My workplace is a Dickensian dystopia in an old building deep in the dirty bowels of the old part of the City. I step over vomit most mornings. Our recessed deep doorway is ideal for hurling if you had a few too many overnight. The hairdresser washes it away with a bucket of hot soapy water by morning tea time.
Wet toilet paper blocks the smoke alarm in the pokey downstairs / lobby toilet so the girls from the retail store on their breaks can have a smoke without setting it off. Next floor up is the Spa Massage Wellness Clinic or the “Rub and Tug” as we call it. Then the smell of nail polish from the hair salon below me that wafts through the entire building. Nauseating.
I see a gull devouring a dead pigeon through the double-hung broken window in the men’s toilets that face the long-faced wall of the building next door that is unbroken by smiling window openings. Bits of pigeon crap and feathers coat the window ledges where they roost in a precarious existence leaning in hard against the prevailing wind and horizontal sleet. Chicks not fully formed or feathered lie abandoned on the ledge. Poor little buggers I think. I can’t see too far down if I look out but in that abyss there must be a pigeon graveyard of gigantic proportions.
I’ve worked in a few offices in my long and illustrious career.
My daughter asks me exactly what I do, but the simple fact is, I haven’t a clue. It matters not a jot despite all the toil and sweat. Legal stuff I tell her. The Law. The words vertically proportioned.
What then have been the highlights of the various Sick Building and Stockholm syndrome neurotic, musty carpeted, cesspits I’ve toiled away at over the years ? Better still, who are some of the characters I remember who nodded off from time to time at their desks and now dwell in the eternal Land of Nod ?
First up was “Phil” [Not his real name of course, nor the others below]. Also known as “Phil ‘er Up” The Bowser or “Sticky Phil” (Sticky Film). Phil stair climbed and pissed on the front office doors of opposing counsel on multiple floored buildings while simultaneously and nonchalantly talking on his cellphone and exchanging high brow legalese and pleasantries with his clients. Some sort of fetish.
Apparently he’d calmly descend the stairs once the dirty deed was done and was rarely confronted. If he was his excuse was a botched prostate operation that had left him “Severely incontinent”. Not so much as a dribble but more of a “Dam Buster”. His undoing was the frequency with which he answered his Call of Nature and an insatiable adrenaline rush of excitement from his foul deeds that led to him chancing his luck over and over again. Until his luck ran out and he was nabbed – “The Phantom Pisser” unmasked. Unplugged / Plugged. Drained and Run dry.
Come to think of it, I don’t think Phil was averse to the odd wayward spray in our lift judging by the smell in it at times.
“Bazza” (Barry) was a barrister who worked above me and had the habit of throwing heavy objects around like chairs, desks, monitors, computers when he lost a case, which was quite frequently by the way. At times it sounded like a Grand Piano was being flung around his pokey little office above my head. Barry was so good at throwing objects around, he decided to throw himself out the window one day and landed at the feet of a client below.
Bazza was an unofficial bookmaker and heavy gambler on the Gee-Gees who regularly posted the results of the various track meetings that had been run on the front door of his office. After one big race meet where he lost big-time, he posted his name with the words, “Also ran” beside it. He hid out for a quite a while but eventually returned only to fall out the window while rounding the first corner of the Grand National steeplechase.
“Jock” was a stamp collector who specialized in stamps of the Commonwealth. He believed in fortifying his immune system by rubbing his lunch and other food on the floor (the place that got the most germs) before eating it. This was our office deep, pile carpet that hopefully hadn’t been watered by Phil to make the deep, piles grow faster. Although maybe that would have helped old Jock.
He’d forever be wiping his sandwiches over the floor. Meticulously first one side, then the other.
Jock also had the strange habit that whenever it rained, he’d suddenly lurch himself bolt upright out of his chair and fists clenched with head held aloft to the heavens, would yell out the words, “Send her down Harry ! Send her down you Bastard !”
What the Hell that ever had to do with anything, we never quite worked out.
Jock was detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. Sectioned and never got out. A mutual friend installing a sound system in the asylum – and that’s what it was, was shocked to see him warming his pecker on a radiator on a cold winter’s afternoon. Poor old Jock.