The grey man

​The man is up early. Before his wife, and just before his kids. He makes them their usual breakfast: eggs and bacon, coffee for him and his wife, and orange juice for the kids. While they eat, he tidies the kitchen. And when they finish eating, he forgets his own breakfast; he’s too busy monkeying around with the kids before they go to school.

Before the man flies out the door, he kisses his wife. He’s already late so he’s a little on edge. Today is an important day. On the drive in, he’s get cut up by some asshole cyclist. As he pulls out and past the cyclist he rolls the window down and curses at him.

The man arrives in the office. He strides up to his assistant’s desk and whilst checking email on his phone extends his hand. The assistant places the quarter’s report in his hand. He walks off with an absent-minded thanks, without making eye contact.

The man spends most of the first half of his day on the phone with a long term client. This client is raging. His team screwed up. Big time. And now this client, which has been with him since the beginning, is threatening to walk. He does everything he can. He jumps through hoops and uses every ounce of guile and charm and experience he has to prevent this from happening. He succeeds. After getting off the phone, he heads out.

The man is meeting a woman for a business lunch. They go to a restaurant that’s a half hour away from both their offices. They don’t want to be seen. They talk business, and just before they part, the woman hands him his watch. “You left this at my place yesterday.” He thanks her and they go their separate ways for the day. 

In the afternoon, the man hosts a meeting with his team. He’s read the reports from the morning. The news isn’t good. And he tells his team that. He names names. He gets specific. He figures out who had responsibility for what, and thus who gets the blame. But it’s not all doom and gloom.

After the man harangues his team for close to an hour, he switches tone. He tells them that it’s in the past. That, as a team, they’ve been together for too long to let a little setback like the one that arrived in his hand this morning hold them back. He lays out some tentative ideas for a plan of action and invites all of his team to discuss and contribute. The rest of the afternoon is spent with his team, trying to figure out what to do next.

The man ducks out of work a little early, picks up the flowers he’s ordered and meets his brother. They’re going to surprise their mother on the anniversary of their dad’s death. His brother has bought the wine, and they’ve both bought the great love they have for the lady that raised them. 

The man arrives home late. He’s missed dinner, but he’s just in time to help his kids do their homework and read them a story before they go to bed. After his kids nod off, he creeps out the room, turns off the light and pads downstairs. His wife is curled up on the sofa. He sits next to her and she snuggles up to him. “How was your day?” she asks. He close his eyes, exhales and says, “It was okay. But I’m glad to be home.”

To his children, Dad is great. In the eyes of the cyclist that cut him up, the man is a typical arrogant, stressed-out executive. The man’s assistant sees him as a sometimes rude, but mostly-tolerable boss. To the long-term client, he is more than just some business hack, he’s a friend. His female associate sees the man as both generous and exciting. To his team, the man, their leader, is determined and honest. To his mum, the man is full of care and compassion. And his wife loves him because he is selfless and tireless.

Each person’s perception of the man is both right and wrong at the same time. He is all those things and none of those things.