Habit Versus Novelty

Much as I enjoy reading them, I prefer not to write an ‘I Did This I Did That’ style of blog, but I’m making an exception today. There’s some funny links at the end as a reward.

As I prised myself out of bed this morning, it occurred to me that given my lack of evening plans, my temporary shortage of money, my light work-load and my passive state of mind, today could not provide a better example of the kind of day I have if nothing in particular is going on.

That thought stayed with me, meaning that I paid attention to all the stuff I thought and did that I would otherwise have been barely conscious of.

Paradoxically, it meant I had a very enjoyable day, because the contrast between habit (doing the same stuff I always do) and novelty (enjoying watching myself doing it) was balanced exactly.

When I reached Trafalgar Square on my way to work, a coach full of tourists was idling at traffic lights and I spotted one of the passengers trying to line up a perfect photo from the stationary vehicle, having seen something which brought him amusement and delight.

On a devilish whim, I seriously considered stopping directly in front of his line of sight in order to make an ostentatious display of retrieving a mucous substance from my right nostril, but I reigned myself in thinking of my Uncle G.

I share an affliction of malevolent humour with my Uncle, who on one occassion many years ago attempted to make a call from a pay-phone on a train station platform, only to find it out of order.

Instead of hanging up, he spent 10 minutes faking an animated and increasingly bizarre conversation for the dubious benefit of the growing number of people impatiently waiting to use the phone.

As the train pulled in, he at last hung up and told the queue of would-be telecommunicators that the phone was out of order. He woke up in the Guard’s office. This was the 70s, after all.

I arrived at my office just shy of 10am and rushed into the lift. As the doors closed, I hit the karmic jackpot. One of the guys from another company in my building was rushing towards the closing doors.

He is notorious for taking the lift from the ground floor to the basement, deposing their mail outside the lift, then getting back in and taking to the first floor, holding anyone else in there with him hostage until he gets the fuck out of there.

Rather than hold the lift for him, I press the buttons for every floor, guaranteeing he’s in for an exasperatingly long wait.

Whistling a happy tune, I swan into the office, park my jacket and move swiftly onto priority number one – coffee. One of the predominant reasons I’ve worked at my company for as long as I have is the Italian espresso machine. It delivers a not-too-shabby espresso with a perfect crema every time.

It’s small, and doesn’t draw its water supply from the mains. This means that when it’s empty you have to fill it up using a jug. This is a minor pain in the butt. It only takes a few seconds, but most people feel deep resentment at having drawn the short straw in an office of 60 people. A substantial number of my colleagues even hold the position that the punishment for not refilling the espresso machine should be capital.

Having re-filled, I enjoy the coffee with a croissant while I click my way through numerous blogs and news editorials, Facebook and Flickr.

One of my work-friends appears for a desk visit, and we joke around for bit, mostly taking the piss out of each other as much as possible, but keeping some scorn in reserve for neighbouring colleagues keen on entering the maelstrom.

I chat with friends on Skype in between monotonous tasks involving XML documents and crons. In the course of one conversation it occurs to me I strongly dislike words that end in -ist. After making an inarticulate remark in an instant messanger window that didn’t indicate a considered opinion, I paused to clarify my position:

Calling someone a ‘misogynist’ or a ‘racist’ or even a ‘Marxist’ devalues your argument, because you resort to attacking someone’s statements from a self-appointed position of moral authority rather than using reason alone. It’s a handy short-cut trotted out too frequently in discourse, to the detriment of all participants.

In another conversation, I enthuse about Catch-22 to a Joseph Heller virgin. If you haven’t read it, read it. Don’t be daunted. It’s not War & Peace, it’s comedy, albeit featuring dozens of characters spanning 600 pages.

I take a break from waxing lyrical about my favourite book to actually do some of what I’m paid to do. I have to co-operate with a nearby colleague. I’ve begun to suspect he may be mildly autistic, but we are familiar enough to ‘jokingly’ direct extreme terms of abuse at each other, out of all proportion to the perceived slight that prompted it. It’s fun to think up new ways to be as obnoxious as possible for the duration of our joint enterprise.

With the tedious business of juggling SIM cards and testing mobile handsets over, I sit back and read Johann Hari’s essay about banana republics, which I’ve been saving as a reward to compensate my brain for the drudgery of the tasks completed.

Me and Alison spend lunchtime in St James’ Park to enjoy the peace and tranquility of packs of hysterical French teenagers shouting at the top of their voices in addition to the already voluminous marching band who seem to be encountering difficulties of both the tuning and timing variety.

The afternoon passes in a blur of shittily written technical documents. This is an actual sentence from the document:

The CDP is using mediagroups, to group together all the media-types, that the mediagroup is containing under one parent item

Right. Of course it is. 5.30 makes a welcome appearance, and I get the fuck out of there. I pass Boris Johnson wheeling his bicycle along Whitehall on my way to the station, his Beano hair poking out the top of his helmet. I allow myself a quiet moan of despair.

I kill the tube journey flying through the violently funny satire Be My Enemy, in eager anticipation of Christopher Brookmyre’s new book, coming out in August.

As usual, it’s standing room only, and when a pregnant woman gets on at Southwark I smirk at the familiar sight of a dozen men so thoroughly aborbed by their copies of the ‘London Lite’ that they fail to spot an opportunity for empathy in action in their peripharel visions.

Once home, I catch a news story about a bizarre murder conviction that happened today in London.
From the BBC Site: The conviction for murder of someone who was known not to have fired the fatal shot was described by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as “unprecendented”.
Outside court, CPS lawyer Jane Scholefield said: “Even though the defendant did not fire the fatal round, and even though Magda Pniewska was not the intended target of either gunman, the defendant bears a joint criminal liability for her death.

It seems extraordinary to me that he has been found guilty of something that the Crown Prosecution Service freely states he didn’t do! I’m not suggesting for a moment that this prick shouldn’t spend a very long time in prison, but why not hand down a lengthy jail sentence for something he DID actually do, rather than compromise the integrity of the law?

I opt for a German-style dinner of sausages and mustard with a Weissbier, made slightly difficult to throw together by the fact that I now live with a couple, sharing a tiny kitchen with people a little older than me who like to cook things properly. Read slowly.

Mission accomplished, I waste the rest of the evening writing this bilge, reading more Brookmyre and arresting my development further by playing Nintendo until my eyes are square.

Here are the internet links I wasted time on today.

A video of someone performing 21 accents pretty convincingly. I like the Toronto one best, at the 1:50 mark. I’m doing the thing!

The worst tattoo in the world, for many different reasons.

A time-lapse video of a man stuck in a lift for 41 hours.

Finally, here’s some jackass showing off his guitar which is also a bong. It pulls easily for a good smoke, by all accounts.

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3 Responses to Habit Versus Novelty

  1. Amardeep says:

    Hey rich, it’s nice to know nothing has changed. I say this at my work reading your blog.

    On your brookmyre fandom, i have to say i’ve read one of his books and it was good but i’m not convinced to read another.

  2. Richard says:

    B! still misses you Amardeep. Which Brookmyre did you read?

  3. Amardeep says:

    Aww thanks dude.

    I read “Country of the Blind”

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