In 1993 when I left university, I got a job.
A poxy job for a poxy firm filled with poxy people.
However, it was a J.O.B and I had had instilled in me a “sense of ethics” around working as opposed to claiming the dreaded Dole and being a leech on taxpayers, etc, etc.
The company were Rockwell Graphic Systems (now GOSS) on
Greenbank Street in Preston. I had
spent a wonderful 3 years at Preston Polytechnic/ UCLan studying Law and as I
left eager to get some work experience I signed up to a Temping agency who
found a job that they assured me would utilise my legal skills, my computer
literacy and most importantly, my ability to touch type.
Rockwell/ GOSS make printing presses. A very esoteric industry, at the time only one other company in
was in the same line of business. My job was maternity cover for a purchase
clerk in the Accounts dept. I would input data off spreadsheets onto the system
to order component parts and supplies needed for the company. This job existed
as a buffer between the actual buyers and the people we did business with, in
case of any dishonesty around ordering and ensure orders were error free. Job
was for 7 months and at £4 an hour was 80 pence more than my last temping job.
While potentially dull, I had no idea just how wretched this experience would
prove to be.
I sat in an open plan office with reams of that old fashioned dot matrix computer paper. Buyers would come over and drop orders in my In tray and I’d spend the day processing them. At the far end of the room was the boss’s private office, a man I met only twice the entire time I was there. Behind me sat my supervisor. A pug faced woman with Coke bottle glasses who had begun work in Rockwell at 16 in 1975. Next to me was my buyer Eric, a fat bastard with a bald head. Next to him was a bloke in his 50s named Tony who still lived with his mum, told the same jokes every day and was universally hated by all his colleagues, but didn’t know it.
From about day one it was duller than a 5th wank.
I sat facing the clock and therefore could make no attempt to hide from time. One job I had to input, took 4 hours and the buyer just shrugged when I told him I’d finished…with multi coloured stars dancing before my eyes.
Behind me and next to my supervisor was a manger of some description, called Laurence Barry, who fancied himself as a bit of a hard case and used to wax lyrical about how much of a “ladies’ man” he’d been back in the day. He looked like a cross between Peter Purvess off Blue Peter and Wurzel Gummidge. One day he stood up and told everyone in earshot the following tale:
“There was this girl right, she were on it all’t time. All’t time I tell you. Couldn’t get enough of it. One day I had to say to her, I said to her I said look it’s not like I’m not enjoying this but couldn’t you just leave it for one night so we can go out like? Coz she were on it all’ time!!!”
When my inputting skills were called into question Laurence had a ‘friendly chat’ with me and my bulldog faced, visually challenged supervisor. I blanked out most of his patronising, faux aggressive crap but remember the lines “you’re a nice lad you’ve fitted in well” plus “I can be a nasty handful when I want to be, but I don’t like getting like that.”
A while later I got my ear pierced. Even though it was none of the wretched cunt’s business, he loudly remarked while pointing at it “I don’t like that!” When I replied “I do” he then smirked and remarked “very foolish.”
As I had an earring and spoke mainly to a guy named Pete Walker, the only person in there who had something to talk about other than soap operas, babies or how many ways to kill a paedophile…the others assumed I must be gay. In 1994 workplaces had yet to be forced into homo tolerance so I had a lot of falsetto-voiced “ooh Ducky!” and handbag remarks. A fat bloke with a greasy mullet haircut came into the office one day and upon being told that I fancied Peter he remarked “I’ve got nothing against that, if that’s what you are young man. Live and let live I say. But there’s one of them lives down my sister’s street and I’ve heard he fancies me. Now I find THAT offensive.”
I remember looking at him and thinking he should be grateful anyone wanted a shag; male, female or vegetable.
Tony then took it upon himself to try and act the hard man. He was intensely disliked by all his long term colleagues, a fact I didn’t pick up on until they discussed the 5 yearly reshuffle of furniture and everyone was loudly going “I’m not sitting next to that twat!”
One day him and Eric were discussing me and Eric jokingly said “why don’t you call Lance a bastard?” Tony replied while flicking through a stack of index cards “huh, calling him a bastard?” as if this was too good a word to call me. Thinking he was just playing around I said “takes one to know one”. Without looking up he snapped “watch your mouth!”
With every fibre of my being I wanted to punch him in his glasses and drive the frames into his eye sockets.
A favourite trick of theirs was to fart in each other’s faces. Women did this too, with my canine featured line manager often flatulating in Tony’s face while giggling.
Another was to constantly repeat the same jokes over and over and over and over again. Tony was going on holiday to
in a few months and the others had started saying he was going to
“Awarmawonga-land.” This “joke” consisted of someone saying “Awarmawonga” and
someone else then repeating it. They kept it up for about 5 minutes one day,
while my knuckles went white on the keyboard, my eyes bugged out with rage and
I wondered how loudly they’d all scream if I tied them up, set them on fire,
put them out, and then set them on fire again.
Their one treat of the week was to go to the pub for a lunch on a Friday afternoon. Every day at about , my supervisor would phone the Hornby and Castle and order the food. They always ate the same thing and every Friday at she would conclude the call, then turn to Eric and say “I’ve ordered you a cheese salad Eric!” to which he’d chortle loudly and go “oh, I like a cheese salad I do” and they’d practically piss themselves laughing. What she’d actually ordered was a full English breakfast and a pint of Guinness.
The previous Christmas they had gone to the pub on the final day of work before finishing for the Yuletide break. They’d apparently all had a skinful and there had been some “falling over” type behaviour coupled with a bit of “arse grabbing.” Basically the same type of thing you’d see in any town centre pub from Friday to Sunday night. They were still talking about this night out, 7 months later when I was about to leave as the Maternity cover woman came back.
Bored from to I found that I was fading fast. The job was more than just dull; it and the cretins I worked with were driving me insane. I remember realising just how lacking in pleasure my working life was, when I would sometimes wolf down my tuna and mayonnaise sandwich at 11.30, unable to hang on till lunch break at 12. Reason being it tasted good and was like a cup of water to a marathon runner on mile marker 24. Something, anything to alleviate the sheer monotony of this existence.
I left with a collection of money and a card from them all, even Tony the lonely, vicious little cunt had signed it. They never knew how I’d felt towards them, as I’d never told them and had been too meek and afraid to stand up to them or better still just walk out. Laurence sat me down at his desk the day I left, berated me for my earring and told me to drop the “Hale and Pace stupid faces thing” that I did. I remained stoic and thanked him for his honesty, wanting with every ounce of my being to kick his head in. A short time later he said he’d found me a job in another department and to get over there to speak to a guy named Hamilton Fulton.
Naively believing all the bullshit I’d been raised with about hard work and keeping your mouth shut I expected this to be a job of a better nature than the one I’d just endured for 7 months. I got over there, even selling my soul to Lucifer by taking my earring out and discovered I would be spending the next 6 months perched on the end of a spotty 21 year old, female supervisor’s desk, putting technical diagrams into folders. Nothing more. I politely declined saying that I had applied to work at British Aerospace and was waiting for security clearance.
I spent the next 5 months on benefits (on purpose). I didn’t expect sympathy but being bored and skint because I chose to be was infinitely better than working for people who could be described in the most positive way as being like photographs left facing the sun for too long.
Two months after I left I phoned the Hornby and Castle at one Friday and cancelled Eric's “cheese salad.” I found out years later that they spent the next 6 years (up until Eric retired) loudly wondering which cheeky bastard had deprived him of his lunch.