If you want an interesting, storied and happy life, office jobs might not be for you. I once spent an entire afternoon writing about how hideous mine was and hahaha you’re about to read it you mug.
Nevertheless, occasionally you find one that could charitably be described as tolerable. It pays, you don’t spend your commute increasingly aghast as the stations tick by and you only want to kill every second colleague loudly discussing The Walking Dead. The odd job is bearable for longer than the probation period takes to congeal like the pool of blood you regularly fantasise about spilling in the second hour of an average Tuesday morning.
But every job has its day.
This morning I found myself confronted by a researcher, who has been collecting together the views of the people who dictate what we do. These are ‘users’, for I write words for a website the general public are somehow allowed to look at.
This particular job is jammed in place by a hidebound style guide of famous provenance. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a style guide; people like consistency. This style guide, though, declares that everything must be simple to the point of idiocy, with noddy words and 10-noddy-word sentences the limit of editorial tolerance. We need to ensure people with no knowledge of, interest in or connection to the subject matter can understand this tedious shite as though it were being gently cooed into their ear by Floella Benjamin.
Best of all I work in direct connection with the arms industry. This might horrify you; how could you etc. Dear friends, I have reached the level of, in simple words as if gently cooed into the ear by Floella Benjamin, ‘resigned detachment’. Apathyland has declared itself an independent nation and as its president I am channelling all our funds into a big telescope looking for a spaceship following a comet to hitch a ride on, because last time someone did that they were never heard from again so it must have worked I reckon.
While I search for Heaven’s Gate, you can do what you like to each other with the lovely things you build. I’ve never actually sold anyone a barrel of NTDNIA (N-(2-nitrotriazolo)-2,4-dinitroimidazole), but who am I to stop someone else burning holes into the skulls of aid workers with it? I just do the words mate. Here, have some lewisite and a nice lie down.
Anyway, the words they make me sing for my supper must be simple, the sentences short. I must make it as easy as possible for the users. People who deal in bombs, torpedoes, grenades, smoke canisters, rockets, mines, missiles, depth charges, demolition-charges, demolition-devices, demolition-kits, devices that contain ‘pyrotechnics’, cartridges and simulators, specially designed for military use, and components for any of these. Nice and easy.
So I make it as simple and concise as imbecility allows. Questions are shorn or excised, complicated words are flattened, explanations are made ABC-like such that a seven year old might understand the difference between lead maleate and lead salicylate and what each might do when dropped on a housewife in Sanaa.
But hold on: the results of the user testing are in. For these users, there’s not enough detail. They need a fuller explanation so they can work out whether maybe, just maybe, they need a licence to sell their solid propellants with a theoretical specific impulse (under standard conditions) of 240 seconds for non-metallised, non-halogenised propellant, to a man with gold teeth in Guinea-Bissau.
So I expand it, fill in a little detail, a few examples. I can perceive the enervated ire of whichever sockless bastard created this style guide, but it’ll be fine. I can make it work.
“To be honest I didn’t really read it. There’s a lot of words there. I just want to know if I need a licence.”
You do need a licence mate. If you’re here, you do need a licence. You’re trying to make a few quick quid flogging surface vessels with active weapon countermeasure systems, where the vessel has hull and superstructure designed to reduce the radar cross section, to men in black overalls just south of Benghazi. If you didn’t need a licence for it you wouldn’t be collecting your goods at 2am tonight from a lock-up off the B4540 and you wouldn’t have put ‘boat’ into the search box.
It’s not supposed to be easy. I’m trying to make it hard for you. This is my only chance to make you see that what you’re selling might not as you hope have as the same impact on South Sudanese schools as a cargo plane filled with cotton wool balls and soap bubbles accidentally shedding its load.
But every screen is either too long or not long enough for someone with a deadline to shift a few particle beam systems capable of destruction or effecting mission-abort of a target, and specially designed components. I know it might look like a laser system designed to cause permanent blindness to the naked eye, or to the eye with corrective eyesight devices, and specially designed components, but they’ve promised they’re only going to use it for the New Year’s Eve light show in, er, Homs or somewhere. Won’t someone think of the post-Brexit economy?
So at about 11.35am today I felt a familiar clunk in the back of my head. Every job has its day. It’s time once again to wonder how long I can get away with sitting on a blue chair watching old episodes of NYPD Blue instead of sitting on a grey chair pondering how to make ‘Type A avian influenza viruses of the subtypes H5 or H7 with genome sequences codified for multiple basic amino acids at the cleavage site of the haemagglutinin molecule similar to that observed for other HPAI viruses, indicating that the haemagglutinin molecule can be cleaved by a host ubiquitous protease’ sound like something a government in their right mind would ever allow to be produced and distributed under a fucking licence.
…and when I realise society has pushed me into the corner marked ‘Job or disgrace’…when I can’t face another silence on the phone when I tell my parents I’m just ‘taking a break’…when I can bear no more sympathetic looks in the pub despite the fact that you just got here at 6pm and I’ve been here for hours…
It’ll be time to update the CV. Set up those email alerts from job sites that have never led to a single person getting a single job in the history of Hotmail. Talk to recruitment weasels praying I’ll earn them money in return for their lining me up for…interviews for jobs people won’t give me because my fierce ambivalence to their vital project irradiates their souls the moment I walk in.
Great. Back on the market. Great.
Maybe give it another three months.