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The Heart Of Darkness And Hot Desks…

There's method in the madness

“DFS? Is that like LSD? Christ I hate cane furniture!”

Scene Three

The reviews are in and they’re mixed.  Alright, alright; I failed miserably to inject any tension…  I admit it, there’s precious little blogarhythm.  I’ve given it the best I’ve got: writer’s block, imaginary Polish builders; a pizza that refuses to go honourably and a shiny suit – weddings and funerals only – that has left me on the edge; though not only in a fashion sense.

Hey, before we forget we’re living the (agency) dream – little compensation when it’s a recurring vision that always degenerates into a nightmare; making Apocalypse Now seem like a walk in a London park.  Mind you, try that after dark and you’ll know all about the horror.  At times writing is about stating the bleedin’ obvious but then I’ve always thought I could do that just as well as any of those talking heads on Channel Four/Five who make a living out of it.  Fifty Greatest Creative Clichés: go on – gissa job?  I sound like some latter-day Yosser Hughes: Google it – it comes from way back; when to have issues meant something else than Gok Wan quizzing his ‘girlfriend’ if she has dysmorphia on his latest pseudo-stab at reality.

“I give you Rosie Loveday: a perfect synthesis of f*** (off)following function. “

I’ve always wanted to gird my loins but never been sure what it entails.  Like that tastefully hip tattoo you always wanted I’m sure regret and embarrassment are involved somewhere down the line.  Time to hit with the Director’s cut.  Everything that follows occurs in widescreen and flows like warped feng shui.   Into the heart of darkness we go… Cue the doors: heavy smoked-glass ones that strip your dignity away as much as the furniture.  (Resolve to work out more.)  This is the end… buum, buum, buum… sorry, in fact there’s more blogs to go.  Into the halls of the gods, the palaces of The Creatives: the homes of the anti-pun… where The Sun seldom rises.  Noooo!  This is a given… there she sits: the receptionist – a Colonel Kurtz; only with less charm.  To say she has a dismissive manner is to denigrate the skill of someone busy refining a talent: a lifetime’s work.  Like some psychotic stamp collector she can’t wait to show you all of her collection of unappealing habits.

She’s a honey trap for the unsuspecting.  Why do this breed of receptionist and secretary always seem to have such superficially welcoming surnames?  Let’s build a monster – if Dr Frankenstein could get over his obsession with gender and neck bolts – I give you Rosie Loveday: a perfect synthesis of f*** (off) following function.

‘Friendly’ greetings are as short-lived as freelance contracts and leave me checking my membership of the human race.  Sympathy flows like bile in my stomach as she twists the egos of unassuming callers on the company switchboard – simultaneously texting her boyfriend on her ironically named smart phone; checking her nail extensions; watching the latest celeb news on Sky and talking about last night in Soho where she disappointedly got “So not wasted” at the kind of club where her demeanour is considered a positive godsend. Yes it’s great to avoid the proletariat lurking in vain hope at the door as, like some modern-day Marie Antoinette, she is swept into the perma-tanned throng in the VIP area.

"That sofa!!!  The horror...The horror..."

“That sofa!!! The horror…The horror…”

The curse is upon us: the one who brought out the coffee with a sinisterly superior smile in the first place.  She lurks between reception and the bijou kitchen displaying the kind of casual disengagement to listening to anything important that transcends any situation – yet hints at an elite education.  Has such an innocent question as – “He’s in a meeting: would you like a coffee while you wait?” – ever triggered such a  treacherous subplot: the kind of intrigue that Dan Brown could only dream of.   I was feeling like a ghost in their haughty presence.  But then we all are.  Copywriters are only ever writing for other people really – which is why their desks are full of rejected novels, poetry, plays and film treatments.  You can read it in their faces: imagine it in their voices – the Brandoesque intonation:  “One day the real thing… One day…”

The receptionist on sabbatical from the Bates Motel sits multi-tasking… She has mastered the disinterested aside like I knew she would and now waits expectantly for the cup – the one that thinks it’s a soup bowl with a suspicious growth (not big enough to be known as a handle in regular society) – to elude my grasp.  Damage worth a month’s wages in the real world – my world – threatens the glass table.  Though to call it a table would breach trades description as well as health and safety: okay boys and girls fight it out amongst your selves.  Harry Hill moment forgotten, your knees buckle under the strain as you try doggedly to look interested in the digital whiz bang philosophy of the company brochure and accumulated trade mags: grimly you resist the accumulating shame of any potential spillage like a child with a weak bladder waiting for the school bell to ring.

Deep down, where the pizza fights on, you suspect that – much like a ‘60s spy movie- the wall-mounted TV is a two-way mirror and bets are being taken on your predicament in the office sweepstake.  The footage is then edited for upload to YouTube and a presentation at the Christmas party.   Though you can’t prove it anymore than you can find anything that passes as a handle on this *!*!*!* kubek.  This would also explain the smirk that always has me checking my flies as the Creative Director tries to find a hand to shake that isn’t coffee cup, or brochure, or magazine; or braced hard against the shelf of framed awards – “Oh those old things; we’re more motivated by self-satisfaction here” – which are displayed above the bear trap that only this niche of humanity would dare present to the world as a sofa.  Buum, buum, buum… Three!?  You’d be lucky to get one end on there.

“PTSD? Nam flashbacks? That’s nuthin’… you try brainstormin’ here at ABD&C my little friend…”

I don’t expect the fatted calf or for that matter the receptionist to be despatched Taliban style on my behalf: shame.  However, arm’s length makes it harder to bend anywhere.  Some workplaces exude an air of anti-personnel carrier/career: personal items and things that clutter desks are seen as passé, small-minded, bourgeois and redolent of corporate stabs at individuality: like coloured socks, funky Friday ties and abstract blobs on cards from the kids that unnecessarily clutter City desks.  They must be resisted: they drag the creative mind down.  We have moved onward and upward: “Let me show you my film – an edgy elegy on possession and personal memory produced as part of a multi-media campaign for Help the Aged.”  The shiny suit obviously isn’t cutting-age enough for me.   Maxim: a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind.  Free the mind!  Liberté – Superiorité!

How can so much social media strategy be formulated and expounded in such essentially anti-social environments?  It’s all clean lines on hot-desks round these here parts… The insidious practice of hot-desking is designed to make you confront your mortality years before your designated time.  Oh God… My existence is so temporary: I leave so little trace behind.  I sit: therefore I am: not here you don’t!  No comforting stain from that awkward coffee cup on my desk, no post-it notes to posterity; or wistful smile as I slip a little comfort blanket of a picture of my partner/cat/sofa into the dusty space between gleaming HD screen and top of the range monitor frame.  Be a hot-desking freelancer and you know what a Chechen refugee in a camp on the Russian border really feels.

As a refugee I’ve got to turn this piece around quicker than the career trajectory of a well-connected intern.   Either that or don the shiny suit and let it all slide off – it’s my funeral after all.  Next time I could try hitting the screen with enough excrement that some of it sticks… Well, if it works for Go Compare! 

“Butter?  Paris?  Eurostar!”

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