Office Hours: How to Embrace the Little Things

Monday 5th January

I always thought Mother worked in a bank. It’s not a bank at all. It’s something financial, possibly insurance, but everyone assumes I know because my mother works here, so nobody has actually told me. What they don’t understand is that there is a void between us. A void through which basic information cannot travel and a void which she tries to breach only when intoxicated.

Mother behaved in a very cheery fashion at work. It was like she was channelling a children’s TV presenter. I was being professional, so I refrained from commenting and merely said good morning as if she was any other colleague.

The reception desk is tiny and I share it with the senior receptionist. They have two people doing a job that a quarter of a person could do. Milly is 45 with the mind of a sixteen year old. She thinks everything is “like so funny,” and says so at a pitch that would de-fur a bat. She’s worked here 20 years and has five different flavours of lip gloss. She puts a different one on each time she reapplies throughout the day. She told me it was one of the tricks of the trade and stops her losing her mind.

Tuesday 6th January

I tried to figure out what our company does by googling it. It’s still not clear. It’s all just financial jargon. But I do know we offer a lot of benefits. There is an entire section on our website called “benefits.” Absolutely none of these things sounded all that beneficial and were accompanied by what appeared to be made-up numbers. For instance: improve premium by 210%.

I may be a poet, but even I know 210% is not a real number.

Milly spent the day showing me how to save files to the computer. She told me not to worry if I couldn’t remember it all. I rearranged her desktop icons when she went to the bathroom. They were all randomly arranged, so I sorted them alphabetically. She had a panic attack. She applied all her lip glosses one after the other. Turned to me and said “Now I don’t want you to be alarmed, but I think we’ve lost everything and I’m not saying it’s your fault, but it was all here when I went to the bathroom, did anybody touch the computer while I was gone.”

I told her to go get some tea and when she left, I put everything back the way it had been before.

Wednesday 7th January

I composed a poem on the back of some invoices in which I was a bent staple. I then faxed a hundred billion things for the boss. Because apparently email hasn’t reached this ambiguous financial institutes yet.

There are no hot men here. There’s not even mediocre men here. Everyone looks like an anaemic sheep. If I could, I’d pierce them, dye them and darken their souls.

Thursday 8th January

Milly is concerned that I won’t be able to handle reception on my own tomorrow. She has a doctor’s appointment because she got a weird lip rash. I suggested she might be allergic to one of her lip glosses. I might as well have said she could be dying of cancer. She looked bereft. Which is fair, because without lip gloss all she has is the moronic song she sings when she’s photocopying.

Pop the paper in the tray when the tray pops out, Tray pops out, Tray pops out,

Make sure the paper is the right way round, Right way round, Right way round,

Select the size of the paper you want, Paper you want, Paper you want……………….

This goes on and on and on. She photocopies things at least five times per hour. She gets giddy, so I don’t ever volunteer to take that duty from her. She sighs when she sits down afterwards and says something along the lines of “Oh Silvia, it’s the little things that make this job soooo much fun,” with none of the irony that is appropriate, given the context.

She wrote a list of all the duties I need to do and once again showed me how to save files on the desktop. I think someone recently showed her how to do this and she’s showing off. None of the tasks even involve saving things to the desktop, so it’s an exercise in futility.

If nothing else, Milly has made me truly appreciate the depth of my mind. She is the sort of person that probably likes the poems inside of greeting cards. When I told her I was a poet, she said “Oooooh isn’t that nice.” Which just shows how little she knows. No it is not nice, it is a tormented state of existence from which I must write to make sense of being, where I am tortured by unrequited love and alcohol, and where the demons of my mind interrupt my every thought.

I need to write that down, no doubt it will be used in my biography someday and become one of those quotes that is used to inform others of the sacrifices the artistic mind must make in order to create.

Friday 9th January

9 am: Code-named all the folders on the computer with the names of poets – I feel it is my duty to enlighten Milly. So for instance “Dead Leads” is now “Sylvia Plath.” And “Clients with Multiple Accounts” is “William Butler Yeats.”

10 am: Photocopied loads. After standing there for 15 minutes I started to hum Milly’s song. I felt ashamed.

11 am: Mother walked by the desk to ask if I was alright. I told her that was a question she should have asked ten years ago and then pretended to type something on the computer so I did not have to make eye contact.

12 pm: Reapplied my lip gloss three times. One time in slow motion.

1 pm: The desk is eating my will to live.

2 pm: A very handsome postman came in. I was so surprised to see someone that wasn’t a balding geriatric that my mouth fell open and I couldn’t remember how to sign the electronic gadget.

3 pm: I wrote a tragic poem about my love affair with the postman.

4 pm: Everyone is leaving at five for work drinks to celebrate my first week. This day will never end.

5 pm: I text Laura to meet me at the pub and bring an emergency slutty outfit. I can’t be seen out in town dressed like this. It might be sexy for an office, but it’s not sexy for a pub. These people have no pride, they’re all just wearing their work things like they’ve accepted that their place in life is to become a filing cabinet with benefits.

Saturday 10th January

Laura met a handsome stranger last night. I ended up being backed into a corner by a man from work, with a brown suit and a lisp. He talked incessantly about projections. I kept trying to signal for her to save me, but she did not. I can still hear her and the hottie cavorting around her bedroom. It’s 11 am. They have to get tired soon. I need Laura back from him at some point today.

Sunday 11th January

Work tomorrow. The thought of it makes my poetry turn into charred aubergines. Such is the struggle with which I must continue.