I know I’m probably still drunk because I start the day by putting a winky face in an email to a trader. It’s an improvement on what I was thinking of writing which was “Who gives a shit, you uptight wanker?” Instead I made a sweetly self-deprecating comment about the team I work in and how we’re really just snivelling little wretches compared to the big boys (and girls) on the front line raking in the masses of wealth, whacked the winky face at the end of it to assure him I’m non-threatening and away it went.
It’s had quite a journey, the wink. It’s gone from being a smooth yet wordless come on, through to a warning sign of a sleazy pervert and in cinema it provided the pivotal plot twist in iRobot. Nowadays we bandy winks around like nobody’s business in texts, emails to friends, and emails to professional people at work who we hate. It’s become a prolific part of the way we communicate. If you send something a bit tongue in cheek without the required wink at the end of it, you might just sound like an arsehole.
My decision not to go with something along the lines of “People are dying mate, I couldn’t give two hoots about why this error came up in the first place, just pull your fist out of your arse and fix it” was based on the plain and simple fact that I’m paid to be here.
Like so many people who find themselves working in the recklessly overpaid industry of finance, I am in it for the money. The things I really like doing which are – in no particular order – laughing, writing, drinking, chatting, watching films and trying to be nice to people, are piteously underpaid. So until I can sustain a living by doing any of the above, I’m stuck with it. I do not, I hasten to add, underestimate the fact that the industry I so despise and the job I feel draining the very life out of me is handsomely paid. Loads of people hate their job and get paid fuck all for the privilege. But let’s conveniently sideline that fact because this isn’t about them, it’s about me.
Running concurrently with the issue that lead to the drunken winky face incident was the news that a report that should have been sent wasn’t. I took the necessary steps to rectify the issue, but at no point did I feel sad, angry, hurt or worried about the outcome. A more senior colleague did care and I could sense him prickling behind me while I sat there blithely dismissing his requests about what follow-up action had occurred with the words “I sent an email, I’ll show you in a minute”, while I turned around to finish the article I was reading about the Mitford sisters to find out who the hell they were and why one of them being dead was newsworthy.
When something goes awry at work I ask myself a very simple question: “Did anybody die?” It’s a pretty solid litmus test for how you should react. There are plenty of jobs in the world where people dying is a very real outcome of someone making a mistake. Mine is not one of them.
If the answer is no then I’ll ask myself: “Has anybody been seriously hurt? Do they require medical attention?” Short of falling off a chair, getting a paper cut or walking into a glass door there’s very little in the way of danger in my immediate surroundings so invariably the answer to both of these is also no. With the facts established and with no person or persons in any real, perceived or imminent danger, I limit my reaction to that of perfunctory action. I will do what needs to be done, but there will be no tears shed or recriminations or sleepless nights, because I just don’t care.
There’s a lot to be said for taking pride in what you do and I don’t begrudge anyone that; I applaud it. Just because I have significant dissatisfaction in my lot because it is so entirely contra to my values and beliefs doesn’t mean everyone who does a job that doesn’t involve saving lives, or helping the less fortunate, should drag themselves around in a tortured cloud of misery. We’re all at the mercy of our capitalist existences and require some form of income to sustain ourselves. First World Problems abound, but bills must be paid, nights out must be had, and holidays provide a soothing balm to the tiresome ache of life for the rest of the year.
If you have found something that sustains you financially, intellectually and emotionally, regardless of where it sits on the spectrum of worthy to self-serving careers, then wallow in your smugness; you’ve earned it.
But just try to be self-aware. Try to be realistic. Try not to care too much about something that matters not at all in the wider world. Get some perspective. Be grateful for the money rolling in and out of your account like a healthy turn of the tide every month.
And if something does go wrong, do what you can to fix it and then just chill the fuck out. Unless somebody dies or is very badly hurt, in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter you overpaid, self-unaware fuckwit ;-)