Friday, 29 February 2008

Fake bowling

More toilet trouble for you. Not really trouble, but a ludicrous situation.

I despise all personal interaction at work. I realised the most annoying thing to hear between colleagues when you arrive at work is the phrase 'How late did you stay?' This conjures up a high-ranking circle of hell to me, I see these fuckers all day long, I'm then expected to spend my evening and weekends with them? Chatting about the new org chart and the chilli we had on Thursday? I'd rather rub excrement into my hair.

Leaving cards, birthday cards - all bollocks. I was about to apply for a job recently, when I began to read about the company. It stated, 'Every time its your birthday someone will bake you a cake and then we all stand around your desk and sing happy birthday to you and then you'll have to make a speech' And they want people to work there? How dickless is that?

This lack of interaction tends to spill over into the 'me' time in the office. Notably the toilet. So this morning, I entered the smallest room to see a particularly chatty colleague standing there. I decided I couldn't face standing next to the urinal with him, so made a vague noise of greeting and then headed to the cubicle. But then I thought he would obviously be able to tell if I was just pissing in there, so I attempted to aim my piss stream away from the water, to avoid splashing. Then I'd release a short burst of urine directly into the bowl, in an approximation of a turd hitting the water. In this way, my colleague would be cleverly fooled into thinking I was using the cubicle for the purpose it was designed for. I was even tempted to engage him when I left - 'You see, I really was shitting in there. Not just pissing and avoiding you'

But he was long gone when I emerged. My victory was unnoticed. I really, really need a holiday.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Get the Look

Two things happen to me with alarming regularity. Their appearance in my life is too frequent to be considered coincidence.

The first is seeing people on the street openly weeping. I am forever witnessing various types of either gender, differing age and non-specific economic bracket, bawling their eyes out in front of me. Not just a single tear or a dewy misting - but full on cloth-renting upsetness. And they always give me an odd look, as if I'm somehow responsible for their misery. They break-off from they snotty gulping and gasping, cheek-stained blubbering to glare at me in accusatory fashion.

And while we're on the subject of odd looks, this is the other thing that happens to me. People stare at me with open jawed, decorumless ferocity. They stand stock still, ceasing whatever task they were involved with and look at me with an unnerving clarity. Of course I check my dress, ensure nothing is adhered to me or if I've suddenly developed a hump. But no, I can't detect anything untoward. Eventually I will stare back and they'll realise they are staring and swiftly look away.

I wonder if they're connected? I wonder if the people crying are people who were staring earlier on in the day and my appearance induced this hysteria. That would explain why they give me such accusing glances. But doesn't explain why I cause this reaction in people. If you see me and feel compelled to stare and then to cry, please let me know. I'm not overly concerned, just curious.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The toilet

Toilets may play a prominent role on these pages. Many of my adventures revolve around toilets, just as the toilet revolves around me during my more troublesome moments.

The toilet at work is broken. We were informed of this by a poorly rendered sign stating 'out of order'. The sign failed to impress me. It was scrawled in blue biro - hardly a suitable choice for penning a warning announcement. I would have gone for felt tip. Possibly blood red with underlining and some skulls. It made the toilet appear not really that broken at all - just a bit done in, some chipping and mild stains but nothing life threatening.

I poked my head around the door. All seemed quiet and safe. No water on the floor, no excrement smeared walls, no broken porcelain or spurting pipes. It appeared as it was. An empty toilet.

Now I faced a predicament. Did I use the broken toilet for the purpose it was created for and fly in the face of the sign or did I take the walk of shame, through the office to the non-broken toilet on the other side of the building? My nerve failed me. I did the latter.

So I was surprised to see, around an hour later, men in the garb best served for chemical warfare or extreme alien vivisection appear beside the toilet. Face-masks, jump-suits, vulcanised gloves. The whole shebang. I'm positive I heard, though the muffled through a mask, the word 'asbestos'.

It seemed a little too late to suddenly send in forces dressed in protective gear when I have been happily piddling unprotected for the best part of a year. I think I must have misheard. Maybe he said. 'Asbo Tetris' which seems an unlikely thing for a man to say, but the tail-end of conversations can always throw up some surprises. Or talking about someone called 'Shaz Lescott'. Garbled through some mouth-wear - its a possibility.

Whatever their purpose, it failed. The sign was still on the door once their visit was over. Its shabbiness now possessed a far more sinister quality.

Monday, 25 February 2008


One event which constantly blights my life is the unnatural discipline of utter strangers to hurl themselves into my path as I innocently walk from place to place. I am always ALWAYS having people get in my way - even on deserted country lanes, abandoned fell routes and empty Stately Homes at midnight. It must be me. It has to be me. It occurs too frequently to be a coincidence. Every time I foolishly leave my house, I'm tripped, blockaded and hindered by fellow pedestrians who are inevitably drawn into whatever route I have chosen to take.

This morning, a Monday even, I'd just left my garden gate when I saw a woman approaching, bearing the haphazard gait of someone born to get in my way. She wasn't on crack or attempting to perform a complicated series of tasks while approaching me, but I could tell by her random manoeuvres she would be definitely hurling herself into my path before I could say 'Dr Dre'.

But it was a ruse. I quickly crossed the road to avoid this woman and her randomness only to be assaulted by another man, previously unseen, who was taken aback by the speed with which I hopped onto the pavement and immediately became confused. He not only got in my way, but proceeded to commence the 'I’ll go this way, oh dear you've gone the same way, so I’ll go the other way, oh dear you're doing that too' shuffle, while carrying a briefcase and the air of a man about to stab me. The worst of all possible conclusions. This was within the first 30 seconds of my week. The first 30 seconds. I'd been obstructed viciously on two separate occasions before I'd reached the end of the street. We danced our little dance, he harrumphed and I left the scene knowing this would be the worst day of my life.

I think it has to do with height. Being a short man, I'm seen as an easy, possibly even invisible, obstacle between my aggressor and their destination. Add me to a queue, and I am always the 'passing point' through the queue. Those before and behind me remain untouched, while I am shunted aside by those attempting to get through the line of people.

I don't really know what to do about this. I either need to start wearing something extremely spiky or cake myself in excrement. So it’s a goth or a nutter then. Those are my two options to avoid confrontation and stay sane. You see my predicament.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Failure to Post

I have limitless sympathy for those trapped in thankless, miserable jobs. Especially postal workers and bus drivers. I read somewhere that bus driver is the second most stressful job in existence. First was bomb disposal expert. As one who has done time in retail, I can qualify that the epithet 'The customer is always right' is utterly incorrect. In fact the reverse is true. The customer is almost always wrong. I once had a row with a customer who asked me if we kept their credit card receipt 'in the vault'
'In the where?'
'The vault. Surely its kept securely in the vault'
'We don't have a vault'
'No vault? There where is it kept?'
'In the till'
'Incredible. I would have thought you'd have a vault for such things'

Which has nothing to little to do with this next tale, which occurred last week. I had a letter to post, but the post office is fairly distant and usually packed. So, its avoidance had nothing to do with the quality of the staff, with whom I am in total solidarity. But there is a post box near by, so I intended to make that my destination.

However as I approached, I witnessed the unmistakable signs of kafuffle. The post-box appeared to be taped off. Nothing else was off limits. Just the post-box. There was a length of tape stretching from the wall, across the pavement, around the post-box and back to the wall. Pedestrians stepped out into the road to avoid this unexplained inconvenience.

I followed the line of tape, and tried to place my item of mail into the box. Someone in a uniform, previously unseen, made a sound of officialdom.
I stopped in mid-post.
'This box isn't in use. Don't you see the tape?' He said.
'But I can reach the slot' I tried.
'Sorry. It’s off limits'
'Why?' I asked. I looked up and around. I saw no unexplained packages or prospective leapers from the over-hanging ledge.
'I can't tell you' I was told.

It was then I noticed this uniformed figure wasn't a policeman. You'll find this hard to believe, but I swear he was a St Johns Ambulanceman. I tried to allow my expression to confirm this and register my unease. I think the gentleman knew further difficult questions were about to surface and moved away. I looked around, trying to find some like-minded types as confused and disgusted as I amongst my pedestrian brethren. But they were happy to take a small diversion around the post-box, possibly even enjoying this distraction. I really couldn't fathom it. If there was a suspect device or wounded mammal trapped in the box, surely the exclusion zone should have been larger or unnecessary, depending on the situation. And why was a stretcher-bearer in charge?

I attempted to give the St Johns Ambulanceman a withering glance as I retreated and was forced to traipse to the post office after all. Post offices workers are fine, as I have expressed. Over zealous first aid officials bearing tape are a pain in the arse.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

The Mounting

There is no delicate way to put this. Yesterday, during my regular personality-bleaching commute, a woman attempted to mount me. In fact it wasn't even an attempt, it was an actual, pure, methodical mounting. I'd seen a similar thing on a nature programme earlier in the week, when one horny Horned Toad, took another by surprise from the rear. I was that baffled amphibian.

I like to look at the woodpecker. On my way to work, I walk a considerable distance to pass through some woods, where I often see a woodpecker. The sighting, or failure to sight the woodpecker, is a barometer for my day. A decent view of the bird tells me that my morning won't end in bloodshed, whereas if the animal is illusive, things are sure to go awry. This detour on my route ensures I will be late and have to jump on the tube to make up time. This is always grim. But I have never been mounted before.

Things seemed optimistic - I had seen the woodpecker and the tube carriage was relatively person-free. The crowds increased as we passed from station to station, until it was obviously full. I was crammed against the door, those around me were similarly pressed and the tube etiquette was in place. There was no space and thus no one attempted to rock the boat by attempting to board. Except this particular lady at Kentish Town.

My guard was down, certainly. The train was complete, no other passengers would be alighting, all was safe in the world. It was then I realised that something was moulding itself against my back body. Not simply pressing themselves against me in traditional commuter fashion, but attempting to clamber upon me, as animals have been prone to since developing the urge.

I let out a surprised 'Ooh'. The man next to me laughed at my startled expression. My assailant was unseen but was now squirming and gyrating against me, attempting to generate some space for herself in an area where none existed. Then the tutting began. First from those nearby, then from the mounter herself, until a tidal wave of tutting passed through the carriage. I didn't tut. I was speechless. Violated.

It's hard to know how to react to such a situation. We'd reached another station, people left the train, the mounter disengaged and moved directly in front of me and then attacked me from this position, now leaning back onto me. But this I could cope with, keeping her at bay with a rolled up newspaper. Then I was released at my own destination and the attack was over.

It was quite an odd experience, but I was left with a thought I've often had during a particularly gruelling commute. Why bother? Is it that important? Unless your transporting organs for immediate transplant, is it worth mounting an unknown man to get to your role at Charbroilled Marketing, where you will spend the first 45 minutes of your morning seeing if that young buck in Research has replied to the slightly flirty comment you made during an illicit game of Scrabulous?

I did not enjoy my mounting. I will be travelling by bus on Monday. The woodpecker will remain unspotted.

Friday, 22 February 2008

The Hunt

I rather recklessly quit my job - reckless in the fact that I have no other job to go to and starvation is a very real possibility. While the looming threat of enforced idleness fills me with utter joy, I have to face facts and at least pretend to look for alternative employment, no matter how soul-wrenching this may be.

With this in mind I recently visited a recruiter. She was the queen of the vague email - making definite plans for a meeting, then sending me a confusing, 'let's meet up sometime'. What? We are meeting up, you sent me a thing saying we were meeting here, at this time. 'Oh right, yes. Let's do that then'.

I trundle to her offices. There's no information in a decidedly bland reception. It looks the sort of place I've seen on Watchdog, where fly-by-night companies set up shop, swindle the vulnerable, then high-tail it to the Costa Brava. They always seem to be having baskets of flowers delivered. Indeed, in front of me was a distressed looking courier carrying a large bouquet. Then it was my turn.

'I'm here to see Penny Windermere'
Without looking at me the lady at the desk states.
'Fifth floor, take the lift on the right'

I was surprised by the lack of pointlessly rigorous security controls, but did what I was told. On the fifth floor there was a locked door with a sign stating, 'Bang on door for attention'. So I banged. A flustered man approached.

'Yes' he said with venom, obviously angered that someone had banged on the door even though it says 'bang on the door'. I sort of nodded towards the sign in my defence and then said 'Penny Windermere'. The word 'blank' doesn't really do justice to his expression. 'What?' he asked, as if I'd requested carnal knowledge of a beloved childhood pet.

'Penny Windermere' I repeated with increasing uncertainty.
'You better come in'

He led me to a small office, where he immediately returned to an argument he was having on the phone. I was left in front of another lady behind a desk.
'Penny Windermere'
I got another blank one, right between the eyes.
'Penny Windermere. I'm here to see her about my career'
'Who does she work for?'

Of course I had no idea who she worked for. It was one of those companies with instantly forgettable, pointlessly complicated names, such as 'Aquasquint' or 'Contrapledge'.

'I don't know' I said like a fool.
'You don't know?'
'I think it begins with an A'
She regarded me like the prick I was.
'There's no one of that name here, you'll have to go back downstairs.

I took the lift back down. The lady at reception acted as if she hadn't just sent me on a grim, painful journey to the fifth floor.

'Yes?' She asked.
'Penny Windermere' I said for the four hundredth time that morning.
'You'll have to fill out one of these' she said, shoving a temporary pass before me.
'I didn't have to fill one out before'
'She's on the fourth floor. You need a pass for the fourth floor'
'She's not on the fifth floor then?' I asked with incredulous rage.
'Nah' she said with a joyous smirk. 'We have a lot of Pennys here'

Which was the closest I got to an apology. Another basket of flowers arrived.

My meeting was a failure. Penny Windermere grew very glassy eyed while I told her about my trip to the fifth floor and then left me alone in a room to fill in a form, while possibly alerting her colleagues to the security threat that had just arrived from downstairs.

'We'll be in touch' she lied.

I went back to the office and visited the website of a local zoo, to see if they are hiring.
They are not.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

An explanation

Let me shed a little more light on the title. I own a coffee maker. It is poorly designed and generally incompetent. It frequently releases hot coffee into any localised area other than the one it should be concentrating on, namely the coffee pot. To engage it, I remove the remnants of the previous batch, scrape away any grounds that refuse to leave, add new coffee and fill with water. However, the port into which one adds the water is small and awkwardly located near to a hinge and adjacent to a flap, making pouring difficult. So there I was, fixed into the ridiculous angle I have to adopt in order to successfully complete this task when I was surprised by an object hovering close to my face, just at the boundaries of my line of vision. I was startled, released a small yelp and split water liberally around the room. It was then I realised what it was that had snuck in so closely to my head.

It was my own arm.

My stance had left my pouring arm at quite an unusual angle and its unnatural position had startled me. My own arm. One of my limbs which, lets face it, I should be fully in control of and accountable for, had crept up and unnerved me.

Similar to being scared by your own shadow, you may reflect. No, I have to disagree, it is far more pathetic. Once the mopping had begun, I started to consider this debacle and decided it was the perfect example of the daily indignities I am forced to suffer. I know of no one else who attracts the kind of sweeping humiliations that fate deems it necessary to spew in my face.

I will now log these lapses in dignity for all to witness. Perhaps some kind of pattern will emerge.