Both negotiator S and intellectually challenged F, my semi-retarded trainee, have couples sat at their respective desks. I’m spoilt for choice.
I can sense S’s antipathy as I stroll past her workstation, a spurious set of particulars in my hand to feign a journey with some purpose, other than to eavesdrop. She seems to be coping well, as expected, and I hear her qualifying the applicants adroitly, before moving seamlessly into a financial services quote pitch for mortgage man M, our very own fiscal Friar Tuck – minus the joviality.
‘Ah, we’ve sorted the finance out thank you.’ Fends-off the husband, trying not to look at S’s tits while his wife is watching.
‘If I could save you some money, would you say no to that?’ Asks S as smooth as treacle.
‘Uh,’ hesitates the man, still trying desperately to keep his eyes at head level. And he cops-out and turns to his partner. ‘Uh, what do you think honey?’
I move on, my work done. F is stumbling through the registration screen on our clunky in-house interface.
‘And how exactly are you spelling Black?’ The idiot questions, brow furrowed, an almost audible whirring of ill-lubricated cogs – unless the hard drive is failing again.
‘The same way everyone spells it.’ Snaps the man in front of F, his irritation palpable as F confirms every stereotype about estate agents he’s ever heard.
‘Why do you have to do that?’ Complains S after the office has cleared.
‘Do what?’ I ask unnecessarily.
‘The creeping around listening to us.’ Continues S. ‘It’s almost like stalking.’
‘I prefer coaching.’ I respond primly. ‘Anyway,’ I snipe looking pointedly at F. ‘It helps discover if we can spell tertiary colours without a dictionary.’
‘I reckon you might be infringing our personal space.’ Chips in assistant manager T, who has been watching and listening.
‘What sort of psychobabble is that?’ I snap, knowing it’s a barbed hook, but unable to resist the bait.
‘Well,’ muses T a grin dancing just behind his attempt at gravitas.’ There must be something about it in those notes we had from the people department.’
‘Don’t you mean human resources?’ Chips in S, smirking and looking to me.
‘It’s personnel.’ I snap. ‘Bloody personnel.’
I mean how many stupid name changes do we have to go through? Bad enough with the corporate re-brandings I’ve suffered over the years. One set of weak-chinned, roll-necked jumper wearing, designer spectacle sporting consultants after another. Each band of bandits fleecing gullible management for the same set of notes re-drafted from their university course, and then polished up on an Apple Mac. Presented with a logo swiped from their prissy friend working in a trendy design practice, probably situated in a converted loft with more wood flooring than our still boarded-up Woolworth’s store. God, I hate them.
‘Here they are.’ Teases T, clearly enjoying riling an easy target. And he pulls out a set of notes that probably cost several acres of quick growing tax-dodge conifers.
‘Unacceptable workplace practices. Section four. Sub-section D.’
‘You’re making that up.’ I say hesitantly, knowing full well my copy is wedged at the back of my filing cabinet, alongside my Curriculum Vitae and a draft outline of a book I never wrote.
‘Be aware of other’s sensitivity to invading their comfort zone.’ Giggles T as S laughs along and F brays manically.
‘Get ringing round that vendor contact list.’ I instruct curtly. ‘Or you’ll feel a real invasion in you comfort zone. A size ten one.’
‘Don’t think that’s allowed either.’ Chuckles T thumbing the pages theatrically. ‘I’m sure there was something about inappropriate touching.’
I retreat to my office, chastened. I’m briefly tempted to retrieve the notes from the filing cabinet but I can’t afford the dental treatment the undoubted molar gnashing would precipitate.
It occurs to me that in a twenty-four seven working culture, without workplace contact, the indigenous birth rate would decline even more calamitously. But then what do I know?