Friday, November 13, 2015

Groundhog Day at the HR Department


The inner sanctum of the HR Department. The midday sun beats through the windows and lights on two individuals.

'Peter, you're great.'

'And so are you, Selina.'

'Not as great as you, Peter.'

'You're still great, Selina.'

'Do you think so? You're not just saying I'm great because I always say you're great?'

'I mean it. You're great.'

'That's great. Here's Mary. Mary, you look great.'

'Well, thank you. You both look great.'

'Not as great as you, Mary.'

'Do you think so? You're not just saying I look great because I always say you both look great?'

'No. You look, and are, great, Mary.'

'That's great. Here's Maureen. Maureen, you look great.'

'Do you think so? You're not all agreeing I look great because I always say you three always look great?'

'No. You look, and are, great.'

'Never complain if someone says you look, and are, great.'

'Maureen, that's why you're so great.'

'And never confide in those who are greater than you are. That way one can't be improved or corrected. Heaven forbid, if one's greatness was to be judged and found wanting.'

'Maureen, you are indeed great. Isn't it wonderful that matters like the prolonged economic downturn, restructuring, organisational changes, job insecurity and cuts, planned redundancies, stress, never impact on our "divine" department?'

'Indeed, Selina. That's precisely why Peter is so great. He has a double face. He is supremely vain. He never speaks without boasting. He recognizes inferiority. He considers himself more intelligent than anyone else. He never hesitates to perform the 'dirty work.' When Board Members, managers, staff, union representatives, ask awkward questions Peter never gives a straight answer. That's why Peter is so great.'

'Oh, Peter, you're excruciatingly great. Shall we all go to the works canteen for lunch?'

'I confess to feeling ill at ease eating close to staff whose jobs are on the line. Let's go somewhere decadently extravagant. After all, we have the money and job security even if 'major reforms' are implemented in the near future. How many people can say that in this day and age?'

'Oh, Peter, you really are so, so, great.'


Reflections: One day, while surreptitiously taping a meeting at work, I began to count the number of hairs on my head. I lost count at 82,469 when one hair fell on the floor. I had to start from scratch. It's a widely held belief in scientific circles that if a person is in possession of a full head of hair they should have approximately 100,000 hairs. My mind began to race:
  1. If I pull one hair a day from my head I should be completely bald in about 270 years. Who will continue the process after I am cremated?
  2. I have another 99,999 single hairs to pull out. What if I don't suit being partially, or totally, bald?
  3. Could I sell my hair on eBay? Is there a market for single hairs, or must I have a heap?
  4. What constitutes a heap?

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

How to Dine with a Noisy Eater and Survive


I met an ex-girlfriend yesterday afternoon. At first I thought it was a stranger who had approached me, then I discovered it was Arabella. We eat in a sleazy bar where the women drank beer and the men danced. The longer I gazed at Arabella's face the less I understood what I was looking at.

Life doesn't prepare you for instant confusion, how to think rationally under duress, or how to dine with a 'noisy eater' without wishing to push their face in whatever they are eating. Arabella looked weary, her face damaged by alcohol. She kept flipping through missed calls and messages on her mobile. This tore me up. And to think she was once the prettiest girl in the village.

Appalled by her appearance and behaviour, and devoured by my incessant need to naively judge others simply out of boredom and conceit, my mind went into overdrive. Recalling our short romance reminded me how irrelevant it was.

After some small talk she turned to me, her hazel eyes ready to shed tears, and said, 'Do you remember the afternoon by the river? What images and sensations does it provoke?'

'A fear of rats.'

'You're teasing me. It's the passage of time, emotional currents, fish, men in nylon thigh waders, fishing rods ... '

'You have a great memory, and, if I may say so, a great imagination.' Her self-inflated snobbery and constant preening made me wonder how we had coexisted in a past now entirely dissolved.

'Do you notice anything about me?'

'You still radiate mindless malice when you're not the subject of praise.'

'No, silly. I'm wearing the same skirt!'

'But you were nine, I was ten! You must be approaching sixty!' (I knew Arabella was fifty-two now.)  

'How do I look, and be truthful?'

I lied as best I could. It seemed to satisfy her desire for assurance regarding her appearance. For a moment I saw the smile of a young girl when she was nine, who enjoyed picnics, butterflies, cats, playing the piano, inventing funny nicknames, and mimicking teachers. I didn't disclose to Arabella that I was wearing charity shop clothes and shoes, which, in their simplicity, remained tight, just like my finances.

After we said goodbye I waited a moment or two. I watched Arabella walking slowly towards the town square, her head slightly drooped. However hard I tried, all I could think about was her face covered with wrinkles of anxiety, regret and weariness.  

*
Reflections:  Scientific experts believe that human beings have about 7,000 facial expressions at their disposal. My wife wears an incessant expression and her resemblance to Colonel Rosa Klebb, a fictional character from the James Bond film From Russia with Love, is uncanny, let alone disheartening.

I try to forget that my wife keeps her 'cocktail party' face (along with other faces) locked in her dressing table. Sometimes you can hear the faces talk for hours: mostly about make-up, beauty tips, parenting, and irritable bowel syndrome. Thankfully I have my Sooty glove puppet and the darkness.