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I'm going to tell you a little story, internet people. It concerns the evil machinations of a certain temp agency (let's call it 'Dumbfuck Nostril') who conspired against a poor innocent underdog.
It seems that one of Dumbfuck Nostril's agents (let's call him 'Pilchard'), phoned our underdog (let's call him 'me'), and gave details on a fabulous data entry assignment at a certain place (let's call it 'the Alderley Police Complex', because it was). He said the job started at 8 on Tuesday, and that the complex was right next to the train station. He gave no other details, but assured me that he would ring me again to confirm.
Pilchard phoned our hero on Friday. He did not ring again that day. He obviously couldn't ring during the weekend, and Monday was a public holiday (Labour Day, fittingly enough), so I was a bit confused as to when he thought he was going to ring. As Tuesday rolled around, a confused temp left early to get to the complex on time, deciding to ring the agency from a phone booth when I got there.
So I take the train to Alderley and arrive, having gone the whole journey unchallenged by ticket inspectors and feeling optimistic, I emerge blearily from the station and look around.
Unless the Alderley Police Complex is housed within a wooden shack with a sign saying 'Veterinary Surgery' across the front, my directions have been pertinently proved piss-poor. It turns out that the APC isn't right next to the station at all, and Pilchard was talking out of his gills. I phone Dumbfuck Nostril to get the lowdown.
No-one in. Of course, it is now half past seven in the morning, and anyone with any sense is either sleeping or gaily cracking open a lovely boiled egg. I, meanwhile, am standing in a phone booth, listening to the local radio station as it plays, with superb timing, an advertisement for the very agency I am employed by.
Someone finally answers. Pilchard isn't in just yet. I ask for his colleague, whom we will call 'Bream'. Bream isn't in either. Finally, I am put through to the only other member of the department, whom we will call 'Captain Haddock'. Captain Haddock puts me back onto the extremely poor quality radio station while she looks for the job details. Finally, I am told to report to a door on the 'left side' of the car park, and to ask for someone called either Maria or Mario. Apparently Captain Haddock was having difficulty reading Pilchard's handwriting. I settled on asking for Mario, because if I find myself mistaking an Italian man named Mario for a woman, he might have me killed via his mob connections.
Thanking Captain Haddock, I eventually find the building by choosing a direction in random and walking. It turned out to be some distance away. Under Pilchard's name in my employee handbook, I add the phrase "DO NOT BELIEVE HIS LIES" in black biro. Then I report to the reception counter and ask for Mario. Success! Mario is a man. Unfortunately, as I am told by a very nice woman who turned up, a temp has already arrived.
My first thought - that some kind of rupture in the space time continuum has merged two alternative universes, and that my evil twin is assuming my position, Captain Kirk-style - was quickly abandoned when I was introduced to the temp in question, who didn't look anything like me. As I am told on the phone by Pilchard (who has finally deigned to show up for work), I have found myself smack bang in the middle of a gigantic game of administrative silly buggers.
Having been apologised to profusely, I return home on the train, gallivanting all the way back across the city. On the whole, despite the inconvenience, it was quite an enjoyable day out, in that once again I am reminded never to doubt the words of Chris Livingston. And I also got to see some of the pleasant little suburb of Alderley, which has a lovely roundabout.
I have temped for three different offices in Australia now, and at every single one, a mid-morning party was undertaken on my first day there.
The Aussie office slaves like a bit of a party, it seems. They'll organise one for any occasion. Someone's leaving? Throw a party! Someone came back? Throw a party! Someone sent off a stationery order? Throw a party! We never had that sort of atmosphere in the offices of more uptight countries. In places like Britain and America, the party is replaced with the staple 'card signed by everyone they could find'.
'Party', of course, implies excitement, which is misleading. If their were a word for 'gathering in which people stand around making stilted conversation, occasionally grabbing handfuls of treats and nibbles from the hastily-arranged buffet', then be sure I'd use that instead. I have been in the awkward position of 'new bloke who'll be gone by next week' on several of these occasions, and so have decided it is my duty to teach others in the etiquette of the situation.
So, without further ado:
YAHTZEE'S GUIDE FOR TEMPS BEING ASKED TO ATTEND AUSTRALIAN OFFICE PARTIES BY MANAGERS WHO DON'T WANT THEM TO FEEL EXCLUDED
The important thing to remember is that no-one, at these gatherings, will demand to know who you are and what you think you're doing there. Australians love seeing lots of people at their gatherings, and there's always more food than anyone will eat. I've also seen passing postmen and people from other departments turn up. If a homeless man wandered into a cubicle farm on a special occasion, he would be frogmarched to a table and force-fed doughnuts and crackers, then frogmarched out again.
One thing I've noticed is that a lot of the workers are extremely embarrassed to be taking food from the buffet. They form little social groupings, make conversation, then occasionally scamper to the table, grab one or two things, then scamper back again. This is because, in Australia, digestive systems are a sign of weakness, and most people don't want anyone else to realise that they have one.
I've also noticed that no-one wants to make a start on scoffing the really nice sweeties, like the choccy biccies or the doughnuts, and it always seems to be up to me to take the first one, whereupon everyone else delves right in. The temp, it seems, is the unofficial 'sweetie taster'. The reasons for this number two:
1. Everyone knows that if you are seen to pinch the first sweetie, then you are fat. Office workers don't like being perceived as fat at these gatherings, because they are surrounded by people they have to work with daily. Temps, however, don't give a toss, and trying to call them fat when their lifestyle often leaves them looking rather malnourished is really quite stupid.
2. There's always the chance that some joker might have put anthrax in with the sweeties.
Now, as for making conversation, I've noticed that the attendees, first of all, tend to gravitate into groups by department. Pretty soon the conversation becomes too much like work, so groups begin to form based on some other element that links a group. For example, I found myself unconsciously sidling into a group of other British people, to discuss the curiosities of Australia and use the word 'blimey'. Or, I find myself entering conversation with a group of other temps. That's if the temps in question haven't been killed by anthrax poisoning, or run out of the room crying after being called fat.
[Hey, everyone. The other day I wrote an update, and on reflection it turned out to be pretty bad. But since I feel compelled to put something on the site, I'm putting it up anyway, although I will be apologising for it throughout.]
I hope you haven't gotten sick of me talking about things that piss me off, 'cos that's exactly what I'm in the mood for right now. Readers who have been having a nice day and don't wish to me to cast a shadow on proceedings may want to trundle off to a nicer website while I piss bile everywhere.
[I certainly seem to overuse the word 'piss' sometimes. I just think it's a funny word. If said sufficiently loudly and in the right tone of voice, it's one of those words that just automatically make me laugh. In this way not dissimilar to the words 'bollocks' and 'poo']
I'll tell you what's been pissing me off lately - lazy turns of phrase masquerading clumsily as encouraging slogans. I'll pause for a second so that everyone can write that down.
I saw an advert for Nike, or it might have been for Adidas, or it could have been for Cadbury's Creme Eggs for all I care, in which a series of fine physical specimens performed sporting feats while a narrator droned on. The slogan at the end was 'IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING!'
[Okay, I like to think the acrostic was kind of clever, although I did pinch the idea from a Robert Rankin book.]
Let me paraphrase some of the narration from this advert. "Impossible is a word invented by small men when they've given up, blah blah blah". Er, no. 'Impossible' derives from a combination of Old French (impossibilis) and Latin, from 'posse' meaning 'be able'. And if you're calling the great intellectuals of the ancient world small men, then I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to step outside.
[I wrote this update after flicking disinterestedly through a dictionary kept by the side of my desk. Did you know that the word 'constable' derives from the Late Latin phrase 'comes stabulo', or 'count of the stable'? Dictionaries are cool.]
It's like something my dad always used to do. Whenever we got into a really heated argument, usually on the subject of theism, when he sensed himself losing he would say something like "I once thought like you, but you have never thought like me", and look at me smugly as if he'd just check-mated fuckin' Gary Kasparov or something. Then all intellectual debate would go in the bin and I would fantasise about braining him with mum's steam iron. I hate it when people, usually office managers, spout off a slogan that sounds vaguely clever and expect it to end the argument.
There's a sign pinned to the wall about three feet away from me right now as I sit in someone else's office cubicle, and it reads 'GIRLS CAN DO ANYTHING'. Here is an annotated list of things that girls can't do.
in hard vacuum
I could go on! In fact, I will.
- Turn lead
[Okay, by this point I was just trying to think of ways to pad out a two-paragraph idea into full-length comedy gold. This should become painfully clear very soon.]
I hate those stories where someone makes an intelligent, reasoned argument for half an hour, then gets humiliated by some guy standing up and saying a clever one-line slogan that makes the audience applaud and cheer. Then the slogan gets written down and put in page-a-day calendars for office workers to think about while they're waiting for going-home time.
A brief and petty sentiment, I know, but but it needed to be said, in the same way that Hitler needed to conquer the Earth.
[I... I don't know what the hell I meant by that. Leave me alone. I was tired.]
I've taken the position of office dogsbody on the ninth floor of some office building in the city centre, where I am expected to sit and read a magazine until some soul-crushingly mundane task comes up for me, like stapling or putting my foot under a table so it stops wobbling. It's a decent enough placement, but something strikes me as very, very wrong.
Let me explain the situation. I work on the ninth floor. I am pretty certain of this, because all the incoming mail to the department has 'ninth floor' on it, and the lift says 'ninth floor' in an appallingly sexy female voice when I step out to begin the day's ennui.
So, here's the weird thing.
It's quite difficult to get at one of the windows in our cluttered office, but I made the effort recently, because I like to look down from my ninth floor pinnacle and watch the toiling ground-level masses with perverse glee. While doing this, I noticed that I was directly opposite another office building, gazing into their ninth floor.
Idly, I found myself counting the storeys from the bottom. Four, five, six, becoming level with me now, seven, eight, ni - whuh? By my count, the floor directly opposite was the SEVENTH floor. Then I remembered that the ground floor isn't numbered, so it was actually the SIXTH floor. I was, like, on the ninth floor of one building, which was for some reason three storeys below the ninth floor of another.
I figured the storeys of the two buildings were just of varying heights.
I went outside at the end of the day and peered up. The facades of both buildings were identical.
So, where does that leave us? In a surreal and mysterious 'Thirteenth Floor'-esque situation, except instead of having one more storey than reports indicate, we have three less. I see no physical way in which these three storeys could occur, unless they were all about an inch high.
I thought about sharing this with my coworkers, but decided not to take the risk. After all, if this is some bizarre white-collar conspiracy, I do not want to expose myself as a possible whistle-blower and leave myself open to being introduced firstly to large burly men in sideways-ironed trousers and secondly to the wonderful world of concrete tailoring.
Here's my theory, everyone: it's office ganking taken to the next logical step. Everyone in an office nicks pens. It's a perk of the trade. The more crafty pinch pads of post-it notes, bulldog clips, and maybe the occasional mouse. If you have two gankers competing for the title of Dowager Duchess of Ganking, larger things start going missing, like computers, desks and water coolers. But where do you go from there? People will notice if you start ripping up the carpets or filching the elevator doors.
It all makes sense, gentle reader, to any ganker wishing to wow the judges at the annual ganker competition. Nobody in an office looks out of the window when they have work to do or a dirty website open on their browser. You find which storey of the building isn't being used, then strike. Swiftly and smartly you bring in a team of workmen in the middle of the night and whip out a storey or two, transporting it via stealth jet back to the Gank Cave for cannibalisation. Chuck a nice backhander in the direction of the building's caretaker, whose workload has just been reduced by a chunk, and no-one need ever be the wiser.
I have a theory that a similar practise, involving a cocky ganker rushing his work during daylight hours, resulted in the 9/11 disaster, and the American government added computer wizardry to the footage in order to have an excuse to go stomp on Arabs.
Time now to delve into my personal mailbag, and see what hilarity resides within! That'll be a fun game!
DISCLAIMER: The only ingenuine thing about these letters is the name of the author, which I have changed for the sake of guilt-free mocking.
Here's one of the 5 Days A Stranger fan mails which still pour unrelentingly into my inbox at the rate of about four or five a year:
I played your 5 day stranger game. Very good. If your making a new game have your thought of making a Zombie point and click like 5 days stranger? There could be like 5 or 6 characters all hiding out together. The game could show how the characters slowly go insane waiting for the end of the world, knowing ther is no way to stop the Zombie fret and human existence is over. Also they could be nursing an insured party who was bitten by a Zombie. Throw in a few point and click battles like clock tower and you got a damn good Zombie game. :-D let me no wat you think.
- Emmanuelle Wintersperm III
Thanks very much for your letter. I assure you I put a lot more effort into reading it than you apparently did into writing it. As for your idea, I feel we could both have been spared a lot of trouble and embarrassment if you had just written the words 'make a game based on George Romero's classic film Day of the Dead' on a piece of eight-by-ten cardboard and sent it in. Actually, don't send it to me, send it to your grandmother. I'm sure she'd appreciate the attention. I was going to say 'send it to Capcom', but I have a funny feeling you already have.
Yours WITHOUT causing ANY offense WHATSOEVER,
Whoo! This is fun! Now, remember that article about Charmed I wrote a few days back? Well, Sod's law managed to track down someone who'd find it offensive:
While I am aware that in your realm of FullyRamblomatic, you are God (notice that is it God with a capital 'G'), I must point out something. I do practice witchcraft/magic/occult workings/what ever you call it. While Charmed if full of hot air, and it s actress and writers are even emptier than the context of their product, and the law of threefold it true, the rest really isn't. I do NOT hurt a living creature with or doing my magic my magic. I do not invoke demons, and from what I hear, they are rarely in a good mood. So please, before you go and mock someone/something, please make sure your argument is factual, and not out of a pamphlet some Jehovah Witness left in the restroom stall in a local truck stop.
- Walter the Chaotic Neutral Dragon Mage (level 12, thac0 19)
I apologise profusely that my made-up fantasy world differs in some way from yours. Seriously, there's something I've always wanted to ask you wiccan types. You know when you finish a magical incantation and absolutely bugger all happens? How many times does that have to happen before you decide to toss the whole stupid business?
I'm sorry, I don't mean to offend. I'm just hoping you'll cast the curse of invisibility on me, 'cos that'd be totally sweet. I promise I'll get around to learning my lesson once I'm finished hanging around Peter Falk's house.
Yours (in an entirely non-literal sense),
Here's one more mail from the other end of the spectrum:
Hello: I don't know if this will go through or not, but I just had to let you know how disappointed I was in your game. Since I have a personal relationship with Jesus/Christ [sic], to see His name being used as a swear word was very offensive to me. The more I got into your story and realized it had to do with the occult, it really turned me off and I couldn't finish the game. Your animation was very good and the interaction between the characters was very interesting - loved the sound of them walking on the different kinds of floors, but the content of your story, I'm sorry, it wasn't for me. I saw that your game did receive several awards, so I'm sure many found it to be very good. If you have any others, more mild, I would be interested in knowing what they are and would like to play them.
Lady Angel Crotch
You don't allow yourself to look at things to do with the occult because you're a Christian? Wow, I've been there. I was a Northern Ireland Orangeman once, and I wasn't allowed to look at anything green. I had to give it up, though, 'cos I had a tendency to cause fatal scalding whenever it was my turn to serve the pea soup.
You've got a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, have ye? That's weird, I spoke to my local priest and he claimed to have a personal relationship with him too. As did most of the congregation, and, when I started researching the matter, about ten million people in various countries. I'm sorry to be the one to have to break this to you, lady, but I'm afraid your boyfriend is a total whore. I'm sure you'd prefer to find out this way rather than bump into him on a street corner with his tongue down the throat of the slut from across the way.
PS. I checked, and my forward slash key is, like, miles away from my space bar. So you've really got no excuse.
Sometimes, you know, I feel sorry for Christians. And not just because they firmly believe in a load of old guff. They've kind of picked a dodgy religion to work with. All I can say is, when they were handing out religions, the Christians were probably behind the door. Actually, they weren't even in the room. They were outside, on a street corner, shouting and handing out pamphlets.
The reason why I feel that theirs is one of the dodgier religions is because they've given themselves a benevolent god. A deity who loves everyone unconditionally as his loyal creations and servants. So, when something really, really shitty happens, they have to think of a way to justify it.
The ancient Greeks and the Romans and the Vikings didn't have that problem. They KNEW their gods were a bunch of tossheads with the attitudes and attention spans of primary school children. So, when an earthquake decimates the country and kills millions, all those pantheistic fellows can pass it off as a cosmic hissy fit, while the Christians go through the list of all the casualties and try to work out how they were all sinners.
Let's say that a flash fire reduces a hospital full of orphans and puppies to an inch-thick plane of smouldering ash. How does each religion explain that?
Erm, it's just that God loved all those orphans and
puppies so much that he wanted them up in heaven right
away, to sit on his knee and read all the latest Harry
I guess it's the usual pussyness that mankind has evolved in recent years. Some of us just can't go through life without thinking that there's some big, kindly beardy man making sure we don't come to harm. Perfectly sound in theory, but in practise the big kindly beardy man seems to have a very strange sense of priorities, if he's helping Westerners get promoted and win horse races when people are being turned into zip-lock bags elsewhere in the world.
I think one of my favourite excuses made on God's behalf is that he's testing us. Yes, he tests his subjects by blowing them all to bits, or crushing them to death in earthquakes, or causing massive pile-ups. And if the testee is killed, God obviously felt they were too much of a pussy to live.
If God really is testing us, then I think I speak for the human race when I say we'd prefer something on paper. Maybe he could arrange for everyone to come to, say, the Serengeti plane once every ten years or so and set up six billion school desks. Somehow I expect it'd be the sort of arrangement where the allotted time for the exam is six hours, you finish it in ten minutes, and then have to sit like a lemon playing with your watch and eating Polo mints for the remainder of the period. And because I'm not the sort of person who just sits and criticises, I even started writing the exam paper.
Question 1: Do you believe in God?
Question 2: Which of the following is an appropriate thing to say at the end of a prayer?
material not otherwise credited by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw