My fucking head was killing me. I had a pain in it the size of Zimbabwe.
And that wasn’t the only thing annoying me either.
I lost my job today. Well, I didn’t lose it per se. I was asked to leave. Fired, sacked, shit-canned, in a manner of speaking.
There were a few reasons.
To be fair, my eventual dismissal had been building up for a while. A number of unpleasant occurrences had, well, occurred in the weeks since Christmas. I blame my big mouth really. I blame it, and the fact that around November last year I just stopped giving a shit.
At the Christmas party a member of management, Gloria, had had one too many.
Gloria was always quite uptight in the office. She never really spoke to anyone on a personal level, and when she did it always seemed like it was coming off an autocue. You know? That robotic, “Hope you have a good weekend!” with no smile or intonation. If you had the misfortune of bumping in to her on the stairs on the way to the car park she’d rattle off this cold goodbye. It was as if the words were an unpleasant taste that she had to expel as efficiently as possible. If she was on a spectrum, it wasn’t a very colourful one.
I was having a good old time at the Christmas party. I love a nice pint now and again. One of life’s simplest and most rewarding pleasures.
I was enjoying a particularly crisp ice cold one when something weird happened. Gloria was calling my name and waving to me.
“Hey! Hey Paul!” I got a massive shock. She’d never addressed me by my first name before. And she was smiling. Freaked me the fuck out.
“Gloria. Hi. How’s your night going?” I’d asked. Shouldn’t have.
“Amazing! I just boned one of the project management interns in the disabled toilets. He gave me a right seeing to!”
I almost choked on my beer. Fucking hell. That intern, Dave I think he was called, was only 19! What was she at? A grown woman, taking the innocence of that poor child.
I then suppressed the good ‘ol Catholic guilt and thought, fuck it, they’re adults. Let them have their fun.
“Oh right, fair play!” I said, raising my pint and giving her a conspirator’s wink.
She put her hand on my shoulder and proceeded to lean in for a kiss.
I jumped back.
I said “Ugh! Sick!” very loudly.
Not my proudest moment. She glared with me with all the hatred her robot brain could muster.
Bollox. I really should work on my winks. I didn’t want to give the impression that I was flirting with her at all. Things kind of spiralled from there.
Two weeks later I got an email from her questioning a decision I’d made in hiring a new receptionist. It was pointless really. She was mad that I’d hired the first person I’d interviewed and not gone through the list of twenty people that had applied like I was supposed to.
I hate being questioned. I always feel like it’s an attack on my intelligence. My ego can’t handle it. It probably makes me a bit of a dick, I don’t care, it happens very rarely. What really annoyed me here though was I knew Gloria was right. The new receptionist was hopeless. I think he lied on his CV about being computer literate, or literate for that matter.
Anyway, I was seething after this rebuke and went in to the small kitchen in the corner of the office to get a coffee. A couple of members of the project management team were in there deconstructing various people’s behaviour at the Christmas party. Bit late I thought, but I suppose most of us hadn’t seen each other since the holidays.
I joined in with the gossip. I love a bit of gossip me!
One of the guys brought up the intern, Dave, and his conquest. I snorted.
“Huh! Good man Dave. Had a spin in the Glory Hole!”
It was a stupid comment to make about a woman. It was a stupid comment to make about a colleague. It was a stupid comment to make about a human being.
It did get a good laugh though. A laugh big enough to quench my brief, but burning guilt.
I’d forgotten all about my rebuke and felt that making this mean comment behind Gloria’s back made us even now. Another three points and a win for me, putting me close to the top of the table in the dick-head league. If anyone had me in their dick-head fantasy team that week they’d have been delighted with my performance.
The next morning, I arrived in to Brian from HR sitting casually on the edge of my desk. Brian pretty much always wore the same outfit. A black woolly cardigan, black pants and white shirt. Combined with his long black hair and bushy black beard, he looked like a care-bear. If he was a care bear the symbol on his belly would be a tearful employee reading their P45.
“Paul, so glad you could make it in.” he said, sympathetically.
“I make it in here every morning Brian. I work here.” I said with a false chuckle, sitting down at my PC.
“Very good Paul, I love your sense of humour.”
No, you fucking don’t I thought. Actually, I said it too. Brian, of course, was very offended and appalled.
“Well, I was going to just have an informal chat Paul, but if you wish to use profanity I have to inform you that there will be a disciplinary hearing tomorrow at 3pm in my office. A member of staff has made a complaint.”
He gave me his best care bear stare and handed me a letter.
I glanced over it quickly. Blah, blah, gross misconduct, blah, blah, professional integrity, blah, blah, sexual harassment etc.
So, the robot did have a heart.
I was furious. A throwaway comment in the coffee dock was getting me in this much trouble?
Fuck that. Revenge. Revenge is the only way to settle this in a mature, professional way.
I strolled down to Gloria’s office. She hadn’t come in yet. What I did next was fairly stupid, a bit over the top you might say, but at the time it made perfect sense to me.
I started a fire on her desk. It wasn’t a big one really. I just burned a few post-its. Wasn’t my fault that our cheap-ass supply manager had purchased flammable office furniture from a dodgy crowd over the border. It also wasn’t my fault that someone left a window open and the breeze caught the flames and spread the fire through the office. And it definitely wasn’t my fault that nobody could get an outside line to call the fire brigade because our dangerously under-qualified receptionist had jammed the phone system.
When someone eventually remembered that they had a mobile phone, the fire brigade arrived and got the blaze under control.
Thankfully nobody got seriously hurt.
A couple of people were huddled around Gloria in the car-park and were pointing at me. I knew what was coming.
Gloria made her way over to me. I couldn’t tell if she was annoyed or delighted. Couldn’t read her at all. Standard Gloria.
“Paul, I believe this fire was started by you. I don’t think there is any need really for you to come back. Brian will be in touch.”
I wanted to say, “You got what was coming to you!” or something triumphant. I wanted her to know why I’d done it. She probably wouldn’t have reacted anyway; her CPU wouldn’t have processed the information in a normal way. I still wanted to say it.
I didn’t get a chance to. I took a massive thump in the back of the head and crashed to the tarmac.
“Fuckin’ prick! I heard what you said about me bird! Fuckin middle-aged office wanker.”
Dave was standing over me, clearing his throat for a nice phlegmy spit.
He made the complaint. Made sense.
Fair play to him. I’d have done the same. He saw his chance and he took it.
Can’t begrudge him that!