Monday, 7 November 2011

Monday 07/11/11

I like this quote that someone wrote about Exit Through The Wound in an Amazon US review:

"Exceptionally funny, while also being an absolute downer"

It makes it sound like perfect Christmas reading material:

Outcome A - If the holiday season is bringing you down and you're feeling a little depressed, ETTW will push you over the edge and lead you to an early demise, perhaps by turning the gas on and sticking your head in the oven [via Sylvia Plath]. Though if you do that, it is advisable to seal the kitchen door with a wet towel to protect other members of the family who will be enjoying their sherry in adjoining rooms - there's no need to be a complete jackass and take them down with you.

Outcome B - if you like the holiday season and are particularly cheerful around Christmas, ETTW will provide you with some additional LOLZ

Anyway, here's another excerpt from the book. This is from chapter 3.

I've read this at a couple of events and nobody threw anything at me, so I'm going to assume that it went down well.

This is the Monday after the weekend and on this Monday, I opt to go to work, for no other reason apart from I have to. Had I chosen to stay and live in Athens, I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have to go through this daily torture. My brother is 27 years old and he’s never had to do a day’s work in his life. I, however, am being punished for choosing to live abroad, a choice which my parents have decided to take as outright aggressive, part of a spiteful plot to hurt them and send them to an early grave. Hence, they’ve decided to only pay for my rent and bills while I stay in London, forcing me to have a job for my other living expenses. This, of course, is terribly unfair and it cuts me up inside. Not enough to move back to Athens, mind.

As a job, I have chosen to under-perform daily in a central London business consultancy. My full title is Associate in the Media Sector, and I’m not sure exactly what that involves, but I think it has a lot to do with turning up every day, emailing my colleagues Danny and Harper who work there with the same vicious abandon that I do, and occasionally interacting with clients who should know better than to pay me for my so-called services.

I got this job soon after I finished my MSc in European Public Policy at UCL, which I only took on just to delay getting a job another year (and it seemed like a good gateway to living in London). My first degree, a BA in Medieval and Early Modern History from Durham University was just about as useful as it sounds and it only served its purpose as a means for my Mum to show off to her friends. Admittedly, pointless Arts degrees do sound quite impressive and I’m not going to pretend I won’t push my children into something similar; if nothing else, just for the prestige. Any degree that’s practical or pragmatic or actually useful indicates that you need the work it’s likely to get you, which is as unattractive a concept as I’ve ever heard.

It took me just a couple of months in my current job to realise that working in an office is a wonderful thing, if you want to lose your self-respect and dignity nice and quickly. I estimate that people who work in an office doing something as tenuous as ‘consultancy’ die inside approximately 34 years earlier than people who have other, meaningful, worthy occupations.

In my brief office career, I have come across two types of people: those who don’t give a toss, and those whose lives are otherwise so empty that they do. The latter group is usually made up by people who are good at this. I’m not very impressed – being good at your office job is about as admirable as being good at wearing a hood and pointing out members of the resistance to Nazi officials in Germany circa 1939.

People who like working in an office get a huge sense of accomplishment and gradually develop a very smug, superior attitude. I come across those people occasionally. My boss’ boss, Jonathan, once mentioned in casual conversation that he gives ‘100% to everything he gets involved in’ (verbatim). I find it very hard to take in such a concept, considering that I haven’t given 100% cumulatively to everything I have ever gotten involved in grouped together.

In my lovely office, which occupies a provocatively gigantic building just off the Strand in central London, some people go into work early and leave very late, in order to impress their manager and benefit from future promotions, pay rises, bonuses, etc. The last time I had to play games like these, where I tried to appear busy in order to deceive somebody who held power over me, was when I was 11 and I had to run, open a textbook and pretend I’m doing my homework every time I heard my Father come home. I am not pre-pubescent anymore, so I won’t play along.

Soon after I started working there I realised that in an office environment, the variety of topics you can discuss with your colleagues in a social manner is both very limited and predictable. Having had a lobotomy will help you answer questions such as: ‘Any plans for the weekend?’, ‘How was your holiday?’, ‘How did your client meeting go yesterday?’ and ‘Have you got any annual leave left?’ for the millionth time in a manner that’s friendly, neutral and non-offensive. In fact, perhaps lobotomies should be offered upon joining my consultancy instead of the usual pension scheme contribution. I know which one I’d benefit more from in the short-term.

I do know of a three or four former colleagues (of the same Graduate intake as me) who tried to break free after deciding that their current role was not fulfilling, so they tried to get out of it and pursue a career change. Three months later, all these people found themselves working in a different office down the road for a rival consultancy, still wanting to kill themselves, but earning £10k less.

In the mornings, as I walk in my office, I often recall the Smiths’ lyric about looking for a job, finding one and still being miserable. But this does seem awfully pessimistic. It’s not all that bad. I try to keep in mind that working in an office will only take up – on average – 9 hours a day for 43 years of my life. Then I will suddenly be 67 and I’ll have the rest of my life ahead of me to do whatever the hell I want.

I’ve worked here for just over two years, but I think they regretted employing me right about the second week. I don’t see this as a personal failure though; I blame my lack of work ethic on my upbringing. When I was younger, every time it was mentioned in conversation that a friend of mine had got a part-time job after school or college or even University, Mum and Dad would sneer that theirs must have been a poor family, that they had to resort to pushing their kids into child labour, that it’s generally an embarrassing situation to find yourself in. Consequently, the lesson I took away from my parents was that work equals humiliation. And in terms of lessons that I’ve learnt I’m not willing to ever let this one go.


On this Monday morning, I walk through the revolving glass doors, take the lift up to the 6th floor, lower my eyes to the floor and walk to my desk. The beginning of a good day is one where no one says ‘Good morning’ from the moment I enter the building to the moment I sit on my chair. Today has been awesome so far. I turn on my laptop, open Outlook, ignore three client emails and make the executive decision to prioritise an email from Danny, a workmate I actually like, who joined the same time as me, is sitting three desks down and is one of the few people in the office who’s making my work ethic seem unbeatable. Danny has written:

‘Have you seen the video of the guy who was killed last February at the Olympics? I’m about to watch it on YouTube.’

‘Wait, somebody was killed six months ago at the Olympics? This is huge. I need to turn on that TV more often.’

‘Yes, I’m watching it now. It’s horrific.’ ‘Is there blood?’


‘OK. I’ll watch it anyway. Link?’

He sends me the link and a few minutes later I write back:

‘Right. You had made it sound worse. You don’t really get to see anything.’

‘Well, how often do you actually see somebody die?’ ‘Every day; when I look in the mirror.’

I spend the rest of the morning locked in the bathroom talking to Sadie on the phone and then back at my desk reading Wikipedia entries on Albert Camus, Melissa Joan Hart, the TV show The Big Bang Theory (which I’ve never seen), Kelsey Grammer, Franz Kafka and Coca Cola Zero, which brings me to 1255, so I head out for a walk. During this walk, I listen to the album Elastica by Elastica in its entirety whilst pacing up and down the Strand and eventually go back.

In the office again, and while I’m actually busying myself with some work-related tasks, I receive the following internal group email from Luan, extravagant South-East Asian and self-appointed social secretary. Luan tells us:

‘Hi Guys,

due to popular demand I’ve provisionally booked the Charlito restaurant on Friday 17th September at 7-9pm. If you haven’t been before it’s basically a mix of Mexican, South American and Spanish food in a fairly lively atmosphere. Can you let me know if you’re keen so I know how many people to confirm?’

This email, which has gone out to all 45 people making up my department, is obviously hilarious and needs to be analysed in depth, so I look over to Danny’s desk and – disappointed that he’s not there – start to email Harper instead, who’s sitting at the other end of this open plan office.

I write:

‘“...fairly lively atmosphere”, I hear’

Harper replies:

‘Exactly. I’m definitely out. That’s like saying someone is fairly sexy, it just doesn’t work, does it? Other examples: “He is fairly suicidal”

“She is fairly pregnant”’

Then I write:

‘“He is fairly paralysed from the waist down”

“She is fairly a bitch”

“He is fairly shocked to his core”’

Then Harper writes:

‘“I’m fairly having a mental breakdown”

“Their marriage is fairly on the brink of collapse”

“He is fairly willing to die for the love of his life”’

Then I write:

‘“He is fairly in love and regretting the rest of his life so far and all the choices he made”

“They are fairly married”

“She is fairly lobotomised”

“She is fairly dying to see her boyfriend”’

Then I get bored of this game, plus I think we’ve killed it a bit, so I write:

‘Hi Harper,

I wanted to ask you:

What were you doing on this date, at this time last year?

What were you doing on this date, at this time two years ago?

What were you doing on this date, at this time three years ago?

Oh, you were sat at the same desk doing the same thing, you say.

I just wanted to check.’

Harper lives in Whitstable, a small seaside town in Kent, which makes her total commute per day approximately two hours each way. She has worked here two or three years longer than me, but she recently got married and rumour has it that she’s about to hand in her notice to stay at her lovely seafront home and prepare to start a family. This is the lamest excuse for quitting your job that I’ve ever heard, not that I blame her one bit.

Buy the book:

Amazon US
Kindle US

Amazon UK
Kindle UK


Hetero-Challenged said...

that was fairly hilarious.

London Preppy said...

hetero: I fairly thank you