I Miss Meetings

You know you’re in a bad job when you don’t have meetings. Or rather, Meetings.  Don’t get me wrong, just because you have meetings doesn’t mean you have a good job, but it does mean you’re further up the employment totem pole.

I used to work in jobs where we had meetings. Sometimes about important stuff like projects that were six months behind schedule and twenty-two thousand over budget.  Sometimes about unimportant stuff like whether we should change who we buy our paper towels from because they were crumbly and left green bobbly bits everywhere.  Sometimes we even had meetings about when we were going to have another meeting.  “I need to check my diary, but the thirteenth definitely sounds doable.”  Then we’d check our diaries and find the thirteenth definitely wasn’t doable, but no matter, we’d just have another meeting to decide when to have another meeting.

Sometimes meetings would be in somebody’s office, but if we were lucky it’d be in a boardroom.   Look at us, we’d think with our chests puffed out like pompous pigeons, we’re having an important meeting in a posh boardroom.  Wow! Is that tinted glass? We should see if we can get this boardroom again for the thirteenth, which isn’t doable but let’s pencil it in anyway.  Literally, pencil.  In fact, let’s discuss pencils at the next meeting.  Run down some lead hardness data and HB stats.

Sometimes meetings came with refreshments. Croissants.  Sandwiches.  Cinnamon buns.  Donuts.  Once, ginger biscuits that had quite a kick.  And even if there weren’t any store bought refreshments, you’d at least have a jug of water and a glass.  I miss pouring water from a jug.

Now I just do my shift. At my automated shape-sorting desk.  For eight hours a day, minus breaks.  I miss the sheer pointless time-wasting genius of meetings. I might arrange one with the cat when I get home.  See if the thirteenth is doable for him.



Misshapes, mistakes, misfits. Raised on a diet of broken biscuits. Oh, we don’t look the same as you. We don’t do the things you do, but we live around here too. Misshapes, mistakes, misfits. We’d like to go to town but we can’t risk it. Anyway, that’s enough Pulp, I want to talk about misshapes (mistakes, misfits – yeah, done that).

Every week thousands of misshapes are delivered to the unit where I work. These are broken and damaged shapes. Crippled squares, chipped triangles and lame ovoids that nobody wants – except somebody does want them. You see, in amongst sorting and dispatching normal shapes, we’re also expected to sort and dispatch these ruined objects. Trouble is, nobody likes doing them.

For starters, they’re often yellowed and brittle with age, like bones from an old leper cemetery. And after doing a tray, your desk is covered with dust that no matter how much you blow and rub and scrub, you can’t get rid of. Then there’s the smell. Misshapes have a terrible mildewed stench. After an hour doing them it’s like you’ve been pick-pocketing sodden tramps all day.

Worse, it’s hard to tell what some misshapes are. Smashed and worn by age, they could be anything. Calcified jellybabies with spondylitis. Elderly sharks teeth. Broken bollards. Castle turrets. Frozen spaghetti. Kites in a stiff breeze. Splintered whale tusks. Stalagmites. Stalactites. Three-dimensional doilies. Poor man’s chalk. Factory returned chess pieces. Snowmen in distress. Popes in a sack race. Plectrums in a tumble drier. Polar bears kickboxing. Warped snooker cues. Astronauts and Klansmen on a trampoline. Imperial Stormtroopers fighting Buddhist monks on… you get the picture.
So what do you do with these sad abominations? Which tray to put them in? You end up agonising. Or not. I just shove them in the ‘Various’ slot. But with some people, it’s a quest to find what they once were. They stare and stare at them, trying to see back in time to when they were a glistening new baby shape straight out of the shape womb. Which means that not only are misshapes smelly and messy but they take a disproportionately long time to sort.
Unfortunately, we’re contractually bound to sort and despatch them. And wherever they go they become even more broken and end up, in six to eight weeks, back on our desks. A pile of misshapes, mistakes, misfits. Raised on a diet of broken biscuits. Oh, we don’t look the same as you…


Earthquake Proofing For Dummies

We don’t live in an earthquake zone, but apparently the building I work in – the giant pepper pot I spend forty hours a week in – is earthquake proofed. No, I don’t know what that means either.  Sturdier girders?  Walls that bend like reeds in the wind?  A roof made of sugar so when it shatters and falls, we’ll be lightly dusted with tasty powder and not cut to shreds?

Whatever it means, in the event of a major ground wobbling incident, we’ll be safe. In theory.  I still think if the soil rises up against us, open ground’s your best bet.  Like the Lidl car park. Or that old brown field behind the abandoned Slinky Spring Factory.  That must be pretty safe, aside from the rusty slinky springs riddling the ground.

I digress. The last people who rented our building earthquake proofed it.  Heaven knows why.  Unless they had an incredibly panicky staff that saw the 2015 Dwayne Johnson film San Andreas, and didn’t want that happening to them.  Although we were here in 2015, so it couldn’t have been San Andreas they’d seen.  Maybe 1974’s Earthquake?  Or that tremor in Short Cuts that saves Sean Penn’s brother from a rape charge?

I digress again. If you’re not in an earthquake zone, how can you prove that the building is earthquake proofed?  It’s not like you can get a giant over to vigorously shake it.  No, the more I think about it, the more I think the last company to rent our building were taken for a ride by a dodgy local contractor.  “I don’t want to worry you, mate, but you want to get this building earthquake proofed.  Council catches you without proper seismic protection and you’ll to get a nasty little fine.  Tell you what, my tools are in the van, I could do it for you now?  I’ll charge a monkey and be out your hair by the weekend? Wicked!”


Fun With Lanyards!

We had some fun at work yesterday. I’m still chuckling at the pure mad joy of it all.  If I had to write it as a formula it would look something like this:

Levity × Mirth ÷ Delicious Daftness = Yesterday

It’s a day I’ll cherish until I’m an old man looking back at my life. “That day with the lanyards!” I’ll say to the poorly paid care worker giving me a brutal bed bath.  “I’m still chuckling at the pure mad joy of it all!”

Here’s what happened. One of our security measures is colour coded lanyards.  Standard operatives and managers wear a green lanyard.  Visitors get a blue lanyard.  Contractors –orange.  If we see somebody without the correct coloured lanyard – or without a lanyard at all! – we’re meant to challenge them.  Or, if challenging isn’t our thing, tell a Team Manager, who’ll challenge them.  Unless challenging isn’t their thing, and they’ll tell … somebody who likes challenging.  Jeremy Kyle?  Malcolm Tucker?  Worf?

Yesterday I went in – all innocent like – only to learn that a game was afoot! At some point during the day somebody would walk around the building not wearing the correct coloured lanyard.  Or perhaps – get this – not wearing a lanyard at all! You can imagine the excitement that generated.  We were abuzz, our eyes aroving.  Looking for that incorrectly lanyarded man.  Or woman (although it almost certainly would be a man).

Hello? Who was this walking towards us?  Only the ruddy Site Manager in a blue visitor’s lanyard.  “You’re not wearing the right lanyard!” we cried.

“Am I not?” replied the wag, and disappeared into his office and came out ten minutes later … in a black lanyard.   We didn’t even know those existed!  What was black for?  MercenariesNinjasSith lords?

“You’re still not wearing the right lanyard!” we cried again, getting into the Panto spirit of it all.

“Am I still not?” he rejoined and disappeared into his office and came out ten minutes later … in the correct green employee lanyard. We tried to hide our disappointment – some were hoping for a pink lanyard, others a sparkling glitter one – and he seemed to sense it.  “The day’s not over yet!” he winked and swaggered off.

We were all so high on fun that Comical Barry decided to take his lanyard off and replace it with a brown lace. We roared.  Then Joking Jenny removed her lanyard and replaced it with a ribbon from her handbag.  We roared again.  Then Droll Dave swapped his lanyard with a bandage from the first aid box.  We roared again, before being taken down to the Meeting Room and warned that removing our lanyards on the premises was a disciplinary matter.

What a crazy day, though! And in honour of it, I’m writing this in a yellow lanyard I kept from the last place I worked.  What am I like?


Man In A Posh Box

There’s a man in a box out by the gates. I say box, technically it’s a Portacabin.  A good one too.  Sturdy.  With thick glass and a door you’d need a Jeep to yank off.  The sort of Portacabin you could transport to the moon and it would make a perfectly adequate lunar base.  You can’t see much through the heavily tinted safety glass, but it looks nice in there.  A flat screen television, monitors, a DAB radio, a jug kettle and two wall-mounted phones.  It belongs to Solar Security – a subsidiary of Blue Sun – and the man inside is either Nelson or, when Nelson isn’t at work, Not Nelson.

Nelson’s in his fifties and has a fabulous head of well quaffed hair. Like Johnny Suede or Shakin’ Stevens at his peak.   Coupled with his meaty sideburns he looks like a man from a bygone age.  Perhaps the Portacabin is actually a time machine and Nelson’s a Time Warden?  God knows he’s not much of a security warden.  In fact nobody’s quite sure what he does.  He doesn’t let people in through the gates – we have blue swipe cards for that.  He doesn’t let visitors in who ring – reception does that.  And he doesn’t walk the perimeter.  In fact, he’s rarely seen outside of his fancy box.

The guy who isn’t Nelson is actually three or four guys. But we think of them all as Not Nelson because none of them make much of an impression.  And there’s quite a turn over, which makes me think Nelson has some unsanitary habits you wouldn’t want going on in your Portacabin.

We’ve asked at employee forum meetings what Nelson actually does and we’re told, “He’s responsible for security.” That’s it.  We’ve mentioned about him not letting people in or walking the perimeter and we’re told, “He’s responsible for security.”  We’ve asked why his shed needs to be so Lah-De-Dah Gunner Graham and we’re told, “He’s responsible for security.”

I wish I was responsible for security. I want that cabin.  I’ll happily become a Not Nelson and put up with Nelson’s farting/racism/finger painting with old placenta just to spend my days watching a flat screen and boiling a jug kettle.


Please Don’t Ask Me For Directions

On the way to work yesterday somebody asked me for directions. I hate when people ask me for directions.  I know nothing about my geography.  Nothing.  I don’t know where Loot Street is.  Or Butterball Industrial Park.  Or even which way is left.  So don’t ask me where somewhere is.  And when I do stammer my way through some half arsed directions, don’t let your eyes glaze over.  Or cut me off midway through when you realise I’m an idiot, because you stopped me.

And why even ask for directions in this day and age?  Ask SatNav, Google Earth or Cortina.  Don’t stop me on my bike.  I know nothing and you’ve almost certainly got a device in your pocket that can tell you to the millimetre where you should be going.

So yesterday morning I was flagged down by a man in a lorry asking the way to Business Unit 5t. At least I think that’s what he was asking, since not only was he a classic low talker, but he’d also left his engine running to drown out much of what he was saying.  Ironically, on the sixth attempt at asking I realised I did actually know where he wanted to go.  “Oh, hang on, I actually know this one!  It’s over there,” I said excitedly.  “OVER THERE!” I repeated, and pointed to … well, over there.


Nothing. Blank face.


Maybe a flicker, maybe not. So I shouted it a fifth time.  He nodded slowly, thanked me, and drove off in the opposite direction.  The definitely Not Over There direction.  And that’s another reason I hate giving directions.   Even if against all the odds I know and tell them, they won’t listen.


Card Man Strikes Again

Brett’s a great guy. He really cares about his fellow co-workers.  I know because he’s forever buying cards and bringing them around for us to sign.  Somebody’s leaving – get them a card.  Somebody’s turning forty-seven – get them a card.  Somebody’s just got over mumps – get them a card.  Somebody’s been diagnosed with ankle cancer – a card.  Somebody’s a bit bald – card.  Somebody’s been accused of whispering sexually inappropriate rhymes to a co-worker – card.  Somebody’s discovered a portal to a parallel universe in their Coco Pops – card.

Brett’s single-handedly keeping Clintons in business. And these aren’t small cards.  He buys whopping great paving-slab sized cards.  With enough space for us all to write something.  And he’s relentless at getting everyone to add a message of support/condolence/congratulations.  He’s Jehovah Witness intense.  Pretend to go to the toilet all you like, he’ll just wait for you to come back.  And then wait again when you actually go to the toilet because you only pretended to go first time.

I shudder when I see him walking towards me with another cardboard behemoth under his arm. What am I going to say on this one?  Good luck with that flat tyre! Wishing you and your guinea pig well at this difficult time.  If it hadn’t been for those pesky kids you’d have got away with it!  And I can’t refuse.  Refusing to sign makes you a person of suspicion.

Do the recipients ever look at these cards? Squint at the signatures wondering who Jimboloin is and why he’s scribbling about the Christmas party they never went to?  Of course I’m just bitter because I’ve never got a card at work. Ever.  I tend to get in and out of all the places I’ve ever worked like a stealth bomber without any bombs.  Still, some self-harm with a sharpened Brazil nut and maybe Brett will add me to the list of the carded.

And the reason I’m writing this? Brett brought another card round for signing yesterday.  Somebody’s had a baby.  Although I don’t really know her put my name on the card.  Followed by a tick, for some reason.  √


What animal would you have plastic surgery to look like?

Six months ago somebody at work recorded a programme about a man who had plastic surgery to look like a squirrel. He finally watched it yesterday – “I chuffing well forgot all about it!” – and wouldn’t stop yammering about it over break today.  Boy, would he not stop yammering.  “He had whiskers, a button nose and buck teeth…  He looked a right tit, and lost his job because of it!  The chuffing great moron!”

That got us discussing what animals we’d have surgery to look like.  Everybody, without exception (although I did only discuss it with four people) wanted to look like a big cat.  A lion, a tiger, a puma and an ocelot.

Not me, why be something that’s being hunted to extinction by James Bond villains and wealthy American tourists? No, I opted to be remodelled as a swan.  That way it would be illegal to kill and eat me.  And I could break a man’s arm with my wing.


Grand Theft Satsuma

At the start of each week nine boxes of fruit are delivered to our workplace. These oranges, pears and bananas aren’t to be sorted into the sphere, ovoid and crescent trays, but to be eaten.  By employees.  To make us healthier and less likely to contract rickets or scurvy.  Sadly, the boxes of fruit arrive at eight on Monday morning, and by ten they are all but empty, save for the odd bruised apple or unsettling purple banana.  People are taking more fruit than they’re entitled to.  Yes, there are fruit thieves amongst us.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for stealing at work. I’m all for strutting out at home time with a knapsack full of binders, ink cartridges and waste paper bins.  But then the only victim is the company.  The greedy corporate gobble-monster.  I draw the line at fruit that’s meant for me and my fellow bottom-feeders.  That’s – like the vending machine up the corner of the canteen – largely out of order.

So who are the fruit thieves? Who are the plum pilferers and the lemon larcenists?  There are plenty of suspects.  Pasty Face.  Miss Piggy.  Scabs.  Scabies.  Weird Yellow Eyeballs.  Mr Odd Smell…  Trouble is, as their nicknames suggest, they don’t look the sort to eat a lot of fruit.  Certainly not the quantity vanishing each Monday morning.  Unless they’re taking it for other reasons.  To throw at paedophiles at the local court.  Or to work on their forgery of Adrian van Utrecht’s The Pantry (which would explain why the boxes of crabs, monkeys and dead birds are also raided at the start of each week).

Perhaps we need to start looking at the unusual suspects? At people who look beyond reproach. The too-good-to-be-trues.  Squeaky Clean Pete.  Barbarella.  Gym Jim.  Sir Lord Saintly.  And let’s not rule out the managers: Naked Ego, Gay Stereotype, Please Like Me and Chocolate Spoon could all be citrus bandits, laughing their way to the vitamin C bank.

Then again, I managed to get to the fruit early this week and… I didn’t fancy any. There were fingerprints on two peaches.  The rind on a Clementine looked like it had been punctured by a thumbnail.  And what was that covering the grapes?  Tears?  Spittle?  Jism?  Yeah, maybe I’ll just bring my own fruit.


The Signs On My Building Keep A-Changin’

The giant tinfoil hat I work in has a Big Sun Corporation sign on the front, which as you would imagine, has a big blue sun on it. I say sun, looks more like a Rorschach inkblot. So if you’re in a good mood: it’s an arctic sun. Not so good mood: it’s a dirty protest from a Smurf.

When I started, four and a half years ago, we had a Tyrell Corporation sign on the front of the building because that’s who we used to belong to. It was okay, nothing special, just a small yellow shield against a black backdrop. But the shield was too small and the backdrop too big, so it looked like somebody had squashed a wasp. And the sign was quite old because the paint was peeling and flaked, as if it had spent two decades exposed to acid rain and toxic smog.

Then we were taken over, gulped whole, by the significantly bigger Weyland-Yutani. So we got a new sign on the front of the building. Better than the last one. Bolder. Clearer. Essentially a big yellow W, and our slogan “Building Better Worlds.”

Then the company had a slight PR problem – something to do with ill advised forays into biological weapons research – and we went in for some hefty rebranding.  We changed our name to Blue Sun Corporation and got our third new sign in nearly five years. Providing we don’t get involved in subliminal advertising or weaponizing emos it should be there for some time.