An Error in Communication

“Due to a reported emergency, all passengers must leave the station immediately. Please obey the instructions from the station staff. Will Inspector Sands please report to the South Concourse.” the loudspeakers in the station rumble. George just took another bag of rubbish outside so I hope he’s ok. I can’t believe that there’s an emergency on Sunday night, of all the days he asked me to cover a shift. I didn’t even want to come, but I thought it would be interesting to see George at “work” and I think he sort of set it up like this, so that he could try to convince me to work with him before I start school again. He always talks about how great it is not to be held down by anyone and I can sort of see his point. Every time we’re together he’s shows everyone the latest trend he wants to get into and no one is going to stop him from going wherever he wants and eating what he likes. Not everyone has had the same opportunities and experiences he’s had, I sure wish I had the same. I peer on to the South Concourse and it doesn’t look like there’s an emergency, but maybe I should go look for him. Then I see him coming back up the escalator and I ask him why he came back inside.

“Didn’t you hear the announcement?” I say as I get ready to go outside.

“Why do girls worry so much? This happens every Sunday. Did you finish cleaning the tables?”

“How can I not worry?” I think to myself but ask him “What do you mean this happens every Sunday?”

“They’re testing the announcement system. Every Sunday at nine pm.”

Most weekends I work at our family restaurant but now that it’s getting to the end of August, they don’t need me to work as often as they did earlier in the summer. George asked me to cover a shift tonight at the little food store he manages in Waterloo, I know he needs all the help he can get, so I said I would. Ever since he left school, he’s always trying to convince someone else to go along with his plans, and I’m the latest target.

“No, of course not. I’m usually at the restaurant on Sundays.” I tell him, he also tried to manage the restaurant a few years ago, at around the same time I started working there.

“Why isn’t anyone leaving?” I ask him.

“They are; can’t you see? Everyone is getting on their little train to go to their safe little houses. What are you so concerned about them for? They have nothing to worry about.” He says in frustration as he looks at the soapy water streaked wet table tops.

“Yeah, but I mean if there’s an emergency then why aren’t they rushing out?”

“I just told you, there is no emergency. Did you finish the tables?”

“Yes, look. I told you I did already.”

George starts looking at the five tables we put outside the store this morning, there’s just enough space inside the store to stack and keep them overnight.

“Yeah, that’s fine. So are you coming back tomorrow?”

“For what?” I ask him.

“Well I thought you would help me with the store.”

“I can’t tomorrow, I’m working at the restaurant.”

“Ok but I’m sure Uncle will understand if you tell him you’re going to work with me now. Just try it for this week. After all, he gave me the money to start this place.”

“No he didn’t.”

“Sure he did. He said I did so well managing the restaurant that I should open my own. He’s going to think I’m doing great if you tell him I hired you.”

I don’t think Uncle would tell the story quite like that. George left the restaurant because he thought was too good to wash dishes, and our uncle gave him some money to do something else rather than cause problems.

“So you borrowed his money and now you’re poaching his employees?” I ask him with a chuckle.

“Come on, it’s not like that. Just take a break from school like I did. You know how much I’ve done in the past three years that I’d never be able to do if I was in school. When’s the last time you went home?” By “home” he means Hong Kong, where he lived for a few years when he was growing up. When he was a teenager he just called it Asia, but now he likes to idealise his roots. “I’m a completely different person after going back. That’s how I got in to all this food, Uncle is into that traditional stuff but fusion is the way of the future.” He tells me while standing in front of a coffee shop. “You know how much money I wasted at school? Even if I showed up to all the classes I don’t think I could get my money’s worth. Now — I’m in control of my future.”

“But you really couldn’t finish one more year?”

“No, that’s the point, Casey. When someone opens a door for you, you have to go through. That’s what I’m doing for you. Just take off a year or one term. I’ll give you time in the spring to travel too.”

Ever since we were kids, George was the centre of attention and embraced it. I feel bad for him because right now, he’s not really the centre of anything. He manages this little shop but I can’t think of anyone that looks up to him anymore. He had a lot of friends at school, but I don’t think he talks to them anymore.

“Due to a reported emergency, all passengers must leave the station immediately. Please obey the instructions from the station staff.”

I ask him “Are you sure it’s just a test?”

“Do you see anything that looks like an emergency? This has happened every Sunday this year. There is no fire, no one is running, please calm down.”

Two young guys wearing khakis walk towards us and one of them asks “Hey guys, what’s going on?” directing his question at George.

George scoffs and tells them “Yeah, there’s a fire in one of the stores, you guys should definitely get out of here. Actually, I was just about to go help the owner put it out.” They look at each other, one seems annoyed and the one who asked the question looked worried.

“Oh wow, ok. Can I buy a bottle of water?”

“Sorry, we’re closed.” George responds as he sidesteps to cover the package of water bottles he just opened.

“Alright, no problem. See you later.” He responds and they start walking away faster than they arrived and talking to each other.

George walks over to the balcony and looks and the two would-be customers as they go down the stairs. He’s told me before about his views on “the docile animals in the station”, whom obviously buy the food he sells but he seems to hold some grudge against them. I don’t know why he lied to those two guys or didn’t want to sell them water. I can see he’s talking on his phone as he starts walking back to me.

“Ok. Yeah, ok. I’m sorry about that. Yep, I’m leaving now. Bye. Casey, are you ok here? I have to go fix something. Here’s the key.”

“Hold on, why did you lie to those guys?”

“Don’t you think it’s funny when yuppies are scared?”

“But he wanted to buy a bottle of water.”

“Yeah, whatever. Please just clean everything and lock up the shop. You’ve seen me do it before, right?” He rushes through the procedure to make sure everything is ready for the morning, finishing with “You can give me the key back next time, I’ve got a spare.” I accept as he grabs his jumper and backpack then walks down the escalator. I have seen him do it before, but I still worry that I’ll forget something. It brings back memories of when we almost failed our health and safety inspection at the restaurant. Everyone had to be retrained, especially George since he was the so-called manager at the time. He said he’s sure to be here when someone closes the shop because he doesn’t trust anyone to do it alone. George said I could really help him out with the business side, since he likes making the food and is always thinking of new things to sell, mostly because he also wants to eat it.

“Due to a reported emergency, all passengers must leave the station immediately.” Even though there’s no emergency he still left, he’s always had a problem taking advice. I repeat the procedures George gave to me in my head and finally lock up, taking a bottle of water with me in case I see that guy again. I look over the balcony and it doesn’t look like there’s anything to worry about, people are waiting for their train or rushing towards the platform. The emergency announcements have stopped, giving way to the normal status updates and security warnings, the station seems like it did during the day. I start writing my list of things to buy before I go back to school, the first thing I write is “notebooks”.

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