Today, for the first time, I heard the recorded message and options that customers hear before they get through to the call centre. I asked my manager if I could refer to it as “labyrinthine obstinate bureaucracy” when speaking to customers.
She said: “Probably best not.”
I asked if I could refer to it as “Kafka-esque”.
She said: “I’m going for a cigarette.”
How we laughed.
Seriously, though, I do hate her.
Only because I am required to – not because of her overuse of the words ‘basically’, or her misuse of the words ‘literally’ and ‘physically’, or her consistently clumsy mangling of language.
I am required to hate her by a system that locks us both into our rigid roles, determined socially and economically – it’s part of my job, to be aware of my place in the structure (the very bottom; my manager is half a step up from there) and generally resentful about it. That’s the only logical explanation I can think of for the plethora of petty restrictions and arbitrary rules in the workplace.
(My work PC has a “smart filter” that denies me access to all sorts of websites, including Amnesty International. So my employer is part of a rare group – along with The People’s Republic of China, The People’s Republic of Korea and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – that expressly denies access to information about human rights and abuses thereof. Which is ironic, since I was looking for information on political prisoners during one of the many quiet periods during my “working” day.)
Every day on my way to work, I walk past posters on walls and stickers on lampposts exhorting me to “rise up” against “the bosses”, and I wonder if they mean my “boss”.
Can they, the producers of the posters/stickers, really mean my manager, whose garbled non-sequiturs and slightly irritating manner I enjoy/endure all day? The woman who brought in cakes for everyone on her birthday, all of which she’d made herself?
I hope not, because I don’t think I – or anyone – should or could rise up against her. She’s as much a part of the system as I am – as much of a victim, if you like.
More so, in fact – she is far more trapped in the system than me; middle management is a greasy, slippery pole and I would not trade places with her. Definitely not for the extra £1 an hour she earns from it.
And more so because I choose not to be a victim: I make a conscious decision every day not to take this whole experience seriously, not to buy into it too much. But she, for the extra quid an hour, must…I don’t hate her, I feel sorry for her. (Though obviously I forget this when she moans at me with phrases like “We actually can’t physically do that – literally.” If I could convey the bitterness, the rising bile this causes in me (“physically”), I would not be wasting away here; I would be a Writer of the Highest Order.
Maybe the poster/sticker writers mean my manager’s boss, who is a rung above her on the rickety ladder of middle management. I don’t even know the man, though from my experience of these situations, I assume he is a wanker. Again, not really the sort I’d want to rise up against. It would be such a futile gesture, attacking someone so weak, so insignificant.
So it seems more likely that the posters and stickers and their slogans are inviting me to “rise up” (whatever that means) against some ill-defined group of elite types, perhaps the kind that own the buildings on which the posters are posted, or the company that powers the lampposts on which the stickers are stuck.
Still, to be fair, “Rise up (you know, throw things at) the company that owns this building, once you’ve found out who they are and are sure beyond reasonable doubt are bastards” doesn’t make for quite so catchy a slogan.
The point is, the structure is the problem, not the people at a different level on it than I find myself, mostly due (in many cases, including mine) to circumstances outwith personal control. My “boss” is just a slightly annoying, but ultimately kind-hearted person I have to deal with every day. I don’t even see her as my boss – she merely administrates the circumstances of my employment, she doesn’t decide them.
I suspect, I hope, the authors of the posters and the stickers know this, but if they do, it's not communicated very well by their promotional literature.
I might spend my working day coming up with slogans I can really get involved with, (perhaps make some posters) the first one being:
WITH THE CAVEAT THAT SLOGANS ARE OF LIMITED POLITICAL VALUE, I HEREBY SUBMIT THAT HIRED LABOUR IS INHERENTLY EXPLOITATIVE AND THAT YOU/WE SHOULD TREAT IT AS SUCH.
Although, I have to admit, that one’s really just a re-working of an older, more pithy slogan.
EXCEPTING RARE CASES OF PERSONAL FULFILMENT AND/OR GENEROUS REMUNERATION, HIRED LABOUR IS, AT BEST, A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
MY BOSS IS AS KIND, FLAWED AND IDIOSYNCRATIC A PERSON AS ANYONE ELSE AND, THOUGH I DON’T PARTICULARLY LIKE HER, WE GET ON FINE – BUT HER BOSS IS AN ABSOLUTE CUNT. PROBABLY.
Or maybe just
I’VE GOT LOTS OF IMPORTANT THINGS TO SAY, BUT NONE OF THEM CAN FIT ON AN A5 FLYER. SORRY.
In any case, I’ll keep working on it and see where it leads. It really can’t be any less useful than what I’m actually paid to be here for.
I wonder how long I’ll last in this job….