As is perhaps evident from the relative decrease in nonsense posted on this blog, I have finally started work. After nearly four months of idle sedentariness – three-fourths of which were spent horizontal in bed – work’s unremitting, merciless routine has needless to say shocked me to the core in a way I last experienced when I misjudged the temperature gauge on a bidet. What is particularly odious is being thrust out of sleep by an alarm clock, more precisely my mobile alarm clock, whose alarm music is in theory meant to gently ease one into the morning with a soothing, cheerful tune gradually escalating in volume. I obviously never wake up immediately, and in my semi-conscious state usually incorporate the music into my dream a la Spielberg. As a result of this I invariably wake up flustered, disorientated and devastated that the sound hammering in my ears is not in fact my and Ahmed Ezz’s wedding march. A recent addition to this barbaric chaos has been my cat, Lupin, who occasionally experiences the urge to sit on my head on certain mornings. This is not meant to be a cute and twee exaggeration: in an effort to wake me up so that he can then trip me up on my way to feeding him, the animal literally wraps himself round my skull like a hat/launches himself at my face.
All this is marginally better than the (unrequested) wake-up call I used to receive from my father, which consisted of him SINGING “wakey waaaaaaaakey! Dah de de dah dah daaaaah” at 8 a.m. The barrage of expletives which this inevitably provoked would then result in a lengthy discourse on why getting up early is a healthier way to live one’s life, since getting up any time after 8 a.m. means missing “the best part of the day” – all while I was still lying stunned in bed. My attempts to persuade him that it is unnatural to get up any time before 9 a.m. for any reason other than catching a plane or escaping a burning house if the smoke is bothering you have failed miserably, and whenever I am under his roof this postman’s regime is imposed on me. For added piquancy the first question he asks me once I am vertical is invariably “how did you sleep?” to which I answer “horizontally” in the hope that he will desist. He doesn’t. I have noticed, come to think of it, that members of no nationality other than the Brits interrogate me as to sleep quality on a regular basis, leading me to conclude that this question forms part of the battery of grunts and sounds which British people find themselves compelled to emit when in the presence of other persons anywhere other than on public transport, and which for the most part revolve around the weather.
Working in an office is equally rebarbative. There is something truly soul-destroying about being incarcerated in a room at a desk for eight or more hours, regardless of whether you enjoy your work or not. This malaise is unique to office work, and entirely different from the armpit nature of for example manual labour. I once did a two week stint in a giant shed, which the company called a factory, where my task was to stand at a bench and stuff paper adverts into magazines before putting these magazines in clear bags, from 9 am to 4 pm. We did of course receive a half hour lunch break together with tea breaks, during which one of the girls there would regale us with stories about her pit bull terrier. We were also not allowed to change the radio station, with the result that as I stuffed the adverts into magazines knowing that they would be thrown away without a glance, I was serenaded by a constant stream of Phil Collins. The factory owner’s car number plate was something like ‘Paper 1.’ He was a very short man who drove a very big jeep.
The work was physically a nightmare, mentally a graveyard, and the musical accompaniment made it near-torture, but the mindlessness, the unchanging routine and the knowledge that it would end lent the work a certain reassuring constancy. It is this mindless constancy which is somehow absent from office work, or at least the desk jobs I’ve found myself in, with the result that I am mentally stimulated and alert (eventually) but confined, which I believe produces mental agony on a par with that experienced by giraffes kept in zoos.