Follow me to a new dawn folks.

Louis’ take on the farcical nature of the world of work has moved to:

http://www.talkingsoup.com

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Look forward to sharing more of the terrible work tales with you.

Louis Rive

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Cover letter #286. Failed application for job as a tour guide.

LOUIS RIVE915_1064051964637_8584_n

Dear Sirs,

I am writing in reference to your vacancy of Operations Assistant at Martin Randall Travel.

It is hard to show my suitability for this role in the form of a covering letter, the medium of which merely seems to serve the purpose of explaining my CV in detail. I have attached the CV and it statistically details my suitability for the role.

However you must get many of the same covering letters from the same Word template and it strikes me that you really miss some of the person behind the letter.

I love history, enough to spend four years of my life looking at it in detail from a small Scottish town in Fife. I truly have a passion for it. First hand experience beats a lifetime of textbooks and I used a Mitford Archaeological grant to go around all the ancient sites in Greece. On my own steam I have spent a lot of time in Italy, particularly Rome and its environs. I have done everything from seeing Hadrian’s Villa to avoiding the mafia in Naples and consequently I speak excellent Italian. Hotels and tours of vineyards aren’t going to be too much of a problem for me. If you don’t believe me then interview me and I will order you all pizza.

It’s not just ancient history. I am obsessed with maritime and military history too. These are the fields that I currently work in and I do a great job. When I enjoy something I tend to do it well, end of story.

The other thing that caught my eye was the music. Alas both my parents are classical musicians and I too dabbled (handily) at the cello since being 5 years old. I love classical music. Not in a Radio 3 way but it I certainly know a lot.

I have an MA and I have been consistently working since I was 16 so I know the world of work. Chimpanzees pay attention to detail and work to deadlines. I can improve on this by doing it while speaking fluent English.

If you think that I would be a great member to your team then email or phone me and we can meet for interview. If not then I suppose the job probably wouldn’t be for me anyhow.

Yours Sincerely.

Louis Rive

Soup

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Fuck I’m ill. On the plus side, everybody else is too and that feels good. It’s raining today as well, gone are the shorts and the ray-bans, gone is the illusion of British summer time. This feels good too.

Today at work I get to spend the day in the basement. I was too hungover to wheel out in front of the guests last time, so now I am paying penance for my actions. I am to polish glassware.

The limescale in the London water forms little white splodges on the glasses, splodges which subsequently need to be rubbed off so that some matrimonially minded arseholes or matt-grey conference manatees can revel in the idea of cleanliness. They don’t see the rats by the bins or the traps clogged up with roach carcasses. They just don’t see white smudges on their glasses and that contents them, apparently.

Ironically the process that involves the removal of limescale from the glassware is remarkably multi-faceted. The industry standard cleaner for cleaning London limescale smudges from glasses is London water itself. This water is obviously packed with limescale, it being from the same tap etc. Effectively this is like cleaning up paint with paint. Great smears of limescale adorn “polished” glasses which, with a sense of due irony, will need to be re-polished by order of the management. Obviously the bosses don’t help or sympathise, their sole role in the whole sordid affair is merely to evaluate and obviously find my workmanship “poor”.

To get a glass to a tolerable state of smudging takes a minimum of three minutes. This has to be done for every glass in the building. There are over 400 glasses. Mathematically this represents about twenty hours of continuous work. My shift is only thirteen hours long. Added to the equation is the fact that the clients keep using the clean glasses to drink a variety of soft drinks, all of which are diluted with London limescale-rich tap water. Occasionally the boss comes in and drains a glass right in front of me before leaving it in the “to be washed” pile, its journey to the polishing basement begun in earnest. I stand and watch his fat face guzzling down the limescaly drink. I can see the small smudges forming as he slakes his thirst with a dramatic “ah”! I think he does it just to spite me and my mind inevitably turns to revenge. I imagine ramming the vessel into his smirking mouth, laughing as he spits out glass and teeth. I watch closely as small splodges of limescale form on the collar of his acrylic suit, showing up perfectly against the crimson hue of his own claret.

But in the end I do nothing as always and subserviently return to my job, which is smearing the limescale around the rim of a never-ending carousel of glassware. The manager tells me to finish before I leave, a task that’s literally impossible, Sisyphean even. The true definition of a permanent job.

I have been looking for a good analogy for how this city takes pride in fucking you at every possible opportunity and finally it came upon me in the form of soup, yes soup. From the great soup kitchens of Tottenham Court Road to the value bucket at Best-In, this watered down vegetable mush has long been associated with hunger, longing and destitution, the triumvirate of modern London. It’s a culinary pairing with those that society shits upon, time and time again, that and bread. Still I mentioned I was sick. The infection had spread to the area under my back teeth so a bowl of hot soup sounded like practical paradise as I needn’t chew.

Now the Vietnamese are the kings of this scene with steaming bowls of spicy broth, replete with noodles like wet horsehair. Luck would have it that there was a “street food market” around the corner so off I went.

£7.95. For a bowl of soup. This represents one hour and twenty minutes on the minimum wage, which is what I earn. One hour and twenty minutes of pushing limescale around a glass just for a bowl of soup. Ah London “street food” everything “street” but the price.

Then I remember the Chinese supermarket does soup in a cup. It says it’s hot and spicy too but more importantly it costs 70p. Even though 70p represents 7 minutes labour, or 2 1/3rd glasses smudged acceptably clean, for those paying attention. This is sadly how I think now, my unit of time measurement is the polished glass, metric or imperial? It really doesn’t matter.

I still buy it because I want some soup you see and I don’t want London to win again. You will be familiar with these contraptions that simply require hot water to create the Styrofoam-enclosed miracle. I go to an evening language course round the corner thinking they must have an urn and they do. There it sits, steaming behind a counter manned by an insect like man called Keith. Soon I will have fucked the system with my cheap soup so I ask Keith for some hot water. I am top of the town, cock of the walk as I watch Keith methodically fill up a cup from the chrome urn but then just before he hands it too me he stops and his finger turns to the till.

50p. For tap water in a university. Keith actually smiles as he sees my face visibly drop, deflated by the last minute winner. I was clearly not the first to be making instant soup on the sly, which Keith’s broken smirk testifies too. Now 50p is by no means expensive but it’s the principle of the whole affair. Some of the students pay £6000 a year apparently. If ever there was a physical embodiment for education being a business, then this was it. I was ill and weak though, with an infected tooth so in my shame I bought it and London won again, his shard shaped dick tearing another inch into my colon. I made the soup. It looked like iodine solution and tasted of chemicals, mainly chlorine. Next time I would just buy beer like normal.

Dismissed

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It is the way people look at you that is the giveaway. The same mixture of fear and reticence pasted over the stupid, moronic faces of the general public should encourage you to call work and lie and avoid the inevitable. The percussive ping of the cheap phone alarm echoes in some dream I was having about warm weather, beds or cunts. Now I have to go to work.

It is the diligence that kills me every fucking time. I could lie and call in sick but some sardonic sense of duty binds me to the 12 hour shift. I don’t look good, maybe I should wash or a least shave. My skin is covered in a layer of booze, whisky slicked and washed down with ice cold lager.

The underground is hell, a big dark hole of peering faces and strange smells. I get off at Chancery Lane and throw up on the platform. Then I catch the next train to work. The first thing I do at work is throw up again. Eyes are crimson bloodshot from the retching of bile hidden deep within the recesses of my body.

I ask the manager if I can go to Boots, it’s my sore stomach don’t you know.

“Laurence, are you hungover?”

Fucking hell, of all the questions to ask. I want to slap my forehead and scream “duh” in her stupid petulant, authoritarian face. Instead I mumble something about food poisoning and shuffle off.

What I have is known in the business as a slow burner, that is a hangover that gets progressively worse as the day goes on. You see I woke up drunk and feeling none too shabby. This is thanks, in part, to the large volume of liquor I put away last night. The idiocy of my actions is now coming back to in spasms. I am not ashamed of what I drank, no no, I am ashamed that I am here, fucking working!

The wedding party has arrived. I look at these old fucks and they look at me. The question on their lips is so palpable that it doesn’t need said.

“Why the hell is that guy at work? This is our big day and this guy is going to have a part of it?”

It’s raining outside which is nice, nothing worse than a hot day to exacerbate things. The manager has been watching me a while from the corner of the room. We both know what’s going to happen but we let the drama play out a little longer. The groom comes over and asks for coffee. My hands visibly shake as I douse the table and the saucer with putrid black mess. Some of it went into the cup I think. Then the manager comes over.

Can you come through to the back? I can. Are you fit and able to work? I am not. Are you sorry? No, not really.

These moments I have experienced time after time and I have no doubt I will experience them again, but I must say they are more than strange. You don’t think of the repercussions of your dismissal you simply yearn to be dismissed, anything to escape the drudgery of working with a crippling hangover. Or just working full stop.

So it’s sayonara and arrivederci. Leave your things downstairs and get out. We can take it from here. I am amazed it took this long as almost three hours have elapsed. So it is out into the rain for me. The prospect of home is too much for me and I have to leave the tube three times to paint the platforms, but oh what joy as I cave in on cotton sheets and sleep the sleep of angels. I wake up at 9 in the evening. The shift would still be going on but it would be going on without me and that’s what’s really important.

Someone’s pissed on the fucking train

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It’s a short dash to catch the last train before I’d be late for work, again. I’d be late anyhow but still I squeeze myself onto the Central Line to Ealing, wherever that may be. My endeavors are met with the same grey faces that this gritty form of conveyance perpetuates. Even the kids look sad as their parents provide a shining example of a future pointless servitude.

It seems worse than usual, like another dimension has been added to the stagnant visuals of the carriage, sticky underfoot. It is, ladies and gentlemen, the unmistakable aroma of piss. The rinsed kidneys of one thousand tramps, distilled into a small portion of the fiberglass and metal tube that we call transport.

Folk are visibly disgusted by the fetid stench; some hold hankies tight to their noses. However, no one leaves. It’s blitz spirit, London united against the odds. That and they don’t want to give up their precious seats. It is sad that it’s come to this, a feat of disgusting endurance over common sense.

The carriage is split into three sections of twelve seats and I scan every one, looking for the culprit. Pregnant mothers pushing prams, well turned out city boys and some media types whose trainers belie their age. No, none of them.

Then my eyes fall upon him, grey trackies and an off white t-shirt, both garments too small for his bulging frame, he sits there panting and sweating in the clammy environs of the underground. Behind thick rimmed spectacles our eyes meet and I catch the flicker of a smile and an admission of guilt. Truth is he’s no bandit, vandal or prankster, just old and unused to the vast distances covered. That and he didn’t want to pay another £2.80 to leave the ticket barriers and re-enter, relieved. This is a man who had summed up his options and went for it. As he shuffles uncomfortably in his seat the fumes of low quality lager seep from the deepest recesses of his stained shirt. So he’s drunk too, why not?

The woman next to him is almost in tears from the overbearing aroma. She knows it’s him, we all do, but social convention feigns ignorance at such obvious destitution.

He doesn’t care what home county-bred executives think of him and what about the kids? He slouches lower in the frayed seat, as much a bastion of how not to live your life as their overworked parents who sit prim and proper, trying hard not to meet his unsteady gaze. He is happy for he has release all his immediate anxieties with the simple relaxation of his prostate, a laugh in the face of the complicated, sad lives of onlookers, those that cast such ready judgment. In the mean time he just sits there, bloated, fat and satiated one of the happiest individuals on board the train rolling west.

The cliquey nature of education

Unknown“Please rise for hymn number 54”.

The organ sounded and wheezed through to the start of another badly written biblical epic. Then silence. We all stood as one, mouths closed. United in the silence. The school choir feebly attempted imperfect harmonies from the front of the vast auditorium but it only intensified the silence. It was the only thing we did together. Every morning this happened. A great show of unity against the powers that be. The teachers looked on from the wings. Smug faces leering at our petty defiance. They knew that if they left us alone we would tear ourselves apart. And they were right.

Even as we funneled out into the halls the cracks were emerging. Cliques clotted quickly as social status overtook any bonds of the anti establishment. School was a fucked up concept. Though there existed a few creditable examples, on the whole it was thousands of kids with nothing in common, unwilling to learn what they didn’t care about. Within the year of my contemporaries personalities clashed and came together. Anthropologically speaking, you could describe the social system of the class of 2001 into castes. Broadly speaking there were three principle castes.

1. The Jocks.
Owing their name not to their Scottish heritage but rather to a transatlantic imported moniker, the Jocks were the top strata of the system. On the whole they were the best at sports and were made up by those very much athletically minded. Jock women were, by definition, the hottest girls in the year. The kind of girls that exploded through puberty and were effectively women by the age of fourteen. Tits and make up, they were the object of many a fantasy for those down the social strata. What they made up for in looks, they truly lacked in intelligence. Still, they were fucking untouchable to the likes of me. The Jocks lorded it, capable of anything that didn’t involve standardized exams or mental ability. Most of them fell on hard times once the school bubble burst. Rather like Tsarist aristocracy, the rug was pulled from beneath them as the revolution of real life finally took hold. Johnny “King of the Jocks” now works as a gasman while Danielle, his queen for so long has a couple of kids and is perma-tanned orange. The Jocks were wankers, yes but tolerable in small measure. Like today’s upper classes they were fine if you didn’t take them too seriously. That was just me though. If you were a geek then your life was made hell by them.

2. The Geeks
Another trans-atlantically dubbed group, the Geeks stood as sworn enemies of Jock culture. Patrons of the arts and music scenes, the Geeks stood for culture. But it was very much their culture. A smug sense of superiority positively oozed from their headquarters behind the music block. It was so hard to talk to them about anything because they always thought they knew better than you in any subject except sport. The Geeks were certainly the bottom rung but their power lay in their numbers. There was fucking loads of them. With an all encompassing acceptance policy the Geeks offset the Jocks physical prowess with sheer weight of numbers. True the birds were mingin’ but they didn’t care. As long as you didn’t like sport and were willing to pander to the wanker Jamie, the dear leaders’ whim, then you could be a geek. Easy. Their moment in the sun would come in the last year of school when “Jamie the wanker” was elected head boy, a traditional Jock position. The house was shaken to its’ foundations and Jock power waned. Brains had triumphed over brawn. It didn’t detract from the fact that Jamie was indeed, an utter wanker.

3. The Indies
Filling the void in between came the Indies. The self-professed cool crowd they were, perhaps the most contemptible of the lot. They liked music as long as nobody else had heard of it and many played the “cool” instruments (bass, bongo drums and kit). This separated them from the geeks, many of whom played the flute or the bassoon. The Indies wrote poetry, smoked weed, somehow knew about clubs and bars despite being 14 and generally thought they were the proverbial “dog’s bollocks”. The men were shy introverts, the women were pretty but utterly false, with a deep interest in shy introverts. Unlike the other two factions, the Indies had no one leader. Instead a loose oligarchy existed seemingly made up by people who were really, really into Lou Reed and understood what was going on in ‘2001; A Space Odyssey’. Men and women habitually swapped partners until the whole incestuous shit show imploded when everyone had finally shagged everyone else.

So those were the three castes. By no means did this account for everyone. There existed a minor sect that floated around the main core. The Footballers led a monastic existence. eschewing the caste system and dedicating themselves wholly to playing football given any length of free time. The Footballers were fine but for one thing. They were an all male society. I would have happily joined them but I was really desperate to get my end away.

Then there was us. We could not be categorized. Maybe this doesn’t apply to me but certainly the others around me were vaguely rounded individuals and nice guys on the whole. We had a broad interest in many things, encompassing all three castes. Therefore everyone shunned us.

Whenever there is a high school shooting or killing spree it is almost always a member of the un-categorized. Only these people ever have the desire to rid the world of a few vapid sycophants they are forced to be co-educated with. Only these people have the desire to break the mould and do something profound. Only these few people have discernable personalities. I am not saying that we were a bunch of brooding murderers. After all that was America. Where the hell were we going to get an automatic weapon in South Edinburgh? We did talk about it 50% of the time though. The other 50% of the time was a desperate struggle to try and get some fanny.

Copulation was very much caste specific. The idea of “getting with” with a member of another caste was frowned upon. This all changed when alcohol and teenage hormones came together in the form of a house party. Here, anything could happen. Jocks and Geeks, fighting and fucking in equal measure. The Indies would take the opportunity to sample another member of their ruling class. Once or twice a lucky Footballer would end up at least fingering a drunken geek or a rejected Indy from their great game of musical shags. But not us. I don’t know what it was when we talked to girls. Something about the cold calculation and lack of interest in what our idiot contemporaries had to say. Girls would rather spend time muscled rugby types, even if they had to act as the spoils of war between two or three of the First XV. It was a sure fire way to social recognition. If not them then at least some with foolish mop heads, who professed knowledge of love and heartache, aged 14. I didn’t know about love or heartache. I just wanted some meaningless sex. As did everybody else in my un–category. This would come to define the next five years of school.