Another five hours mate

Money really does fuck everything up, and not always in the way you think. As people in the western world beat each other senseless in shopping centres for the right to buy that last cut-price giant TV for someone who already has a giant TV, I’ll be getting screwed by money in a wholly different way.

Someone has offered me a job for more money than they should have, and I’ve said yes. My fault, obviously. Applied for a job by accident and the bastards went and gave it to me.

The reason this website exists is because I’m keen to demonstrate I and other like-minded people don’t need office jobs to make a crust – just tell us what to write, we’ll decide where to write it, and we all win. But sometimes an idiot – most frequently the British government in my case – will say “Please sit in my little box doing half a day’s work over the course of a fortnight and I’ll pay for your next holiday to St Kitts, Nevis, or both, plus spending money”.

So here I am, sitting in a government box. Furious with myself for having betrayed my aim of doing a whole year without an office job. I’ve missed it by four days. Four remarkable days in which the man whose job I’ll be taking over in the new year, for at least three months, has explained to me that there’s not only loads and loads to do, but he’s also done most of it himself already, and there’s an almost infinite amount of time remaining to do the tiny amount that’s left.

Here I’ll sit, day after day, thinking of the money, hating myself more and more. Pissing people off moaning about it because they all have office jobs already and don’t see the problem. If I have an office job I don’t see why you shouldn’t too, goes the argument. A similar type of egotistical reasoning could well explain the spread of Ebola.

There are positives; there always are. The job’s in a superb location – Fleet Street, in the heart of my favourite part of my favourite city on Earth. Surrounded by venerable buildings, the river nearby, just about every route to everywhere within easy walking distance.

The people are very nice, as far as I can tell. It’s an office, so occasionally I have to laugh indulgently at humour a child would scorn, but these are friendly people. Not much by means of potential pub comrades, but you can’t have it all.

I’m a bog-standard heterosexual man, and there are more women to look at than there tend to be in my flat. With a nod to headlines agitating that technology is turning infants into filth-hungry fiends who see each other as nothing but objects to insert each other into, my time working at home has made it tricky not to see a shapely female trudging the corridors of the workplace without wondering how she might eat a banana. And it seems I’m no longer trained to hide that natural instinct, much to the very obvious displeasure of the recipient and, imminently, HR.

And as I may have mentioned, the pay’s all right.

Sadly none of these plus points matter a jot when you consider the same journey every day, the same seat at the same desk every day, the same faces, the same conversations, the same set of eight unendurable hours spent doing the same shit that just doesn’t need to be done here. It needs to be done, maybe, though even that’s questionable. But it does not need to be done here.

Here, which is hotter than a Moroccan’s armpit by about midday and yet still there are people wearing coats complaining it’s Baltic. Here, where every purposeless meeting is attended by eight people; one person talking, one taking notes they’ll never, ever look at again, and six embodiments of hatred wishing a fiery death on the name at the top of the agenda.

Here, where a man places a spittle-laden ball of paper over his computer screen’s clock each morning, removing it only when the strain gets too much for him and he simply must know how much longer he has to be here. Another five hours mate. This man spent days hanging on the telephone after his interview, waiting to find out if he’d got this job, and was thrilled when he did.

I’m doing this for the money, despite being one of the least ambitious or avaricious people you’re likely to meet, because I couldn’t justify not doing it given the boost it’ll give the bank balance, and because rounds don’t buy themselves. I like to think I’ll do this for the initial three-month contract and then quit, go back to a life of relative freedom, limitless creative outlets and stoutly defended mental health. It’s hardly an easy life, spending hours every day trying to eke out small monies from huge amounts of good quality work that nobody will ever read, but it’s life.

It’s an uncertain, often worrying existence, but it makes me smile wistfully to think it was my existence this time last week. Then on my very first day in this job I was told “there’s probably years of work here if you want it”, and freedom seems so far away from me there’s probably a NASA probe about to find methane on it.

It’s the ‘here’, not the ‘work’. I will do a sterling job for you people; I always have in every job I’ve had. I’m not one of those chancers who clocks in, does the absolute minimum, badly, and clocks out again, even though my having written this in work hours might suggest otherwise. I take pride in a job done well. Just pay me half as much and let me do it from where I want – can’t say fairer than that, can I?

But how can we have meetings? How can we check you’re not just sitting there beating off to work permits and Chinese visa literature? How can we justify our existence to you if you can’t even see us toil?

Voluntarily back in the rat race. Five days a week for as long as I can take it. And this time it’ll either make me rich or dead.

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