Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Will Work For... What?

I was once again perilously close to redundancy a few days ago. The detailed background behind it is as dull and uninteresting as you could possibly imagine, but the facts are this. Britain is in recession, and I work in an industry in the vice-grip of it. My company isn’t making enough money, and so people had to go. Same story up and down the length of the British Isles. My bosses, in their wisdom (well, some would say wisdom, others would say delusion) deemed that I was better than someone else. Someone else went, and your humble writer kept his desk, his salary and his routine. At least, for now.

I’m not particularly attached to my desk. It’s a block of wood with an aesthetically designed corner for me to swivel around in and three drawers jammed on the side. It serves it’s purpose, but I couldn’t really say I need it. I could spread myself out anywhere, plug in a laptop, pick up a biro and I’m good to go. My salary… well, I’m not exactly the highest paid hombre in the world, but then who is these days? I’d love more money, and in truth I could really use a bit more money. But I pay the bills, put food on the table, manage to buy a movie now and again and occasionally even find that I can save a few notes here and there. I get by. Of course, if I’d been kicked out then I’d need to find some form of replacement, but what I’m saying is that I don’t make the kind of money I couldn’t find elsewhere. I could, and if I tried hard enough, could maybe even find a little bit more.


Routine. If ever a word was designed to fill the human soul with equal parts dread and comfort it is routine. We are lost without it. We fucking hate it. And yet, above all the other fears I had during the 11 days I had between being told my job was at risk to finding out I was safe it was the thought of my daily routine being disrupted that kept me awake during the night. I am a slave to my daily routine, and so are you. Yes you are, and don’t even try to deny it. You will of course, because the thought of being a slave to anything is a terrifying one. Here, take my hand and I’ll show you a typical weekday…

Alarm. Same time. Every day. Ten minute lie-in. Up. Bathroom. Dress. Breakfast. Wearing same kind of clothes each day. Leave house same time. Travel. Listen to same radio station. Arrive work same time. Make tea. Fire up PC. Look at work to do. Do work. Same work every day. Talk to same people about same things - TV, holiday, what did last night, what doing tonight, sport, if I won lottery, how is wife/husband/girl boyfriend - Eat lunch. Same thing most days. Same time. Resume same work in afternoon. Have same conversations. Leave work same time. Travel. Listen to same radio station. Arrive home same time. Have dinner. Same things most days. Talk to wife/husband/girl boyfriend. Go out. Stay in. Watch TV. Read book. Feel tired. Go to bed. Sleep.

Now you can substitute various elements of the above (I personally will scratch ‘watch TV’ and replace with ‘write depressing blog no-one ever reads’), and yes, of course the weekends are a little different, but basically… that’s it. That’s our collective day. And when you break it down, split the time into words and add stops between them, it’s pretty frightening. Because… that’s it. We don’t really do anything at all. And the worst of it is losing my routine was what frightened me the most about getting made redundant! But I’m so boring! Why the hell would I want to keep on doing the same monotonous routine every day?

Because it’s comfortable, safe, easy. Routine is what keeps us going, makes us feel secure when we turn on the nightly news and watch 200,000 dying in Haiti or see kids getting their brains blown out in Afghanistan in the name of a war we don’t understand. Because we can switch off the news, go to bed and get up in the morning and carry on with a sense of purpose is what makes us sleep at night. But the routine controls us, holds us, forces us to do things we don’t want to do in order to pay for things we don’t really need. Chuck Palahniuk said it brilliantly in his classic novel Fight Club: “Eventually, the things you own end up owning you…” I am as guilty of that statement as you are. I need my laptop, my plasma, my sofa, my Xbox, my phone, my books, my DVD collection, my car. Or at least I think I do. Well, I’ve been told I do, by very important people on the top floors of very important buildings with very shiny advertising. Clever people who must be right. Right?

Maybe. One of the finest philosophers of the twentieth century, John Lennon, once said, “all you need is love.” Spot on. I am in receipt of love and am in turn a giver of the emotion, and anyone who is will be enriched by that. But, Jesus, I wish I could just let that daily routine go, cast all the rules aside and wake up at whatever time I wanted in the morning and think, “what am I going to do today?” But I can’t, because we’re slaves, you and I. Now tell me I’m wrong.

So, back to the title. Will work for…What? You fill in the blank here yourself. My answer? Will work forever. The third and final quote of this entry comes from George Orwell. “Fear will keep the people in line…” At least I think it was Orwell who said that. It might have been Tony Blair. Which brings us neatly back to the recession, in a roundabout sort of way.

Anyway, I’ve got to get up in the morning. Goodnight sinners. Same time, same place, tomorrow.