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More accurately, some abnormally lucrative contract in this barbaric government silo has been revoked, unrenewed or disavowed, or whatever the Tories do to consultancy firms in the age of tightening ringpieces.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.