Monthly Archives: November 2006

Favouritism

The place where I current work has an Employee of the Month scheme. Management (4 members) as are supposed to vote on the best worker. But this doesn’t happen…

Usually only the main boss chooses and it’s invariably the boss’s favourite who wins rather than the most productive employee. And the boss’s favourite is almost always one of the people who can’t speak English – because, I suspect, they are unable to question his bizarre decisions and he therefore doesn’t regard them as troublemakers.

The best winner, however, was the Boss’s wife.

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A notable skive

In October 2006, Henry Bingham a man from Wyoming who wanted time off told his workmates that his two year-old-daughter had died. At first, his plan went swimmingly – he was allowed compassionate leave, his sympathetic colleagues clubbed together to give him more than $1300 and his labor union chipped in with some cash too.

The one thing that Bingham hadn’t counted on was someone from his office telephoning his wife to offer condolences – and her telling them that the child was actually alive and well.

Bingham was quickly arrested by the local sheriff for obtaining property under false pretences – a charge with a maximum jail sentence of 10 years. He told a sheriff’s deputy that he made up the story to try to get time off from work, but, strangely, he was unable to explain why he had taken the money – and why, indeed, he had in fact continued to turn up at work.

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I blame society

It isn’t so much the length of my commute that troubles me. At an average of 45 minutes to an hour I suppose it’s not too bad by modern standards. No, I’m afraid to say that it’s the people.

Until quite recently it wasn’t too bad. You see I catch the number 38 bus from Clapton Pond in East London to the centre of town, and since my stop is the first, when the vehicle was an old fashioned route master bus, I was pretty much guaranteed a seat at the front of the top deck. From there I could daydream the journey away, enjoying the London scenery.

Even back then, there were, of course, a few alarming incidents. Like the time I was joined by a woman who spent most of the journey singing dreamily and cooing at her crack pipe as if it were a baby. And the time when a gang of youths relieved me of my personal possessions. During office party season there would also inevitably also be someone hanging off the rail at the back heaving up his guts, making my exit onto the street fraught with danger and bad smells.

However, it would be churlish to complain – especially since the journey was so blissful compared with what I have to put up with now.

You see, thanks to the advent of the new bendy buses, all the focus of the journey is now turned inwards. There’s no view out the windows and no escaping my fellow passengers. The best thing that can be said about whom (as the residents of London’s loopiest borough Hackney) is that they are never boring.

They are, however, far too many in number, far too lax in personal hygiene and far too ill-mannered when it comes to keeping I-pod volumes low, letting people in and out of the doors and making room for old ladies.

So far so similar to most other commuting experiences around the country, I imagine….

What sets my journey apart is the constant –and often realised – threat of violence coupled with the sheer madness of a small but very vocal minority of the passengers. These I have labelled in my head as The Woman Who Throws Bread At Me, The Man Who Shouts About Jesus, The Man Who Just Stares (scarily), The Man Who I’m Sure Stole My Wallet Once, The Man Who Sweats and The Woman Who Shakes. I think their titles give an idea of the kind of challenges they present on the way to work. They’re also sometimes accompanied by a very frightening person who wheels a rotting old doll around in a pram, lying on a bed of plastic bags, and a young city-boy who snorts cocaine from his Oyster card and says “oh fuck” every time he does so.

The heat and the psychic pressure built up by this combined mass of bodies and madness has also driven me to the point where I worry that I too am as crazy as the rest of them. Only the other day I heard someone crying in anguish “Will you please just give me a fucking break…” only to realise in horror that it was my own voice.

I think I should probably start cycling.

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Unsuitable attire

Because I’d been away working Africa, I hadn’t had any need for a suit for a very long time. I’d still kept my old one, however, hanging up in a closet back in England… just in case.

I had cause to use it almost as soon as I’d returned when I was lucky enough to be asked to an interview for what I regarded at the time as my dream job.

It was a first thing in the morning affair, and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for my super-efficient waking and dressing. I’d moved so fast, indeed, that I’d managed to make an earlier train and was happily relaxed in my seat, contemplating a painless journey…

…Until I looked down at my trousers and noticed a few curious looking flecks of pale dust on them.

I flicked at the dust.

It didn’t disappear.

So I brushed at it – hard – with the flat of my hand.

It still didn’t disappear. Indeed, the brushing appeared to have made these curious flecks grow bigger.

Closer inspection revealed that it wasn’t dust on my precious and only suit. There were tiny holes in the material – and the pale patches were, in fact, my own legs. Perplexed, I looked closer and realised, in alarm, that moths had been eating at my trousers and that –to my horror – they’d found the region around the zip particularly tasty. To add to the unfortunate effect, my bright white boxers were shining through for all the world to see.

No matter how far down I pulled my jacket, I just couldn’t cover them.
I don’t know what it was that put the interviewers off. It could have been the fact that I was late, because, yes, in spite of my efforts, my train had conspired to deposit it me fifteen minutes after time. It could have been the fact that I was wearing crotch-less trousers. Or it could have been the nervousness that the knowledge of this fact caused in me.

Anyway, I didn’t get the job.

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All Hung Up

Not long after I took up a job in New York I was asked to wine and dine some potential clients and to generally impress them with a night out in the Big Apple. The wining and dining went fine. I was even feeling pretty pleased with myself – and hoping that the clients were pleased with me.

But things took a turn for the very worst when my guests – who were even newer to the metropolis than me – asked me to take them to a club. I knew of only one place – and I only knew of this because I’d been given a flier for it that morning when I was coming out of the subway.

I knew I’d made a mistake when we walked into the club (where there was no queue, which perhaps retrospectively, I should have taken as a bad sign) and there was a faint and very strange tang in the air. I couldn’t make much else out as the room was really dark, which in a sense I considered a blessing since that meant I didn’t have to make eye contact with anyone else.

I realised the true extent of my error when a shot light suddenly shone onto the stage in front of us and I saw a naked 16 stone man being lowered from the ceiling on hooks. There followed some horrible activity with a dwarf which it pains me to remember even now – and a prolonged and quite severe bout vomiting from a seriously unimpressed client. I haven’t been asked to ‘entertain’ since.

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Abigail’s (naked) Party

In 1998 Abigail Saxon, a BBC religious programmes producer’s antics at a Christmas Party weren’t just the talk of her office – they earned her a mention in no less an organ thatn The Daily Telegraph. Saxon, who worked on Radio 4’s Sunday Programme was mentioned by name in the august journal, which said she was facing disciplinary action “after running three times around a trendy restaurant bar wearing only her socks.”

She is reported to have twice toured naked around Manchester’s upmarket Barca restaurant during an office Christmas lunch, allegedly for a £100 bet.

She then completed a third turn, with a cry of: “This one is for free!”

Her colleagues were said to be stunned when she accepted the challenge – and no doubt delighted when she dashed off to the lavatory, removed all of her clothes (apart from her socks), stuck one leg out of the door and shouted: “Here I come!”

Apeaking after the event, a BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC would not under any circumstances condone such behaviour.”

Fortunately, Ms Saxon kept her job.

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