Friday, August 15, 2008

Mice and Men

Cities are funny old places. If a mouse ran under the table if you were at the farm, you would have stern words with the cat about responsibilities and layaboutish tendencies, and spend some time evicting the mouse while mentally scripting a good story to tell everyone later. In a London restaurant, everyone goes, 'Oh look, a mouse!', pushes their handbags around with their foot a bit (I suppose to scare it away from jumping in) and gets on with their meal. Any thoughts about Health Inspectors are not (loudly) voiced.

Anyway, I was having dinner with an old uni friend, let's call her The Lawyer for the time being, otherwise I'd just have to call her CRAZY!!! because she was telling me, again, about her working hours which make my last week look like a walk in the park. I mean, I know lots of my friends work long hours, but she never eats at home, all her colleagues get takeaway dinner in the office every night, they usually work until 10 or 11pm with no lunch breaks, and several regularly work until 2am. To me, this kinda screams sweat shop and employment law and so on. One presumes there's something in the contract to say that they will work until they drop. You can keep it, frankly.

So, a deal has recently fallen through which is bad but it does also mean that work is quite quiet for her at the moment and she can escape at a reasonably time (read 7 or 8 ish) each night. After two weeks of this, she's finally realising that there is actually a Real Life out there, and you should indeed have a couple of hours in which to do things you want to do in the evenings. Like, meet up with friends for dinner, or go to tango classes (which we didn't quite manage, but hey, the intention was there). And you can see in her face that this is an amazing realisation for her! Huh?

I do get concerned about the slightly crazed and hunted look behind the eyes that some of my friends get in times of greater stress at work. I really don't think it's right that work should impact that much on your psyche. After all, the company doesn't really give a shit about you, you're just a grunt (at whatever level) who can be replaced if necessary. The company might shrug and go, 'it's a shame that Vladimir/Horatio/Bob has gone', turn around and get on with the next thing, while poor Vlad is instantly forgotten (until they can't find a file or spreadsheet that Vlad made about something, then his memory is cursed and secretaries are sworn at).

Perhaps I don't get it. I suppose the friends with the hunted look also are the friends with bloody-great and gorgeous houses, and the ones who can afford the sharp suits and gadgets and posh holidays (but, I'm guessing, struggle to get the time off agreed and then never turn their blackberries off). To be honest though, I'd rather live a little more humbly and have time to enjoy myself between the posh holidays.....

Smug-making incident of the week: seeing a fat-cat executive Audi being towed, and as the truck moved off the car alarm starts shrieking.

Ew! incident of the week: Woman on train, having spent the entire hour-long journey talking about her baby (how cute / how strong / teething / nappies / botty burps etc) to her poor un-fecund friend who is now bored to stone, then starts breastfeeding in a carriage full of commuters.

Happy of the week: Getting a text from Fenella saying she'd been up since 3am, then another that she was cross she'd not heard anything, then finally one saying she'd just had a call and that they have completed on the purchase of their new house. Hurrah!

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