“So where’s the reception,” I ask.
St Peter sighs. “Reception! Where do people get that idea from? No reception here.”
I look around. The place looks shabby, people jostling to get in. No orderly queues. It’s all a bit of a bun fight. The Gates themselves need a lick of paint and the area’s strewn with litter. Peter himself looks like he can use a bath and a shave and a week of abstinence from whatever it was that has him looking like death.
“So what’s going on?” I ask him. “Things look a bit run down.”
“Place is going to the dogs. The Big Man is getting a bit bored with the whole, heaven, purgatory, hell thing and has commissioned some consultants (How did they ever manage to get up here, anyhow?) to come up with a modern alternative that has, and here I quote, “Some more pizzazz”, and so we aren’t getting the resources we need to keep things up to scratch. The archangels are getting a bit agitated and the cherubs are starting to sulk. No way to run the Heavenly Camp in the Sky.
“And look at these crowds! No sense of order or discipline. Each trying to get ahead of the other. Normally just doing that will ensure you forfeit your entrance ticket. I mean, whatever happened to, ‘Blessed are the meek…’? I don’t know; things aren’t the same any more. There’s no more enjoyment in this job. No more pleasure. It’s become just another job. It used to be fun sometimes. Like when Tommy Cooper arrived. ‘Just like that.’ And Satchmo – he was allowed his trumpet. In fact I think the Big Man insisted.”
“Don’t fret, St Pete, the consultants will come up with something, no doubt.”
“Well, apparently they’ve already ‘bounced off’ some ideas, ‘run them up the flagpole’, so to speak. They looked at my role, for example. Unchanged, they say, for thousands of years. Time for a make-over. Why not try a digital St Peter – they’ve already asked for my suggestions for a url and a gravitar. Or, they say, possibly a St Petra, young, fresh and female – more ‘interesting’, more ‘fun’.
“Plus they say, ditch Jacob’s Ladder; makes it too much of an effort – go for escalators or high speed lifts. They’ll look classy (think glass, think highly polished stainless steel), create jobs (job creation – that’s always a winner) and ensure the guests aren’t on their knees by the time they get here (figuratively speaking of course).
“And then they are unsure about the classless approach we have. They say, why should the winners have to queue along with the losers, the rich with the poor, why should celebs have to wait in turn with ‘civilians’? Wouldn’t it be better to have priority gates, an A-list only queue, Forbes top 100 hospitality portals and so on.
“And where’s the media centre, they ask. Where are the cameras and the columnists thronging around to welcome the stars and the successful. Some people need more attention than others and it’s a shame that this isn’t offered. After all, these people could have chosen not to come here. There’s usually a photo-call clause in all their public appearance contracts.”
“Well, don’t be too down hearted, I’m sure things will turn out okay. Give me a call anytime if you feel you need to talk. I’ll go through now.”
“Yeah, sometimes it’s good to get these things off one’s chest. Enjoy. Oh. Can I see your ticket first.”
“Ah. Ticket! Um…”
“Nice try. Down you go.
“Okay the rest of you. Stop all that shoving. We’ve got plenty of time. Unless the consultants get their wicked ways.”