Work, eh? Stressful business.
Is it, though?
I’ve just been on a video call. Some evil bastard sent me an invite at 9.12am to a ‘meeting’ at 10am, on a Friday morning, which must break all kinds of UN protocols even the Israelis adhere to. I nurtured my rage for 40 minutes or so, put on a polo shirt and a pair of pants, thanked the Lord for the disease that means my number 3 barnet looks the same whether it’s clean and brushed or plastered with dribble from a post-ale night sleeping upside down, and Zoomed right in.
Something’s gone wrong on the project. Oh no.
Someone’s losing their shit over something someone hasn’t done, or something. The person who called the meeting looks stressed and keeps telling the rest of the attendees not to worry, it won’t ‘blow back on us’. There’s a man named Gavin causing all kinds of mayhem. I ask who Gavin is. Nobody’s sure. I say ‘Give him my number’ and nervous chuckles greet the idea that the bloke whining about something involving office work might end up on the phone with someone prone to delivering blunt home truths with the candidness of a dog looking you straight in the eye as it defecates.
There is no point to these jobs we do. We, the office-working hordes of middle England, do not matter one itty bit and if I might go a little Nietzsche for a second, that’s because nothing matters and we’re all doomed.
But my God do some people need everything related to ‘work’ to be serious on a level that makes Mariupol look like Thorpe Park. I work on a website, about that most electrifying topic, agriculture. Someone was talking gravely at me just now about ‘process’. Another grimly invoked ‘strategy’. What is happening? And at the end of the call I heard the words “Have a good weekend everyone – relax, and don’t spend too much time thinking about all this.”
It hadn’t occurred to me that I might.
I do have a certain pride in my work. I’m not bad at it, overall – I do what needs doing, on time, reasonably well. Nobody ever complains or calls me idle, except the wife, but she’s the only one who can actually see the duvet.
But I’m some distance past the point of giving a fuck about work. A stand off with mortality can have that effect on someone, but I’d have got here anyway. Absolutely nothing is serious if you’re not running into a burning building, replying to a domestic violence call, fixing the International Space Station or making sure the rods go into the reactor without destroying Japan. If you look back on any office crisis in your life, does angrily calling the business analyst a bellend before spending a full hour in the toilet seem proportionate in hindsight?
That’s not to say there’s not the odd sinking feeling in a job. Working’s like wanking – it often leaves you with a mess to clear up and a deep sense of shame. Shock horror, I am not always sanguine as I thrust onto the internet variations on ‘peaty soil means there’s around 20% or more organic matter to a depth of 40cm or more’. I imagine a history where I work for VICE or Kerrang, rather than a website at which people in wellies squint skeptically while chewing grass. I cannot claim I’m consistently intoxicated by herbal leys on improved grassland, though intoxicated is often where I end up.
But what I do is still only websites, that most unserious of media. What you do is still only advertising to sell overpriced rubbish to impressionable buffoons. What she does is still enter data into a machine, which however you cut it will always be called ‘data entry’. We are ‘delivery managers’ who’ll never touch a parcel. What none of us do is anything that’ll change a single life for better or worse. Well, maybe worse if it’s advertising.
What we are not, we lowly office drones, is firefighters. If you’re not sure whether you’re properly safeguarding your customers’ data, picture a man being blown across a corridor by backdraft and just shut the fuck up about GDPR. As you fire up Excel on a Tuesday morning, it’s less likely you’re about to make a breakthrough in the field of infant mortality than to get pissed off that ‘merge cells’ never works how you want it to and shout at that bastard Clippy.
If this thing I’m working on doesn’t launch on exactly the right day, the farmers won’t care. Will there still be vegetables? Probably. What will the cows do? Continue to ignore websites. But skylarks! Better off without us. You’ll get that report when you get it, Gavin, and if you look closely you’ll notice the first letter of each paragraph spells out Y O U S I L L Y C U N T.
And if I might steal a great man’s suggestion, I reckon you should get up, walk very slowly to the fridge, hack off a small piece of cheese, then walk very slowly back to your laptop and then forget what it was you were doing.