Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Not Enough Money For Dealing With Nutters

Why, why, why don't I work at Westminster? Everyone there is spending today basking in the excitement of the State Opening of Parliament. Meanwhile it's Groundhog Day here in the provinces.

All the usual suspects phone first thing, including Miss Chambers. We need noise limiters like they have in call centres, because that woman is slowly but surely wrecking my hearing.

Now she thinks her next-door neighbours are stealing her electricity. She wants them arrested, and if she doesn't get what she wants, she'll scream and scream 'til she makes herself sick. Or me deaf - whichever happens first.

While she works up to full volume, I put the phone down on the desk and go and make a cuppa - but when I get back from the kitchen, I can hear she's still screaming, so I go out for a cigarette.

Even after that, she's still at it when I stick my head back into my office, so I go to the loo. When I've finally run out of places to go and things to do, I resort to blocking the sound by listening to my iPod.

This works a treat until Greg comes in from the outside office, removes one of my headphones, and says,

'For Christ's sake, is that Miss C? Can't you get her off the phone? I can hear her at my bloody desk and she's doing my head in.'

'Oh, sorry,' I say.

There's nothing for it, but the final solution, then. I approach the handset - with extreme caution - and pick it up, while holding it well away from me. I start making whistling and chirping noises, followed by banging the phone on the desk a few times too, for good measure.

Then I put the mouthpiece carefully to my lips whilst swivelling the earpiece away from my ear.

'Hello? Hello? Miss Chambers? I can't hear you.' (This is a complete lie as the whole building can hear the damned woman by now. No wonder most agencies have banned her from phoning them.)

Miss C hits supersonic. It's time.

"Oh, this phone's not working. We've been cut off.'

I slam the phone down and switch it to answer-phone, quickly, before she rings back. There is a loud chorus of "Barking!" from all the surrounding offices, then applause.

I wish, not for the first time, that I had a nice little job at Tesco. Maybe I could get a job there? At least then I might meet some people during the working day who weren't certifiable. I decide to take an early lunchbreak and find out. It is nearly 11:00am, after all.

After discovering that Tesco don't need any new employees, I spend far too much in Primark, as usual. I often wonder if it might be an idea to buy fewer clothes at a higher price, but always rule this out pretty quickly. Miss Chambers equals daily stress, which equals the need for immediate retail therapy - so shopping anywhere other than Primark would bankrupt me. Maybe I could get a job in Primark?

I am cheered by this prospect until I return to my desk, to find twenty-eight messages on the answer-phone. I was only gone for an hour, for God's sake! Nineteen are from Miss Chambers, becoming ever more glass-shattering with each one.

The other nine are from The Boss, who wants to know if there's anything we need to speak to him about. There isn't, as always. I make a mental note to find him something safe and uncontroversial to do for the rest of the day, before he gets bored and starts giving opinions to the Press on anything they ask.

Today's shaping up to be a double Primark day - I wonder how much they pay? It can't actually be much less than I earn. I phone the union and ask how my earnings compare to shop work.

'Well, as you're one of the very lowest-paid employees on the House of Commons payroll, Molly, I'd get that Primark application in pronto,' says Martin, brightly.

One of the lowest paid? Lowest paid? In the whole House of Commons? That place is full of cleaners and catering staff, many imported from the Philippines, and I'm the lowest paid? For putting up with the likes of Miss Chambers all day?

I am collecting a Primark application form on my way home, if they're still open. I have a degree and specialist training and I am too damned good to be working for an MP.

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