Hot Plasticy Orifices

“The printer’s broken.”

I blink at my colleague. I’ve just walked into the office, over-priced coffee clutched in my hand, traditional Monday scowl plastered across my face. I haven’t even sat down yet.

“Right. So you want me to have a look at it?” I manage to say without peppering the sentence with profanities.

“Would you mind?” Says the non-management wankflap. “Thanks.” I look at him as he slopes off. He has two arms with hands on the end and some eyes in his face so I’m not entirely sure why he wasn’t able to attempt a repair but if I’ve learnt anything during my years of being a PA, it’s that if there’s a PA in the vicinity, THAT’S the lucky sausage who fixes the broken stuff (read: coffee machine, photocopier, laminator, voicemail, dishwasher, etc).

I hang my jacket up, metaphorically roll up my sleeves and look at the little instruction screen (which is somehow invisible to my lazy FUCKTRUMPET colleagues).

It says:

CLEAR MISFEED

Right, well that’s the first clue as to what might be wrong with it. I feel angry. It’s obvious what’s wrong and the paper that is currently jammed somewhere deep inside the cogs of the printer is NOT the result of a print job I am doing, ergo why am I the one who has to clear it? However, if a PA allows herself to think like that, it’s only a short trip to furious insanity and possibly the purchase of a sniper rifle, so I squash that thought and press the little arrow sign.

This reveals a picture of the printer with one of its flaps hanging down like a grotesque robot autopsy. I locate said flap and open it.

No paper.

This printer is a fucking idiot. It’s a gormless, useless heap of metal encased in cheap beige plastic. I hate this printer and I’m damn sure it hates me. I begin systematically opening every one of its seventy five flaps. I twiddle knobs, I poke my fingers into its hot plasticy orifices in a deeply dangerous way. I yank out the waste toner cartridge and get a shower of toner over my hands so I look like I’ve been slapping a chimney sweep.

Nothing. There is NO PAPER jammed anywhere. I slam the front cover closed and glare at the printer. It sits exuding smugness and little puffs of toner.

I grab a sheet of A4, lick my finger and using the moistened toner, I write ‘OUT OF ORDER’ and stick it to the printer’s smug, twatty lid. I wash my hands and pick up the phone to call the engineer.

Over the next thirty minutes, I watch twelve different people approach the printer. Each one looks at the sign, clearly smeared in jet black toner and each one says ‘Is the printer broken, then?’

Each time I swallow the bile that’s risen and say calmly ‘Yes, I’ve called the engineer.’

For some that’s not enough. Some decide that I must be WRONG in my assumption that only a fully trained printer engineer can fix it. They assume that even though I’ve spent the best part of fifteen years, elbow deep in printers like James Herriot with a calving dairy cow, I can’t POSSIBLY have checked ALL the flaps.

So they start checking flaps. They open and slam the flaps as they watched me do not ten minutes before. They press the touch screen buttons and tut loudly before announcing ‘Yeah, definitely a job for the engineer’ and wandering back to their desks to fuck around on Facebook until lunch.

The printer watches them go and rolls its eyes at me. We share a moment. But I still hate it.

Have You Got Tissues?

Last week I went into my boss’s office to make the appropriate noises of interest and admiration over her new iPad2. As soon as I saw it, propped on her desk looking all shiny and gum-dryingly expensive, I felt the familiar panic rise within me.

My brain decided, at that moment, to imagine what would happen if I reached out to touch the iPad and my sleeve caught the glass of water on her desk, sending the contents cascading over it, probably making the iPad explode or at least catch fire, almost definitely relieving my boss of her eyebrows and, shortly afterwards, me of my job.

This happens all the time.

My dad is an artist and on my last visit home, he was showing me a painting he was working on for a commission. A very lucrative commission. He explained to me very clearly how the painting had taken months of work to reach its current state.

I could barely enter the room.

I looked at that painting and as my dad explained the details, my brain imagined what would happen if I SPILLED INK ALL OVER IT. Fucking ‘ink’? I have no idea where that came from, I wasn’t holding an open bottle of Quink for God’s sake. Who even uses ink any more? But there it was before my eyes; a horrifying vision of me casually swilling black ink around in its open bottle, inches away from my dad’s VERY EXPENSIVE PAINTING before…WHOOPS! There goes the bottle, splattering across the precious watercolour as my dad falls to his knees and weeps, quite possibly disowning me and definitely cancelling all future Christmases.

I think I know where this bizarre mental tick of mine comes from. It’s the result of growing up with a mother who would shriek ‘CAREFUL!’ if you so much as picked up the remote control or turned to look at a squirrel. The soundtrack to my childhood was a constant litany of warnings and advice. Dinner time came with the same number of health and safety warnings as a game of Swingball in an acid testing facility. “Careful, that plate’s hot.” “You should be wearing a pinny.” “MIND THAT SAUCEPAN HANDLE!” “Careful, that knife’s sharp.” “Are you eating it in the lounge? Then for God’s sake use a tray!” “Mind your sleeve on that hob!”

Of course it was all said with love and concern and I’m grateful for that, but the result is that I spend an unnaturally high proportion of my time working out the most likely horrific scenario and taking steps to avoid it.

Speaking of steps, they’re the worst. When I was five, I fell headfirst down a flight of wooden stairs so my fear is not entirely down to extreme parenting on this one. Now, every time I have to descend a set of steps, I imagine catching my foot and hurtling helplessly down them. Tube escalators! I always walk (or run) down them, flying carelessly in the face of ALL DANGER, yet everytime I do it I imagine tripping and somersaulting down the escalator like a drunk, underqualified acrobat or worse, taking out a fellow commuter and paralysing them for life. I’d have to spend the rest of my days doing fun runs for them and stuff. I mean IT COULD HAPPEN.

I have tried to be nonchalant. I’ve tried to saunter through life with the attitude of someone whose mother has never once dropped them off in town, then leaned out of her car window and bellowed ‘HAVE YOU GOT TISSUES?’ However, I am a more careful person because of it which I’m sure will be a comfort to you if you ever find yourself alongside me on a tube escalator.

A Ton of Stupid

I’ve been looking after a new PA who joined the company today. She replaces an utter fucktool so I was slightly trepidatious about her arrival but I showed her round earlier and she didn’t mistake a fire extinguisher for the Finance Director or physically assault anyone so my fears have been slightly allayed.

However, her arrival got me thinking about The Dumbest Thing Ever Said To Me. Yes, I’ve capitalised it, let’s move on.

Her predecessor-but-one (not the last fucktool, the fucktool before that – the Original Fucktool) was already here when I joined the company, terrorising the fifth floor and generally behaving as though she had a railway spike rammed through the parts of her brain that control NICENESS and NORMALITY. 

I work for an international company (get me) and something all the PAs here have to do is organise international meetings. It means we have to be aware of time zones, starting with the fact that they exist and ending with not forgetting about them when inviting seventeen countries to a conference call about branding or budgets or buggery (not buggery). Now, Original Fucktool (OF) had a real problem with time zones. She just couldn’t seem to grasp that if it’s lunchtime in London, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s lunchtime in New York. I frequently had to stop what I was doing and check a meeting invitation before she sent it, or sit and stare reassuringly at her, nodding like an encouraging parent as she used her fingers to count how many hours ahead Singapore is.

I thought this was bad enough but her stupidity was about to show itself in all its ghastly glory.

One of her bosses was flying off to America for a week. The flight was due to leave London at 11.30am and would land in the US at 6pm local time which is midnight in the UK. At midday, I happened to be going out for lunch at the same time as OF and as we walked across the square, she said this:

“Isn’t it incredible to think that even though her plane only took off half an hour ago our time, she’s already landed in America?”

She carried on walking while I was rendered immobile as the sheer force of her idiocy hit me in the face like a ton of STUPID.

“What?” I said, spitting out bits of stupid.

“Well, the flight lands at 12 and it’s 12 now. It’s amazing isn’t it? I’ll never fully understand time zones.”

Not only had she confused US time with UK time, she’d confused 12am with 12pm and most importantly, she thought her boss could TRAVEL THROUGH TIME.

Even as I type this, I’m astounded at how her brain managed to crumple up reality like that, chew it up and spit it at the wall of logic in a mangled, wet clump. Even after I’d taken her through the concept of time zones yet again, she didn’t seem to grasp it. She was fired shortly after that (this is true).

KFC: Saving our lives one bun at a time

Following a successful launch in the US last year, KFC is introducing its bread-free burger to Australia. ‘The Double’ was apparently made to target ‘carb-conscious’ customers, having had all traces of bread meticulously removed. This wasn’t an easy process. Given the toxic and unstable nature of bread, especially in ‘bun’ form, it took a team of highly trained scientists in full protective body suits three days to successfully remove all the bread with only minimal damage to human health and the local plants and wildlife. The buns were then transported to a remote, uninhabited island and destroyed in a controlled explosion.

Carb-phobic consumers are praising the eradication of the terrifying and unholy bread bun which has been replaced by a ‘meat bun’  constructed from two nutritious, carb-free fillets of deep-fried farm bird.

As you can see from this picture, The Double offers a healthy alternative to those who are so frightened of carbs they can’t stand near a fruit salad without sweating and falling over. KFC were quick to assure those customers worried about the extreme likelihood of immediately gaining 7 or 8lbs on consumption of this festival of meat, that it only contains an estimated 540 kcals. However, tests have since been carried out on the breaded artery candy and it was found to contain closer to 1,200 kcals. A spokesman for KFC said, “Look, it was a ballpark figure but have you seen the KFC company ballpark? It’s the size of Vancouver. Actually, it is Vancouver.”

Having already astounded the world with its innovative ‘Popcorn Chicken’ (tiny breast fillets removed from chicken embryos in the egg by laser-scalpel and deep fried before the mummy chicken knows what’s happened), and now having saved us all from bread, KFC today announced its latest project. A spokesman for the chicken-mangling multinational said “It’s long been a dream of ours to minimise the damage we’re doing to the world’s dwindling chicken population and we’ve found a way to do that. Given the shortened life span most of our regular customers can expect, we’ve refined our cooking processes and employed in-store surgeons. They’ll remove your heart in under 40 seconds, flash fry it with the Colonel’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices and serve it back to you in a sandwich made from your own severed, breaded hands. This not only gives customers the fat-clogged death they so obviously crave much faster than they’d normally achieve it, but it also means we don’t have to hurt any more fucking defenceless chickens. Sometimes I see their beaks in my dreams. It’s just horrible.”

There are currently no plans to introduce The Double to the UK market. Our national love of toast, despite its toxicity and sometimes life-threatening side effects, means we’re less likely to be receptive towards a foodstuff that doesn’t include bread of some kind. A spokesman for The British Bread Council said “Look, the bottom line is, bread is great. These so-called carb-conscious twats can gang up with the whiny wheat and gluten intolerant LIARS and bugger themselves with a baguette. KFC are mad if they think any of us want this monstrous offence against God blighting our high streets.”

Stickileaks

The leaks you won’t read about in The Guardian…because they’re not true.

1. In 1953, the Queen Mother’s daughter Elizabeth was crowned Queen. Or so everyone thought. The truth is, the Queen Mother had for a long time been experimenting with cloning techniques involving dandruff and Bombay Sapphire. After a few false starts in which she created not only the world’s first dyslexic goldfish but also a unicorn (from which she removed the horn and entered it into the 3.30 at Chepstow under the name ‘Grandpa’s Colossal Sausage’), she managed to create a baby in a jar and raise it as her daughter. That jar-baby is now the woman we call ‘Your Highjesty’ or, less formally, ‘Your Majness’.

2. When David Cameron became Prime Minister, Barack Obama changed his phone number and to this day has refused all of Cameron’s friend requests on Facebook.

3. When Bill Clinton was president, he famously admitted to having an ‘improper relationship’ with the intern, Monica Lewinsky. In fact, the Monica Lewinsky scandal or ‘Stain-gate’ as no one dubbed it at the time was a smoke screen for far more sinister goings on in the Oval Office. The truth is that while the world was distracted by tales of cigars, sex splodges and Monica’s ludicrously big hair, the US government was secretly plotting to invade Cornwall. Their plan was thwarted however, when a plucky young fisherman attacked and killed three American spies in Helston. He didn’t know they were spies at the time, he thought they were trying to steal his pasty but word reached American shores that the Cornish were cable-knit wearing mentalists, willing to kill for some minced beef and potato in a pastry shoe, and the project was deemed too great a risk. It was abandoned and Bill Clinton was left to carry the can.

4. In the most cryptic cable, it is revealed that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has never heard of Girls Aloud but is quite partial to a bit of Kylie but only that which she recorded “before Hutchence pickled her with drugs, experimental sex and leather-bound hairdos”.

5. Silvio Berlusconi actually died ten years ago. His corpse is powered by fourteen AA batteries and held together with a potent mixture of creosote, wood varnish and matted hair. His voice is provided by Steve Coogan who has recorded an amazing 700,000 different sentences for every conceivable occasion. The most frequently used is ‘No honestly it’s fine my dear, I’m the Prime Minister’.

6. According to unofficial research by the British government, you actually CAN lick your elbows but if you do, you immediately have to eat them both under a law passed in 1785 which is still enforced today. Interestingly, the same law states that if you can find the elbows on a dog, you can have it.

7. In 2004, Kim Jong Il bet that he could juggle fifteen catfish while whistling the German national anthem. He lost that bet and as a result, North Korea has since been an official suburb of Stockport.

8. There are no real banks in Switzerland. When money was transferred to a Swiss ‘bank’ it was immediately transferred over to Colonel Sanders to fund research into new ways to mangle chicken bits and cover them in breadcrumbs. Once he’d created ‘Popcorn Chicken’, which he considered the pinnacle of his life’s work, the money was redirected into funding the X Factor tour.

9. Sir Francis Drake never existed but was actually created in 1943 as ‘the face of the potato’ to make them seem more romantic to the war-weary public (originally, Drake was going to be called ‘Captain Spud’). In actual fact, potatoes were invented by Jeff Potato as an alternative fuel to coal which was rationed at the time. The first person to actually eat one was Claire ‘Crazy Eyes’ Barnfield in 1947 who slathered it in lard and swallowed it whole. It’s thanks to ‘Crazy Eyes’ that when a potato has gone a bit weird and repellent, the tiny sprouts are referred to as ‘eyes’.

10. Boris Johnson is actually an android, created in Japan and released into society in Britain to see whether its level of A.I. was strong enough to cope with every day life. Sadly it malfunctioned and was unable to pass as a human being. The ‘Boris Bot’ as it was referred to in the cables, was considered only fit for satirical panel shows and local politics.

Stickileaks: Making up the truth so you don’t have to.

Small Talk

One of my colleagues is a woman in her late thirties. She’s intelligent and seems to have a good sense of humour but has the worst conversation skills I’ve encountered in a long time. It’s got to the point that when I sense I’m about to get sucked into one of her conversational vortexes, I’ll do anything to avoid it; pretend to make a phone call, shuffle paperwork, go to the loo or fashion a rope out of my stock of spare tights and abseil out the window.

It’s not just that her topics of conversation are tedious or that she has a fairly chronic case of verbal diarrhoea; it’s that she seems to miss conversational cues that most people get immediately. She finishes speaking and I have nothing to say so I’ll do the usual ‘Well, anyway…’ and turn back to my desk but she doesn’t turn away. She sits there, looking at me. Now, I hate that kind of heavy, expectant silence and I have to fill it; it’s like a tic. “Well what can you do, eh? Anyway…” I go to turn away again but she’s still looking at me. At this point I want to hold up a placard saying ‘CONVERSATION OVER. PLEASE GO ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS’.

Small talk is hard enough without having to engage in it with people who have the sensitivity of a lump hammer. I loathe small talk and the worst kind is definitely with work colleagues. At least at work there are distractions and props to help you cope with the inevitable inanity but the mere mention of the words ‘work do’ make me want to feed myself into the shredder, face first. At a work do, you are flung together with people who are not friends or family and with whom you probably have very little in common except the fact you share a bin, but you’re expected to behave as though they’re scintillating company. This is despite the fact that when they eat a falafel wrap for the nineteenth lunch in a row you want to strangle them with the phone cord.

Despite finding forced social situations excruciating, I often leave them feeling as though I should have been paid for services to social interaction, having kept a table of ten people entertained from the smoked salmon to the petit fours. I dread Christmas work events. I have faked phone calls, smoked outside incessantly and on one occasion simply got my coat and left because of the sheer pressure of making small talk. I can’t bear the mindless chatter about the weather/cars/mortgages/X Factor and in the run up to any work event I check my eyes hourly for signs of jaundice that might indicate a ‘get out of jail free…with liver failure’ card.

I’m not sure what the alternative is, though. We can’t all stand around stiffly, having VERY IMPORTANT DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SOCIETY, because then life would resemble the Tory Party Conference. In a way I suppose small talk is essential; it fills silences, bridges gaps, relaxes people and creates the kind of hub-bub at a work do that reassures the organiser (usually a PA) that it’s going well as she slings back another large gin and wishes she hadn’t spent the stationery budget on an ice sculpture. If only it wasn’t such hard work. So, anyway…