Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Handbags in the car park this morning as an ejaculate of salesmen argued the toss over the last remaining space.
My money was on a skinny guy with white hair sculpted into a jaunty quiff.
“He looks like Tintin,” said Neil.
“Tintin is ginger, isn't he?” replied Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader.
“No,” said Neil. “He's Belgian.”

We were gathered together in Stella's office on the solemn occasion of my annual appraisal, she in the role of appraiser and Neil – who I'm convinced is a befuddled tourist from a distant planet, lost as a suitcase at Terminal 5 – in the guise of impartial referee.
“It's such a cliché to say all managers are incompetent buffoons,” I said. “Present company excepted of course. But it's so true.”

Neil was spraying his head with some kind of dark icky substance.
“There!” he said when he'd finished, paraphrasing from the blurb on the canister. “Now nobody need ever know that I've gone bald!”

I pitched a few examples to back up my argument, instances where I'd fulfilled my duties with typical quiet determination, blah blah, only to see someone else receive all the plaudits.
“Managers are always taken in by heroic gestures,” I said. “This is because they're constantly looking out for eye-catching stories to put in their monthly reports. To them, somebody driving all night to deliver a solution to a customer just ahead of a deadline will always make better copy than the guy who diligently grafted for weeks to produce that solution.”

Stella typed something into her Blackberry then popped it into her bag.
“You'd imagine bosses got where they are because of their ability to make good decisions,” I continued. “But that's not the case, is it? They don't listen and I don't believe they'd be capable of understanding even if they did.”
“Tim, I'm going to stop you there,” said Stella sternly. Her eye contact was unflinching. “Now answer me this.”
“Go on.”
“Does my hair look better up or down?” She gathered it up in one hand, revealing an unusual tattoo on the nape of her neck - “Up?” - then let it fall around her shoulders - “Or down?”

I ummed to fill the silence for a while, then said “I can't believe I never knew Company X has it's own train station. Did you know that?”

A hundred yards beyond the clearing in the beech copse where Bill Surname's retired army chums make base camp, the platform is densely covered in seventeen varieties of Deadly Bramble – and sure, you have to change at Preston, then Southport, then Preston again, so it's hardly on the mainline or anything – but still, a proper station with a ticket office and broken phone boxes and a booth selling coffee and matches.

“Down,” I said, so she tied up her hair with a scrunchy and excused herself before heading off to Mr. Overdone's – house motto: “You'll never know you had it in you” - to meet her friend Becky for lunch.
“Not you,” I said to Neil, my former team leader, who clambered back to his feet, straightened his cravat, then wandered off to stores to try and buy a map of Earth.

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