To Thrustees and Thrusters: While access to The Thrust is still restricted to mission-critical staff and deep-cleaning teams, we are happy to introduce our new remote-working concept, Thrusturbia. Please study the attached map to find your nearest Thrusticle hang-out mini-hub. Your Thrust card will grant you access and allow use of free Wi-Fi and one complimentary coffee or tea (please bring your own milk).
Robert (the involuntary gig worker): Good morning, Joel. What a relief to see a familiar face who isn’t a family member at last! I didn’t realise Thrust had moved you to their new outpost. Isn’t this a Travelodge normally?
Joel (the overzealous security guard): Morning, sir. Sorry — I’m under strict orders not to engage in informal banter until I have verified your credentials. Thank you. Let me check your card. Drop your mask a little so I can see your full face. Step BACK! You were in danger of infringing my two-metre perimeter for a moment there, sir. So let’s see: Mr “Rockbottom”?
Robert: It’s pronounced Ro-bo-tham, actually. The “ck” in Rockbotham is silent. Easy mistake to make. But call me Robert. You remember me, don’t you? From the office? I was a regular visitor to WorkHouse? And I’d like to sign in my two friends. Another great advantage of moving out to live with my parents — apart from not having to pay rent, obviously — has been reconnecting with mates from school, so I thought, seeing as how you know me . . .
Joel: One moment, sir. Just spread your legs. A little wider. Just a routine frisking. Can’t be too careful. Thrusticles are all very well, but security at these remote-working outposts is very shabby. Frankly, anybody can wander in.
Robert: It’s a hotel lobby, isn’t it? I thought that was the point.
Joel: You may say that, Mr Rockbottom, but I know from my 2016 tour of duty on the frontline at Ikea that you can hide a number of offensive weapons behind a throw cushion and any one of those plastic flower arrangements could conceal a bug. We’re also in a 5G coverage zone, and you don’t have to do much digging on the internet to realise that increases the Covid risk and the possibility of Chinese cyberspying. It’s one reason I upped the alert level here from Burgundy to Sangria as soon as I was redeployed.
Robert: If you say so. Now can I sign in my friends?
Joel: Do you live together? Is one of your friends a partner? Sorry for my intrusive line of questioning but I need to get the precise relationship right to ensure we don’t breach the rules. It’s protocol, you see. Your sexuality is of no interest to me: love is love, after all.
Robert: Partner? No! These are my old school mates. We don’t live together. I live with my mum and dad. Not permanently, of course — just until I get back on my feet.
Joel: Sorry, sir — I can’t allow more than two households to mingle. I’ve got firm orders and if I allowed any breach, even in a specific and limited way, the next step would be anarchy.
Robert: Really? But those tables are full. Those people can’t all be living together. Can’t you let us in? We’re just going to have a complimentary coffee and a catch-up.
Joel: Those are business meetings, sir.
Robert: Well, I haven’t brought it up with my old muckers yet but I was actually hoping to discuss the possibility they might put some mutually beneficial work my way, going forward. You can guess what it’s been like for the freelance micro-advisory space during lockdown, and it’s hard to network online when your backdrop is your sister’s Sylvanians and an old Beano poster.
Joel: Which is it? Business or pleasure.
Robert: Can’t it be both?
Joel: Not according to the rules.
Robert: Business then.
Joel: Welcome, gentlemen.
Robert: Guys, where are you going?
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