Tag Archives: employment

And specially designed components

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.

Continue reading And specially designed components

Morning is broken

The little man with the tiny backpack runs up the steps of Embankment tube, wriggling like a wee ginger salmon with a tazer up the shitter. He looks very much like Alan McGee. I’m so certain he’s Scottish I’ll eat a haggis if he’s not despite assurances haggis is filled with colon juice, battery acid, insects and whatever else radge bastards assault themselves with.

I’ve missed him in the past two weeks, my bespectacled chum. But we’re together again Alan, me old fucker. The ‘festive season’ is done. We’re back in the commute.

Continue reading Morning is broken

Lonely tears of Sancerre

Business travel sucks. That is an incontrovertible fact.

If you aren’t travelling alone, you will be travelling with colleagues. Both of these are bad in different ways.

Travelling alone isn’t inherently bad. In fact, sometimes it’s a pleasure to not have to interact with another human being and pretend you don’t mind when they want to go to the same godawful bar three nights in a row, or visit a museum you have less than zero interest in. And flying alone is the ideal opportunity to lie under a blanket watching films your partner doesn’t want to see while being given free alcohol.

But travelling alone for business is just shit.

It starts when you need to go to the toilet at the airport and you have no-one to watch your bags, so if you don’t want them to be blown up by the bomb squad you have to take them into the cubicle with you. This is the point where you commence an obstacle course of angling your legs around a suitcase and trying to not let anything touch the piss-soaked floor while simultaneously re-arranging your clothing and not dropping your phone down the toilet.

Once you arrive, your evenings will be spent inwardly crying lonely tears of Sancerre while you eat overcooked pasta in the hotel restaurant and hope that all the wine won’t be itemised on your bill. Opting for room service and TV instead will mean you just spend 45 bastard minutes trying to find something to watch in a language you can understand – something that isn’t Storage Hunters – all the while knowing your partner will be watching the final episode of Happy Valley without you.

If you travel with colleagues, imagine someone you work with who you don’t actually like very much. Now imagine being confined to a seat next to them for 8-12 hours. Now imagine it’s an overnight flight and they want to talk shop for the whole journey, or they don’t drink. And remember, if you do manage to sleep, you’ll be sleeping just inches away from a colleague you don’t like very much. You are sleeping with your colleague.

You’re welcome!

Even worse, you will be staying in the same hotel, so you’ll effectively also be co-habiting with this person for the next week. Never underestimate the sheer teeth-clenching awfulness of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with someone you don’t like very much for Five. Whole. Days. And not even being married to them.

Fuck that shit.

When you tell people you’re going abroad for business, they will invariably say ‘Gosh, how glamorous!’ and say they’re jealous. I’m here to tell you that business travel is not glamorous.

No-one who has had cockroaches running over their feet and hand luggage at 4am in Indian baggage reclaim would agree. Neither would anyone who is sent abroad for an indefinite period of time and expected to pay for the whole fucking trip on their own credit card before claiming it back on expenses. Nor would someone who is forced to take an illicit taxi to get to the office driven by an old man in a full length leather coat who may or may not be a serial killer.

None of that is glamorous.

Expenses. Bafflingly, some companies believe sending their employees abroad with no money is a privilege for which we should be grateful. I’m pretty sure that was a punishment for something in medieval times.

I mean, who wouldn’t be grateful to bankroll a trip costing thousands of pounds in flights, hotels, taxis and meals for an international company with billionaire owners and millionaire shareholders? What’s that? Your card is maxed out, you’ve just moved house and you don’t have a spare £8,000 in the bank? Can’t pay for your hotel or flight up front, sorry, not company policy. Can you get an increase on your credit card limit and we’ll pay you back in two months? Thanks everso.

Aside from companies brainwashing employees into thinking anyone notices if they work 27 extra hours every week, expense trips are the biggest fucking con out there. Stop thinking about it as a free trip to another country. Start thinking about it as an insidious method of encroaching even more on your personal time while getting you to pay for it. Not so glamorous now, huh?

Somewhere along the line, it became normal to do the actual travelling bit of business travel in your own time rather than the company’s. What? The? Actual? Fuck? How the shitting hell did it come about that not only are you expected to pay to go and work in an unfamiliar office with shit coffee for a week, you have to fly there on your own time?

Oh, it’s that privilege again.

Sleep? Sleep is for wimps! If you were really and truly committed to your company, you’d work a full day, take an overnight flight and be in the office abroad bright and early.

I’d love to be able to say this is me getting all hyperbolic, but it isn’t. This is an actual thing that some colossal bed-wetting wanker dreamed up, dressed up in the worst kind of corporate tub-thumpery from a company which issues press releases telling everyone how much it cares for its employees.

The exits are here, here, here and here.

Under threat of castration

Against the odds, the better judgement of society and the collective will of my financial captors, I’ve survived another birthday.

The main event itself proved to be a rather hellish, godless experience in which I came to realise how far behind in the great race of life I’ve wilfully fallen. For my 24th birthday I acquired the body of a malnourished teenager with the face of Dorian Gray’s portrait glued on to the top bit that scientists refer to as the head. My facial hair is scoffed at by unnaturally haughty unborn foetuses as they stroke their mutton chops and eat out of tubes.

Meanwhile the sole of my shoe flaps in the wind, I’ve had to put crucifixes on the door to keep the bank at bay and then plaster Nun-porn all over the front door to ward off the Christian sales reps. The majority of household pets eat better than I do and my job is as stimulating as a mild static shock to a phantom limb. This has been my shambolic attempt at ageing and it feels as though the world has been trying to kill me for 24 years, yet I’m still trying to bite the invisible hand that feeds.

This same invisible hand reaches up your sphincter and ass-hooks you out of bed in the morning. It’s the invisible hand that sits you down and coerces you into forcing out a shit at a time when you’d rather be unconscious and horizontal. It’s this same invisible hand that dresses you like a well-groomed performing guppy each day, before the cage comes down for another round of gainful employment.

When you’re younger this hand has less influence and is easier to resist, thanks to that voracious appetite for life that later seems reserved for puppies and charity muggers. That energetic passion that seems to dwell in tiny humans before they establish how futile their life will become is what allowed us to stray the path and escape the clutches of the invisible hand. The hand wants you to go to school and wash after every visit to the little boys’ room, but the hand’s desires are overcome by the single-minded determination to scoop the mushy stool from the toilet bowl and hurl it at girls (who are decidedly yucky) and teachers (who are mere pawns for the hand) in an event that will later see you dubbed a coprophiliac by a state-appointed psychologist.

But as the elastin and collagen starts to sag and decay under the weight of our accumulated years, the hand becomes more potent, more ruthless and exponentially more domineering. In many ways life is like a very glitchy video game, with the first 10 to 14 years being the equivalent of the crap tutorial level where everything is spoon-fed to you to avoid premature expiration or a home visit from social services. Years later the hand decides to abort you from the comfortable womb of higher education, you’re flushed out into the sewage of the real world and all that was pure, beautiful and true in life suddenly reveals itself to have been a fleeting wet dream, but instead of a sticky wad of gunk in your bed sheets, it’s a crippling anchor of debt, a total loss of purpose and the promise of unending drudgery that you wake up to.

It is here at your most educated and vulnerable that the hand grabs you by the scrotum and pulls you this way and that until, under threat of castration, you hop aboard the unicycle and play your role in the tired old carnival of life. From this testicular stranglehold it can control your every move; before you know it you’re caring about spreadsheets, working at home in the evenings to get that big presentation just right or laughing at the jokes made by the other inmates in your workplace.

A colleague recently confessed to me that he was only at work for the money. I was baffled because I could think of no other coherent rationale for turning up every day. I don’t spend 10 hours a day inside a colossal phallic obelisk in the middle of a diseased London haggling on the phone with people who say with all sincerity “let’s do brunch” out of a chronic addiction to the company of gutless buffoons. There’s no part of my soul that yearns to be crowned with a plastic microphone headset, nor do key performance indicators induce a Ron Jeremy-worthy erection and there’s not a thing about synergistic management solutions that I even want to understand. This is all the hand’s doing.

The hand stretches out a big dumb smile on my face to mask the crushing despair that settles in every time I’m reminded that Made in Chelsea is produced in a country that possesses nuclear weapons. When you want to stand up on your desk and kick the monitor into the face of the person opposite for being such a callous money-grubbing consumer-whore, or enter into mortal combat with middle management personnel, you don’t – the hand keeps you seated, reminding you of the powerful urge to eat some time this month. It reminds you of the bills, the rent, the need for further employment beyond this particular moment of disgusted fury. And what’s worse, it paints this exercise in restraint as sanity.

Like a general of an army of one, you sit enraged in the cage to which the hand holds the key forever out of reach, and survey the battle; sustained losses on all fronts. The hand pushes you past all those dreams, ambitions and things that you once deemed important in order to further its own twisted goals, which seemingly involve reducing humanity, the world’s deadliest predator, into a collection of cash-worshipping, screen-fed mega-monkeys.

So it goes on beyond the workplace and out into the vast belching, scoffing void of life. Before you know it you’re drooling over an IKEA catalogue, perusing the turtle-neck rack in GAP in a bid to emulate notoriously celebrated child-enslaver Steve Jobs or getting an early night for the sake of a village fete cake stall that you offered to run in aid of a religious charity. The hand will push you down the aisle, will tickle your bum during the procreation that allows the minibus of life to chug on and ultimately lays you to rest atop your queen-size deathbed in your moderately priced home with the southern-facing garden and double garage.

It may occur to you at this point that you’re unsure exactly how you got here or how you ever exerted so little control in your own life, and now too in death. But by then it’ll be too late and your grieving loved ones will be greeted with the stench of shit when your bowels empty as you pass from this world.

The hand wins in the end, no matter how many fingers you think you’re chewing on.

I’d rather be Pol Pot

Everyone’s been fired.

More accurately, some abnormally lucrative contract in this barbaric government silo has been revoked, unrenewed or disavowed, or whatever the Tories do to consultancy firms in the age of tightening ringpieces. Each of that consultancy’s steeds is to be ceremonially slaughtered in favour of a set of baying replacements from a similarly rapacious private sector drone factory in the middle of next month.

I’m not part of the ruthless gang being run out of town by the Deloitte brothers, who have begun sending in a parade of precocious children in identical spectacles to replace the overpaid adults surrounding me. My contract is unaffected and they hoped I would stick around, not least to help with the ‘transition’. That simple word was enough to send me running screaming for whichever hill from which I last saw my dignity. Adopting some combination of solidarity and fear of being set up, I’ve decided to join the rest in raiding the stationery cupboard for A4 pads I’ll take home but never use – I have quit.

It’s been majestically plain for many weeks that I’m not needed here, yet their intention was to keep me on. Yes, please let me be one of the four people left from the old regime who must carry the can for the decisions of the 25 you took out the back and shot. I always thought Comrade Duch displayed a wonderful serenity in those rheumy eyes of his as the gavel came down on the 12,000 murders he’d ordered, but all things considered I think I’d rather be Pol Pot. Not for the first time.

This has lead to the inevitable demands for a ‘handover’. Having done as good as fuck all since May, what exactly I’m meant to hand over to my successor is unclear. A document filled with survival tips, perhaps. For example, how to put down the lid, sit sideways on the toilet, and position a new, fat bog roll under your head on the little ledge behind the khazi for an invigorating nap of which tales will be told to future generations. Admittedly while doing so you must breathe in the gaseous waste of men in their fifties who have as much Yule Log as fibre in their diet, but that’s something I might allow my replacement to find out for themselves.

Many of the condemned are already exhibiting the mania of the more ill-fated patrons of the Arizona Department of Corrections. One of the incoming party was today introduced to a doomed man, and met with “But you won’t need to remember my name”, to uncomfortable laughter. People are still working, though building their own gallows with reams of bubble wrap directly beneath the trapdoor. As the copywriter, there is nothing but professional pride preventing me from changing “You must bring your printed confirmation with you when you board your plane” to “We send all your details to MI6 immediately and if your confirmation is not printed on both your t-shirt and underpants you will be shot in a shed at Stansted.” I am not a proud man.

Eight months I’ve wasted in this place. Eight months where I could have been writing filth like this on websites no-one reads, as I did happily for most of 2014. I’ve pocketed the loot, and in doing so I’ve damaged myself to the point that I was ordered last month not to top myself because we’ve got a nice holiday coming up and it would be a shame to miss it. When the parlous state of things becomes that plain to other people, it’s time to accept a career in ceaselessly tedious office employment may not prove the path to contented oblivion at well past your half century.

So it’s done. There are three weeks of my notice to work out. Three weeks of 150-minute lunches made entirely of questionable brown drinks in pubs whose usual lunchtime trade involves Kronenbourg Keith droning interminably on to the barman who hates him more than the father who beat him. Three weeks of coming in late and getting out early, met with a level of disinterest that suggests I could have got away with this from the off. Three weeks of two hours’ work. That’s two hours’ work in the whole three weeks. If I exert myself.

And then we’ll all part ways and pretend that we’ll see each other again in the future, praying that we won’t. People are already asking each other what job they’ll be doing next. Am I unusual in desperately praying I can spend the rest of the year sitting about in pants that will swiftly tighten due to an increase in beer, pizza, motionlessness and porn?

Unless Jeremy Corbyn successfully dismantles capitalism in the next six months, I suppose I’ll have to tolerate another office job at some point in the medium term. I’ll be planted among another group of tired, middle-class chancers making work where there should be none and producing so little of note the high point of their week is tearful acclaim of their child’s pre-school Crayola depiction of Mummy holding hands with a man they don’t recognise. Until that time I will write nonsense, drink copiously, talk to people I don’t know on topics I know nothing about, and pound my city’s streets in search of answers to questions that only matter to the lost and the damned.

In other words, live.

The disease of modern living

Next month will commemorate my 24th revolution around the sun. Already my forehead resembles a weathered ball-bag and I find myself aimlessly sprawled in front of a screen more evenings than not. This never happened two years ago. Now, like some declawed beast sedated by glossy images rolling seamlessly over one another, I lounge and gape with numb abandon, occasionally flick through Facebook on my phone and wonder why exactly people from school feel the need to repopulate the Earth with smaller humans that look like them before McDonalds ravaged their bodies. This is adult life, so I’m told, and you too are welcome to the party, please make yourself comfortable and wait for the air to run out.

Everything you need to know about me is explained by the steaming pile of cat shit that has collected outside my bedroom window. This veritable Everest of faeces makes me feel at home, as does the decapitated pigeon with its guts strewn out like a meaty party popper that’s stuck outside my office, in a location that the cleaners can’t reach. It rots there, sun-baked and spoiled, festering in the British summer.

These features of my surroundings help me to keep my perspective, much in the way that drama teachers educate young minds on what shattered dreams look like. They symbolise perfectly how much we crave our precious distractions in order to ignore the grim brutalities of life: their continued existence is damning proof. Even as I write, the gangrenous disease of modern living cramps up my hand with premature rigor mortis and spreads through the veins, pumped ever closer to the brain by a palpitating aorta that struggles against the thickening walls of tar that I have cursed it with.

Gradually I too will be pacified by the epidemic that sweeps the nation. As the world hurtles down into the belly of the abyss, we will watch with apathetic disdain as the stomach acid swirls around our ankles, melding our shoes to our feet, kicking up a mighty stench in the process. By the time we’re half digested we might reach feebly for an app to save us, but it’ll be too late and when we reach the sphincter of the universe to get sprayed out into the cosmic toilet bowl, only then will we admit that perhaps, just maybe, mistakes were made. Such is the nature of this affliction.

The first symptom was an involuntary twitch of the hand, reaching ceaselessly for the mobile phone to save me from reality. My phone-orientated spasm is akin to a phantom limb, but the ever-loveable philanthropists of Microsoft recently conducted a social study on some screen-worshipping Canadians and established that the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds down to just 8, so I doubt I’m alone in the quarantine zone.

This mutated strain of the 80’s TV-borne virus could be seen as the next step towards in our evolution where we transcend our physical forms to live entirely digitally, floating around the ether poking at one another’s faces with three and half inch floppies like cognitively impaired sea-monkeys in screen-saver form. Or maybe it just marks the next step towards a society of preening, gurning blobs of self-absorbed cellulose, hopeless invertebrate wads that could grow a spine if only they found use for one.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe our jobs really do have meaning in and of themselves. Maybe George Osborne isn’t fuelled by orphan tears and it’s even possible that Adrian Chiles and the rest of TV land aren’t just a collection of gelatinous guff-wagons constructed of meat. But don’t worry about it, just distract yourself with more words.

As the disease assaults your ability to think or even dribble coherently, the modern office does little to treat symptoms. Constant reminders from HR flow in via email reaffirming our enthusiasm for the casual business Friday dress-code and advising us not to jump from the east facing window because yesterday’s pile of mangled bodies hasn’t yet been cleaned up on account of the impossible-to-reach pigeon corpse. Whatever they bleat about it’s always in the distant language usually reserved for passive alarm voices who alert you to danger in an unnervingly calm tone. By specialising the function of the individual’s job we have become more and more divorced from the purpose of the work we do, so it’s no wonder we’re perpetually left unable to explain our jobs to relatives or friends.

Graduates are forced to fight to the death in gladiatorial combat for the chance to win an unpaid role as junior deputy assistant to the intern in some useless consultancy firm, or worse they become unthinking phone monkeys in firms with indoctrination programmes that would give the US Army a hard-on. Those without qualifications are converted into compost to grow, whilst those in jobs too long are quietly bumped off in the night by obtuse phrases such as “regrettably unforeseeable internal restructures” so they’re heaped on the cat-shit mountain as well. Our purpose in employment becomes harder to find, our days flow by in an uneasy wave of tedious confusion and we leave the office without a thought in our heads except for the rush of relief afforded by brief respite.

In a sleep-deprived stupor we’re driven to distraction, urgently seeking anything to ease our minds. It’s all there waiting for us, from kittens decorated by the mentally infirm to the online equivalent of the Dulux colour range told through pornography. And what’s more, the great benevolent dictator of the internet is only too willing to oblige us. With the frantic scurrying of a crack-addled banker trying to hide a hooker’s body we crave any blockade we can erect between the reality of the situation and the collective lie that we all buy into, known colloquially as ‘satisfaction’.

The disease of modern living is the catalysed onset of delusion, the belief that things actually aren’t that bad and that perhaps we ought to be thankful for what we have. This belief drags itself with us, a parasite on our bedraggled carcass shuffling from the tube to the bus to the sweat-stained pavements only to moor up in a desolate port with the TV on, our minds switched off and the glum cyclical nature of the horror pushed out of sight for another day as our eyes close and it’s all over.

In short, I’m becoming one of the idiots. Soon you’ll be like us, begging for distraction from the endless flurry of miseries and injustices that make up human existence. London has succeeded in dumbing me down with its isolating cost of living, alienating social conduct and the beckoning appeal to those who value money, prestige and job title über alles. We try to avoid how unfair it all seems with copies of Time Out and the latest in pop-up restaurants that only serve suffocated gelatine in plant pots and where all the cutlery is emblazoned with the face of Noel fucking Edmonds. Now I even have their haircut. It might get me a promotion.

At this rate I’ll max out a credit card on paper doilies this time next year, bragging to middle-management about the spacious depths of my new living room and how much light the bay window lets in whilst fiddling with a selfie-stick, all the time wondering why no-one can use a word of more than three syllables.

Unless we treat this disease swiftly, that is. Prognosis: amputate at the neck and leave my headless cadaver on the window ledge of a skyscraper where no-one can clean me up.

Duravit

It’s stamped on the divider between two urinals: Duravit. Purveyors of bathroom porcelain, presumably. They must wake each morning with the pride of a thousand New Horizons engineers.

The word has come to symbolise everything I hate about my current existence, because these urinals are at the office I’m tethered to and every time I see the word I’m filled with the pain and sadness of millions of voices suddenly crying out in terror, and being suddenly silenced by some fucker saying “I’ve booked room 2 for our 10.30”. Someone could flash the word Duravit at me on a piece of paper walking down Charing Cross Road and the spirit of Pavlov would likely make me grab the nearest rifle from our freshly armed ‘terror cops’ and spree myself into the Guinness Book of Records, before leaping in front of a number 24, urinating throughout.

Despite my lofty goal last year to prevent having to do this ever again, I have for the last few months been a member of the office tribe, ostensibly employed as a copywriter. I have virtually no work to do. The little I am given to do makes Peter and Jane look like tortured Tolstoy creations.

Everyone around me seems to be creating work for themselves because they live in a constant state of dread that someone will notice they’re really not contributing anything and they’ll be out on their arse. This suggests they fear they’re utterly replaceable, which of course they are because these jobs could be done by sheepdogs. This is where capitalism has led us to: unending worry that we are a single unwitting stumble away from unemployment and destitution – every one of us, all of the time.

Obviously I’m not trapped here; I can leave any time I want. It’s not as though they’ll seek my arrest on negligence charges because they barely notice my presence anyway. It’s not as though they couldn’t replace me in this farcically easy job with absolutely any recent Humanities graduate, at a quarter of the cost.

But in order to drink as much as I need to, I need money. And in 2015 the quickest way to get that money comes about through staring at a printer 50cm from my face and pleading with it to churn into life, because who knows what thrills it might spit forth? It could be the agenda for a meeting I won’t attend on the arcane principle of only going to meetings I think there might be a point to. It could be a spreadsheet that doesn’t quite fit the page and you just know that those missing numbers are the ones that make the whole world make sense. It could even be the printer itself deciding it’s time to test the toner. AI has moved on so much in recent years, it’s almost as though we don’t need to be here.

And of course we don’t need to be here. My usual complaint is that I could do this ‘work’ from anywhere – from my bed or the pub or some combination of the two. But really, what of this needs to be done at all? Of the 40 people in my field of vision, which of them is planning the placement of a new shopping centre? Which of them is waiting for their next call to save a stricken infant from the back of an overturned Dacia Sandero? Are any of them doing anything other than daydreaming that the last time they were asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, the asker had it in their power to grant that job, not just smile wistfully at the memory of their own smashed dreams?

For reasons of past employment I have a Linked In account. It has just this afternoon emailed me that someone I was drinking with on Saturday has a new ‘skill’ – ‘portfolio management’. I can’t begin to imagine what the hell that is. I’m hardly the first person to make the point that the amount of real, meaningful work people do in offices could be done in less than half the time but when I see words like ‘portfolio management’ I can’t imagine how there’s enough to fill a morning. Per year. Leap years only.

Whichever rich bastards are in charge this cycle need us to be boxed up all day, to prevent what they’d call idleness and the rest of us call real life. Too much time on our hands can only lead to sedition, because after a while chess, bird-watching, fornication and whatever else people get up to at weekends gets dull and only riots remain.

Last week there was a tube strike that meant nobody could get here on the Thursday. A couple of days before, some management prat said “Please remember we work in an Agile environment, which means we need to work collaboratively so we must all make every effort to come in”. Because if we can’t see you for one day out of five, we can’t be sure you’re not actively enjoying not being surrounded by blue swivel chairs with inexplicable stains where groins usually go, indecipherable hieroglyphics on tragic whiteboards and a selection of wonderful mugs brought sadly from previous jobs by people who are having no more fun here than they were before they told their previous boss to fuck off.

My three-month contract was up at the end of last month. In order to agree to renew it I asked that they let me drop down to four paid days a week. They insisted it remain at five, that there’s plenty of work to do if we cast the net a little wider around projects I have no experience of, interest in or influence over. They did that. I am up to around 40 minutes’ work per day. I know I could do other things to fill time here, but my motivation is being drawn from me like the seed of a Geordie on an 18-30.

Try to explain to anyone you’re uncomfortable with your lack of purposeful activity, that trying to milk an employer like a Norwegian Red is not a long-term route to self-fulfilment, and you’ll be met with the anger of office workers who have so much to do it’s ridiculous. That we’re in the same boat, doing work of so little value it would struggle to pass quality control at Poundland, is lost in a shriek of disdain that I’m getting away with it while others are forced to dig a massive hole every day and fill it in the next, because you never know when there’ll be a hole shortage or surplus and we all have to do our bit.

Why do we, the massive majority, put up with this? What in our collective psyche has allowed us to be coerced into believing these tasks we perform have a purpose beyond making sure we’re where we’re expected to be? There have always been pointless jobs and people willing to do them, but we have Thatcherism to thank for making it the norm.

Would it be so awful to give us a specific amount of work to do each day, and once we’ve completed it we’re free to go? Or if not go – sedition, remember – just let us read or paint or kick cutlery around the canteen, anything other than staring at Word documents with titles like ‘Digital Inclusion Scale’ with the resigned face of a man standing outside an engaged toilet cubicle listening to straining and plopping sounds.

This staggering tedium, this complete waste of a huge portion of a life already sure to be curtailed by a diet of bitter and batter, is the great scandal of our time. The highlights of my day are the occasional seconds I spend at the urinal. And I live, and I die, and a voice quietly screaming that you’re all fucking mental for putting up with this will be silenced and you’ll be free to sit there, doing that, day after day, for decade after decade, in peace.

Enjoy your Duravit.

Richard

We need to talk about Richard. You don’t know him, and I know you don’t know him because next to nobody does. There is little to no possibility that he has any friends, because the mere idea of Richard having friends is as absurd as the idea of a politician not grimacing and quivering in disgust when told they have to go and meet their constituents.

Some background perhaps, since it’s now established that you don’t know Richard. I work with Richard, much to my disdain, and he is without a doubt the most boring, useless, and pathetic arsehole on the planet. He joined the office I work in late last year and it was clear from the start that there was something iffy about him. He’s old and out of touch, which can be charming in some people, like your ever so slightly feeble grandmother who sits by amazed as you pull up a picture of a pot of jam on your laptop computer.

Richard, however, is not like your hypothetical grandmother. He does something that takes him out of that category and into his own separate place that just makes you want to sigh at his pitiable attempts to join in: he tries to be relevant.

Case in point: another work colleague and I were having a conversation about music fidelity, talking about recording techniques (he has a degree in acoustics, and I am a budding musician), and getting the best sounds for different instruments. It’s quite an exclusive conversation, sure, between two people in a small office of about five people at that point, but we’re not intentionally leaving anyone out. We’re not talking loudly, or interrupting anyone else’s conversation. Everyone else is glued to their laptop screens while us two talk. And then Richard, who has been sitting in the room with us the entire time, gets called to another room, and as he leaves, utters, “So long as you have an OK computer for all that!” I look at my colleague with a look of confusion, and look back at Richard and say nothing more than “Ummm…”

“You know, the Radiohead album!” he clarifies. “Oh…”, I say, like I get it. I hope it makes no sense to you, because it makes no sense to me. When he leaves, everyone else in the room peeks up from their screens, shooting a look of confusion. I mean, what the actual fuck has that got to do with anything we were talking about? Evidently he was trying to be funny, but it’s a joke so grossly misplaced that I still sit confounded when I think about the whole exchange. But worse still, he was trying to be relevant, namedropping Radiohead like he knows they are cool with the kids these days. He might as well have just tried to start rapping an Eminem song in full tracksuit gear and backward baseball cap, and have embarrassed himself completely.

Richard doesn’t really know how to communicate, and it’s not some social anxiety disorder; he’s just such a boring fuck that he has nothing to add to anything, ever. He once posed one of the most idiotic questions I have ever been asked. I was relating to another colleague (because I never actually talk to Richard, unless I’m feeling particularly masochistic and wanted to be bored to the point of pain) that I sometimes partake in swing dancing. After said colleague left the room, Richard piped up and queried, “Swing dancing? What kind of music do you do that to?” Thinking it was a joke, I deliberately paused, waiting for him to interject and exhale that loathsome chuckle he does when he thinks he’s done something ever so clever. There was no response, so trying my best to hide my amazement at his brainfart of a question, I responded, “…swing music” with a hint of disbelief at the fact I was answering such a question. I did not talk to him anymore after that.

It’s not just the inanity of the words that come out of his mouth, it’s his mannerisms, which are so very, very annoying. He types on his laptop loudly, like he’s penning a sarcastic letter. He sticks around in the office for hours, even if he’s allowed to go home early, just to eat sandwiches that are served to us, nabbing all the ones he likes, of course. He also drinks an absurd amount of tea. Last week he drank seventeen cups of tea in a day. Seventeen. And not even respectable tea like Earl Grey or Assam – shitty builder’s tea with way too much milk. Oh, and every time he takes a sup he makes an audible slurp, like a child drinking soup for the first time, followed by a tiny, satisfied “ahhh!” By my calculation that averages about 20,000 slurps and ahhhs a day, or at least it feels like that. I’m not a violent man, and I’ve never wanted to punch a man for simply drinking tea, but oh how Richard tempts me so.

He’s also a rat, telling the boss about one of my aforementioned colleagues using his equipment incorrectly, thus getting him fired – and all because Richard was evidently jealous this other guy was getting more work than he was. Everyone in the building finds him weird, and sometimes they proclaim relief (and joy) that they’re working with me on a project and not “that weirdo”. They also come and sit with me in another room, just so they don’t have to sit with Richard.

In the rare instances I somehow get obliged to have a (always very brief) conversation with Richard, he tries to tell me about his weekend and the like. He talks about how he met a friend for a drink, but I laugh internally as the idea of him actually having friends. This is how I know you don’t know Richard, because it’s impossible that anyone with an ounce of sense or self-worth (which, dear reader, I assume you have) would want to be around such a grimy, measly being.  There’s no way anyone would want to actively spend time with such an inconsequential person, someone who adds as much to a social setting as parsley does to any meal.

Splattering the monitor

A lot of big issues upset me, which I think is a sign of sanity. Yet I now wonder whether my riotous fury can occasionally be misguided after a recent visit to the toilet in my office building. You see, it has a dispenser of single sheets of shiny paper masquerading as toilet roll. Fuck the beheadings and retaliation bombings, this is an absolute disgrace.

These single square sheets are fucking ridiculous. The dispensers are usually gigantic and situated at such a height you have to bend down whilst attempting to gracefully use facilities, so your face is far too close to a floor that you know is covered in pubic hair and menstrual flickage.

If you feel frugal or environmental, you will pull a single sheet. A sheet that barely covers your arsehole and disintigrates within one foot of water. With echoes of “for fuck’s sake” coming from stall to stall, the sound of a hamster on a wheel begins as you all pull as many sheets out as you can. No matter how many times you pull you’ll either get two (pointless) or fifty, enough to clog any toilet.

With the wadge gathered after an hour of tugging, you then have to try to crumple or fold (if the advert is true) the paper into a mesh that wont rip if you try to use it. Flimsy loose leaves of it trickle onto the floor, either sticking to the unknown substance around the panty liner bin, or just under your shoe. No matter how many times you gather the paper, you never feel sanitary.

As everyone knows, toilet roll is also the safety net for the sudden office cold. Sitting in these germ ridden places full of martyrs dragging in their kids’ latest phlegm-intensive disease, you will at some point find yourself rushing to the emergency tissue supply. These dispensers of evil barely cover a nostril, and any blowing will just burst through, splattering the monitor.

Meanwhile the infested turn up with boxes of Aloe Vera soft tissues that don’t rub the skin from your nose like sandpaper. Will they share? Will they fuck. Instead you turn into an advert for cocaine abuse as your septum cracks and bleeds. How can this paper be so harsh yet totally useless at actually mopping up solid or watery substances?

I sometimes attempt to study this paper when seeking peace from meetings. Sitting in the toilet I hold the paper to the light, poke it, stretch it, yet I cannot determine exactly what this element is. It certainly isn’t paper in any traditional sense. It has nothing in common with pulped wood, papyrus, newspaper, even the beautiful Andrex you can only dream of.

As a poor student I used to relieve toilets of their spare loo rolls. This ‘eco-friendly paper’, seemingly the result of boiling plastic bags in battery acid, defies such support for the poor. If you handed it to a homeless person they’d shank you, and rightly so.

As much as I understand the underhand tactics to reduce our arseholes sucking up paper as we work, surely there must be another option? Even just a slightly bigger leaf of paper would be enough. Then again, that would probably quadruple an average company’s budget on what they can spare to keep their employees from self harming.

Busy times, busy people, busy minds

A few days ago I encountered a homeless man near Moorgate Station. It was 1.30am or so, and I was there ’cause I’d completed a random shift at The Water Poet that day (7.5 pounds an hour for just collecting and washing glasses, not bad). It was too late to take the Underground, and I don’t know shit about the buses, so I just got a little bit…lost. It was very dark, I was in a city I don’t really know in a country I’m new to, in a part of that city that was completely alien to me until that day and I was nervous as hell. It may seem ridiculous, but it certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience for me.

But let’s go back to the homeless guy.

He approached me very slowly, smile in his face – not a creepy smile, really, just a warm one – and probably cold to his bones. He talked to me with a very good British accent, using a polite way of speaking, with learned words. He was short, white bearded and very thin. He introduced himself, but apologized and didn’t give me his hand because it was “too dirty”, and then started to ask me if I could buy him some food at Sainsbury’s.

But then he stopped the talk, and frowned. He looked at me and asked if I was lost.

I smiled then and, of course, said “yes”. At this point he started to apologize again because he said he was putting his own problems above mine. He started to ask me what I needed, told me that he knew the bus system, all that kind of thing.

So, at that point, I sort of stopped listening to him. I knew that he’d help me for sure; of course, he had nothing better to do, and helping me could result in a grateful person with money in his pockets. So, instead of listening, I started to think about all the other people I’d approached myself, asking for help.

They numbered five, until the homeless guy showed up.

Two of them just told me something like “busy, sorry” as they walked by, phone in hand and with the same tired face I probably had on. One of them listened to me, but as he didn’t know the place where I live, he just told me that he couldn’t be of any help. The other two didn’t even reply to my “excuse me”.

And that, so far, is the one and only fucking crap thing that I hate about London. I won’t say “people are shit”, no; the main problem is our jobs. There’s always a lot more work that must be done, at all times, in all places. Talking about London is talking about busy times, busy people, busy minds. People tend to act cold because they’re just too tired to be anything else, and only fucking homeless people have the will to be kind or careful with strangers because, of course, they don’t have a job that’s draining their entirely lives out its bodies.

It’s hilarious.

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong. And of course, I can’t say that every homeless person and every random worker is exactly like this, but the truth is that I got home that night because that guy helped me, and the others just didn’t have the time needed to even listen to my words. It was very sad. I thought of it all the way home, and not in a good mood. It all seemed sad as hell.

And yes, I bought food for the guy.