Thursday, September 13, 2012

Close Shave - Wednesday

I’m sitting at the head of a semi-circle of staff, arranged round the desk of assistant manager T. They look expectant. I’m trying to quell a bubbling anger that won’t help the level of stomach acid I already carry. The ulcer can only be months away.

‘Is he supposed to be back today?’ I ask tetchily. My team look back at me blankly; then equally vapidly at each other, until S my well-upholstered negotiator taps something into her smartphone and answers in the affirmative. She keeps abreast of technology, I think unhelpfully, as she leans across the desk to place her phone down. The anger is building. You get enough idiots, arseholes and wastrels once the door is unlocked without employing them. F, my trainee, is dangerously close to being late for the morning meeting again, despite having had four days off to sort out his body and alarm clock. Human Resources get twitchy and require reams of paperwork if you even shout at a staff member any longer; so decking him when he finally arrives isn’t an option. I’m left with withering sarcasm as my only weapon. The lowest form of wit apparently. But I don’t mind stooping.

‘Here he comes.’ Announces assistant manager T breezily, nodding through the window towards the far side of the street. T sports £200 designer frame glasses so I assume he sees more than me. Vanity and parsimony have kept me peering at road names and house numbers for so long now I’m used to squinting. Plus, as the years march on and the targets grow in tandem with my belly I find the long sight is improving. I just can’t read the labels on wine bottles so easily any more. Lucky I’m not fussy – except about timekeeping.

‘What the hell is he wearing?’ Asks loose lettings lush B with a chuckle. She’s a fine one to comment I think fleetingly, as some of her skirt and heel combos defy decency and gravity, but I’m already looking past the overpriced mock Georgian semi on the inside window panel to see what fashion crime F is committing this morning. He’s done unsuitable comedy ties, badly fitting trousers that expose underpants waistband, and a charity shop suit that screamed demob to anyone with parents who did National Service.
‘Hah.’ Guffaws big mortgage man M, spotting the family planning mistake as he traverses the traffic. ‘You’re not going to like that.’ And although the shirt looks a little un-ironed and the tie could do with straightening I still don’t see it - until I look at his face.

‘What the f**k is that growth?’ I ask incredulously, the expletive slipping out in contravention of another company standing order only a paper pusher who has never had a sale fall-through on a Friday afternoon, could have penned.
‘I think you’ll find it’s a goatee.’ Answers S suppressing a giggle.
‘Yep, ‘confirms T gleefully. ‘That’s a goatee alright.’
‘You’re not big on face furniture are you?’ States M rhetorically. He knows. They all know - apart from F apparently.

I’ve told them the story of a vendor who chose me years ago, over another, more experienced practitioner. At first I fretted my fee was too low, or the suggested asking price too high but she told me: ‘The other fellow had a beard, never trust a man with a beard. They are usually hiding something.’ And these things stick. Like taking your shoes of if they insist, pretending you like children and pets and shutting the gate when you leave. I’m leaving the beard, earring and ponytail for when I’m bothering site sales staff on retirement developments. Just before choosing a plot and a headstone.

‘A goatee is for ageing rockers and bald blokes.’ I rage unreasonably as F nearly saves me the paperwork and another industrial tribunal, by almost getting flattened by a bus.
‘And for goat herders.’ Adds T mischievously. I could easily imagine F comforting farm animals, having seen his browsing history, plus he’s done a few dogs but that’s in his own time. Once he enters the office he’s my creature. One I prefer without facial hair.

‘Can you tell him what to wear then?’ Questions B pointedly. It’s a minefield, one that keeps unemployable-anywhere-else women, busy in Human Resources. Many years ago, the females at a firm I worked for, had to wear a corporate skirt and blouse set while males could sport a more relaxed suit and tie combination. The girls’ blouses collected more static than Beyonce’s hairbrush and after a couple of nasty shocks on the metal filing cabinets and a threat of a sexual discrimination case the female uniforms were discarded. No, not like that.

‘Something wrong?’ Asks F on finally entering.

How long have you got?


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