Swinging Lead

If I had the balls, I’d work freelance. Three problems with that:

  • Insecure income = constant fatigue and anxiety = no quality work done. Vicious circle.
  • It’s tough out there unless you’ve sucked the right dicks.
  • I don’t possess enough joie de vivre. If I was asked to edit a piece on ‘How to Taste Wine’, there is every danger I would reduce it to just one sentence: You pour it in your fucking mouth.

When it comes down to it, I write for pleasure and edit for money. In that effort, I am a passenger on the gravy train. Not in first class with the MPs and bank executives, but I have a reserved seat in the ‘quiet coach’ near the buffet car. Looking busy is my primary function.

In my ten weeks of employment, the desk next to mine has been unoccupied. My absent team mate has been off sick the whole time. The reason? A broken finger.

I designed a web banner for someone a couple of weeks ago. The person was a senior communications manager. He couldn’t tell me the pixel dimensions he needed, but he’d measured his computer screen with a tape measure and thought that would be enough.

In the subsequent exchange of emails, he revealed that he didn’t know the difference between width and height.

At least thirty thousand pounds a year of public money drops into the bank account of a man who does not know the difference between width and height. A happy thought to accompany your next tax bill. To quote one of the good guys I work with: ‘You have to think for them.’

Certain sectors of employment are like a kind of benefits system, except instead of dole they provide a taxed salary in return for shuffling paper around and talking about ‘providing an exemplary user experience with value for environmentally friendly money and equality while protecting the children with passion and integrity.’

On the train from London Bridge to Gatwick:

I was sitting in my seat chatting to my sister when I saw the ticket inspector coming. She was wearing a t-shirt with ‘I taught the devil everything he knows’ on it. Her arms were covered in prison tattoos. She had short, spiky hair and multiple facial piercings. She would have benefited from losing a kilo or two.

My only thought as I handed over my ticket was that it was good of the train company to employ people of such unconventional appearance in a public-facing role. As she moved into the next carriage, I could hear her singing ‘Crazy Train’ by Ozzy Osbourne, which is his one good song.

My sister and I fell back into conversation, which was broken a moment later when I saw another ticket inspector coming towards us. He looked a lot more conventional – navy blazer, navy trousers, polished back shoes. He had a credit card machine strapped to his chest.

I had an epiphany.

“Wait a second. That woman – she wasn’t a ticket inspector! She just rides the train all day checking people’s tickets! She plays at having a shit job!’

When the official ticket inspector reached us, my sister offered him her marked ticket. He said, with a wink, ‘Ah, you’ve already had your ticket ‘checked’, haven’t you, love?’


13 Responses to Swinging Lead

  1. charlotte says:

    Ah crazy ticket lady! I’d forgotten about her. I think it was the humming of Crazy Train that really polished the moment off for me.

    You failed to mention the annoyance of sitting next to the carriage door through which a constant stream of annoyance flowed. What was in that carriage?! Hmm.

    Anyhoo Civil Service stuff is very accuarate, depressingly accurate. Btw – careful not to make it too obvious who you’re writing about, my friend got sacked when they found her blog where she’d written about her company 😦

  2. recoder says:

    Yeah, it’s best not to name names. The good news for me is, if you google my name, you find nothing but a new york fashion photographer, a religious book-writer and a wikipedia article about the founding fathers of the USA.

    • Ray says:

      Be careful . . the mentality of these goons knows no depths. They will abuse all manner of powers (many justified by the war on turr) to hunt you down & suppress your observations.

      Look at twerps like Mandelson, Straw, Hain, Milliband(s) & the rest of them, let alone Blair’s babes. You can’t tell where the “public sector” ends & the politicos start. They’re from the same pool of mediocrity. The overpaid & privileged arse end of humanity.

      Incidentally, if you want to be more than 40% occupied, go self employed. Then, if you’re 80& busy, you worry that you’re not flat out. If you’re 100% you worry that it’ll drop to 0% tomorrow. A good figure to aim for, theoretically, is 60%, but I don’t know anybody who manages to achieve that smoothly. It’s mostly been one foot in the fire & one foot in the freezer for me. On average I’ve been comfortable, but those days are ending, thanks to Gordie & his pals.

      I still enjoy your blog though. Don’t let the public sector (no)mindset get to you!!!!

  3. mieke says:

    when i was talking to this recruitment guy about my desire to never ever work in civil service or for an ngo ever again he said in his company they refer to those kinds of jobs as “paid unemployment”, but your definition works too.

    • recoder says:

      A smaller public sector means a bigger welfare state. That said, I’ve never had a commercial job where I’ve been busy for more than 40 per cent of the time either.

  4. Dan says:

    Any chance you could write up a How To on becoming a securely overpaid and underwhelming manager? We could compromise on the seniority if necessary.

  5. McKinley says:

    I don’t think a guy who:

    1- measures his computer screen,
    2- Doesn’t know the difference between width and height,

    will ever be able to track anything down, let alone your blog.

    Question- was that woman just pretending to be a ticket inspector then??? I’m confused like aforementioned dumb boss.

  6. charlotte says:

    She was a bit crazy and was pretending to be a ticket inspector. She had even made herself a fake badge, bless her. The rest of her outfit didn’t really scream ticket inspector though :S

  7. alison says:

    “I was sitting in my seat chatting to my sister when I saw the ticket inspector coming. She was wearing a t-shirt with ‘I taught the devil everything he knows’ on it. Her arms were covered in prison tattoos. She had short, spiky hair and multiple facial piercings. She would have benefited from losing a kilo or two.”

    Because you didn’t specify the ticket inspector was a woman, I thought you were talking about Charlotte. I was about to say I didn’t think she needed to lose any weight and to stop being such a mean big brother.

    • recoder says:

      I was about to make an editorial-themed joke about the ticket inspector being the ‘definite article’, but I couldn’t get it to make sense.

      Was it the bit about prison tattoos that gave it away? Like, “Charlotte’s tattoos aren’t THAT bad!”

  8. Dan says:

    Tangentially–there’s no ink like prison ink.

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