I’ve only asked them to list their current as-is integrations for the moment. We’ll introduce things slowly. Are you sure you’re not inventing a problem?” As he spoke, he was shutting down his laptop and unplugging all of the cables. He put the laptop into a sleeve and stood up. He checked his wrist again. “Great, I’ll get at least another 800 in going over to Registry. Got to go. See you at the next meeting.”

Tony watched him go. He sighed deeply. What a waste of time. Although he’d apparently walked three hundred and eighty steps. Was that a good thing?



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