Monday, 28 February 2011

The office: a small-minded space

There are many things that frustrate me about the workplace. I won’t start listing them because, frankly, I need the material for future posts. But perhaps the thing that bothers me the most is the tendency - and I don’t know if it’s a recent tendency or if it’s been happening for years - for the processes that keep places running to be needlessly complicated and fiddly.

And you go through with them anyway, because if you point out to the boss that there’s a quicker way of doing it, they might agree with you and hence realise they don’t need you around any more. As an example, let me talk you through the process one was forced to go through in order to purchase stationery at one of my previous workplaces, which happened to be a library (one of several I have been, er, privileged enough to work in).

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Feeling unwell? Medical staff can have that effect

For many years I have enjoyed good health. I took it for granted never realising how truly inconvenient it is to suffer for any prolonged period. Now, I have a medical condition set to last for months and along with the other physical symptoms I also have to deal with an increased number of medical professionals. The friendly toned, chirpy books I’ve bought keep telling me: pregnancy isn’t an illness. So then why does the endless stream of appointments, check ups and scans make me feel decidedly off colour?

Primarily because the people I have to interact with all seem to have had a routine lobotomy performed immediately prior to my arrival. I’ve read that the poor old NHS is overstretched and underfunded, that staff have unreasonable and impossible targets to meet but even so that doesn’t explain some of the rude, unhelpful and downright inexplicable behaviour I’ve endured.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Ready, steady, competitive cook!

I like a good bit of competition; don’t get me wrong. But competing to see who meets their targets at work or when it comes to Him Indoors (LADIES! BACK OFF! HE’S MINE!!) is not my idea of fun. What I’m talking about is healthy competition. You know, playing scrabble down the pub. A game of badminton with your dad. Trivial Pursuit over Christmas with the family. As long as it doesn’t get violent (which is why we no longer play Monopoly with Him Indoor's family) or just down right humiliating (I still have painful memories of PE at school), it is acceptable.

However, I have noticed how competitiveness has drifted into areas of my life where I thought it never would. Or could.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Service with a scowl

I seem to enjoy making social interaction uncomfortable for myself. If there’s an altercation to be had with a stranger, I’ll wade right in, all uppity and crusading (see my disagreement on the P4 bus). Yes, where others keep their heads down, I put my foot down. And yesterday, in the supermarket – which I won’t name; they’re all much of a muchness – in the face of insurmountably appalling customer service, I did just that. And it was exhilaratingly awkward.

I was standing in the queue with my basket – weekend supplies: gin, lime x 2, tonic x 1, Saturday Times, multi-pack of fun-size Dairy Milk – casually observing the customer being served ahead of me. The checkout girl was bungling items through the scanner, not making the vaguest hint of eye contact with the lady customer, and carrying on a conversation with her mate on the next checkout – “You gettin’ your hair dyed tomorrow, yeah? Wicked innit. You goin’ out tonight? Innit, though” etc. – and chuckling away as if we customers were in the way of her social life. This went on for a few minutes, the poor customer looking offended and uncomfortable. I saw red; I could not let this pass.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Weight comments soon wear thin...

Weight is an issue that graces the covers of magazines and papers quite often. If it’s not one celeb being criticised for piling on the pounds, it’s another being blasted for being too thin. And it’s the latter that really annoys me.

Let’s get something straight before I carry on. I’m at a healthy weight. I have a normal BMI. I eat my five fruit and veg a day. I eat breakfast (sometimes), lunch and dinner and I drink lots of water. I should really join a gym to keep the heart healthy but, aside from that, I’m all good.

As a naturally slim person I tend to get negative comments from friends and family, especially with regards to me putting on weight. Constantly. From grandmothers poking me and saying how skinny I am to friends joking about me puking after my meals. It’s a real hoot. Could you sense the sarcasm there?

Monday, 14 February 2011

14th Feb: just another day.

The 14th of February is the day of the year where couples (or those with dates lining up to take them out) get to feel sorry for singles and singles end up feeling sorry for themselves. For some reason not having a date on that particular night (a Monday, this year, for goodness’ sake), accompanied with something red, tacky and heart-shaped, means that you are missing out. Well, on what is about to be my third single Valentine’s Day in a row, I can’t say I’m too bothered.

When I was at school and girls started talking to boys, I felt left out. I didn’t talk to boys unless they talked to me and that was pretty rare. When other girls started kissing said boys and getting cards sent to them on Valentine’s Day, I hoped one day I’d be lucky enough to receive one too.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

What if you're just not in the mood?

When it comes to real life, I am as unromantic as they come. I like the idea of romance. I like the thought of a handsome prince riding up to my turret and whisking me away to a far-off land filled with roses, wine and kittens. But, the reality of being romantic is one of effort and hard work. 

After the prince has whisked, and it all becomes routine, it is too much effort to think up those sickeningly cute gestures and it is too much effort to be on one’s best behaviour in the hope of a romantic treat being showered upon you. I actually can’t be arsed. I would rather run myself a bubble bath, pour myself a glass of something fruity and light my own candles than have someone else do it for me.

No date for the 14th: what are the loveless to do?

A girl aged 23 extracts only the pinks and reds from her neatly organised pencil case. It can mean only one thing: Valentine’s Day. But who is it who requires such attention to detail, such effort ascribed only to the warmer hues of the fine berols? Her betrothed? Her secret lover?

Of course not; this is London and the girl is a 20-something. She is, of course, striving just to keep her head straight and battle up the rickety career ladder. The attention of a permanent boy figure would only complicate things and make doing what she wanted an exception rather than the rule.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Love, actually, is all-year-round

It’s not that I hate people being in love, and I’m not a bitter old spinster, but Valentine’s Day really gets on my wick. Quite apart from the shops going overboard with utter tat and radio stations filling endless airplay with sick-making ‘Snufflepuss loves Bunnywun’ messages, it’s the ungrateful and OTT nature of it all that makes me want to kill myself.

Expectations go through the roof and the greetings card companies rub their hands together in glee as they peddle crap to the masses, all under the banner of ‘being in love’. Of course it’s not just the blatant commercialism that does it for me; it’s the competitiveness of it all. If I have to hear another person – and let’s face it, it’s normally a woman – complaining about getting a crap present, I’ll scream and batter them to death with a heart-shaped box of chocolates.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Tapping at your last nerve: two perspectives on the pitfalls of office typing

There are many, many reasons why working in an office – any office – can be a challenge for those among us who would rather be lounging by a pool, with a cocktail in hand and generally enjoying a life of decadent debauchery.

One reason why working in an office is so challenging is the furious – nay, frenzied – speed at which people type. Is it just me or are there people in offices who genuinely feel that waving their administrative schlong around via typing at warp speed, will land them in the boss’s lap, complete with promotion, bonus and an all-round pat on back?

Monday, 7 February 2011

Is a sense of entitlement killing off our manners?

As a Grumpy Young Woman, it would be so easy for me to complain about the distinct lack of manners that society seems to have suffered. When it comes to examples, I’m so spoilt for choice that I’d be here from now until Dooms Day. And I don’t have that kind of time.

Instead, I would have thought that considering the cause of the bad manners would be prudent and might, somehow, make it easier to beat it out of the ill-mannered offenders—er—I mean, nip the problem in the bud. Yes, that was it, nip it in the bud.

Through some painstaking, scientific research (what do you mean the School of Hard Knocks isn’t a recognised institution? Besides, it was confirmed by the University of Life!) I have discovered one of the reasons. Ready? The misguided notion that the culprits are entitled to be rude as whatever gracious act that came their way is owed to them. That’s right, they don’t have to be grateful for what they have a right to. And this distinct sense of self-importance seems to be spreading.

Imagine being asked for directions:
“Excuse me, can you please tell me where X is?”
“Sure. Follow this road to the junction, take a left and then the first right/Sorry, I’m not sure.”
“Great, thanks for your help/no problem.”

Sounds like a familiar process? Ah, but that is when you’re approached by a sane and lucid person. If this has always been your experience, count yourself lucky. Now imagine not getting a request for directions, but a demand. Aggressive voice, aggressive expression, no please or thank you before they storm off on getting a reply.

Even if my purpose in life was to give people directions, I would still expect some manners. How naive I am. My response? “Los siento, no comprendo Ingles.” Find it your damn self. These morons are often too ignorant to even be able to speak their native English, let alone any other language.

Words are wonderful things—allowing us to convey all sorts of information. For example, 'do not smoke in my home'. Should be a simple enough instruction. Not for the asinine few. The asinine will ask for permission, not get it and smoke anyway.

As a volunteer, I suspect that I have inadvertently become part of fated ‘Big Society’ (though you can’t hear me, rest assured that my voice is dripping with contempt when I utter the phrase) which our esteemed leader (more contempt) so loves to promote. For the most part, the people I help are lovely and full of gratitude.

But then there are those that act like you’re working for them rather than simply assisting, they point to a PC and stare at you blankly, expecting your telepathy to kick in. They expect assistance that isn’t even offered and, yet, fail to reply with a tiny word of thanks when you do go out of your way to help.

I’m a pedestrian yet even I’m aggravated by those who seem to slow down when crossing in front of a car that has stopped for them. What is that about? Are people really that absurd? Save your evil look for when it’s absolutely necessary- like when someone tries to mug you or a cashier gives you the wrong change.

Bless my mum for teaching me my Ps and Qs, but I wonder whether her work was wasted. The way things are going, I may as well join the crowd. I reckon I’d make a great diva—where’s my mineral water and basket of puppies? Read more by Shermaine.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Job hunting isn't half hard work

A few weeks ago, I watched the last ever episode of Ugly Betty. And cried. I admit I was touched by my little Mexican friend’s optimism about life, and was genuinely happy to see her succeed. It gave me hope that one day my labours of love will become fruitful, and I too will have my dream job. Then reality kicked in.

You see, like a lot of people who work in the public sector, I might be facing redundancy. Bummer, I know. So, along with everyone else in my department, I am frantically applying for one of the few jobs that will be left come April and keeping my fingers crossed that I will be one of The Chosen Ones. But, let’s face it, I can’t rely on a position in my current place of work for much longer. So, I must look elsewhere.

The problem is that looking for a job has suddenly become a lot more complicated. Gone are the days when you bought the paper, kept your eyes open for notices in the window of local businesses and popped down the job centre. Oh, no. Things have got a bit tricky.

Whereas in the past I used to buy The Guardian on a Wednesday and forget about my endeavour to find employment for the rest of the week, I now feel obliged to check their website at least every three days. Their search options mean that if I leave it longer than that I have to search every single job on the entire website, which can be an awful lot when you are searching as broadly and desperately as I.

Then there is the plethora of other job websites which I dare not ignore just in case something well paid and lovely comes up. By the time I have searched, and a handful of other sites that promise me the world, it is half-past midnight and the closest I have got to a new career is stacking shelves at Aldi.

It doesn’t stop there. Next on the list of tasks one must do to get ahead is social networking. And no, I am not talking poking your friends on Facebook or following Stephen Fry on Twitter. I am talking grown-up networking. As in, professionally. This is not the time to be posting photos of yourself at NYE with a glass of Cava in one hand and a Harvey Wallbanger in the other. In my opinion, this makes the likes of LinkedIn not only dull but a little bit confusing. What on earth am I supposed to put as my status update if I don’t slag off the office bitch and moan about Him Indoors leaving the toilet seat up?

So, those of you in steady employment or lucky enough to be a student before a degree costs the same as a small fleet of Ferraris, think of me as you snuggle up in front of the telly with a glossy and the SATC box set as I trawl the net looking for my lucky break. As for the rest of you? I wish you luck. But please, whatever your circumstances, don’t tell me about any other websites, forums or networks that I need to join to secure my future happiness. I don’t think my Favourites can take it. Read more by Shelly.