A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

Its back to Work

‘We should find a little slogan that goes with that. I think it was Locke who said – ‘The great difficulty will be where to find a proper person: for those of small age, parts, and virtue, are unfit for this employment, and those that have greater, will hardly be got to undertake such a charge.” Maybe we should use that?”

“ I once heard a good one that we could use. It goes something like this .          I think it was ‘ Self-trust is the first secret of success. –Ralph Waldo Emerson.’”

“Yeah! And then print it all up in one of those purple folders and distribute with a gimmicky little novelty item.”

I listened with growing incredulity. Two years ago, these people had all been rational, sensible, adult people. They now seemed as if they had been infected with a terrible marketing illness. I had been away from corporate life too long.

“Are you left or right handed?”

I looked at him quizzically (I hoped).

“Left or right handed?” he gasped in an increasingly pressured voice.

“Right”

“Too bad. We could do with some more lefties. We have a Corporate Left Handed Group that meets and brainstorms every second week. Tries to overcome the problem of the lepdidostra in the workplace,” he concluded smugly.

“What?”

“Meets very second Tuesday in the first Conference room. Just after the Gardening with Orchids.”

I was beginning to feel the slightest bit faint headed.

“You would have had that at the last place you worked at the er…..,’ he glanced down at the piece of paper in front of him, “the Health Clinic?”

I tried to remember if I had even spoken to anyone in the ghastly place in the last six weeks of my employment. “We sort of kept ourselves to ourselves,” I ended up saying. I glanced through the Conference Room window and saw the young women who had ushered me into the building that morning. She was sobbing uncontrollably as she hunched over the wooden garden furniture. Someone moved toward her, put their arm around her shoulder, rubbed, and then passed a brown paper bag to her. Within seconds, she was laughing and scarfing down a cookie.

Day Two. I am informed that we have a new patient on the lower floor ward. I can hardly believe what I am hearing when they announce that she is 200 kgs.

“No not 200 lbs, which would be heavy enough. Two hundred kilograms.”

They giggle into their hands as they recount stories of taking similar patients down to the local gas works that has scales used to weigh the heavy coal trucks as they bring fuel for the furnaces.

“We drive them in on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance, weigh the lot, drive off, unload them, back the ambulance, weigh it again, and bingo, you’ve got the weight of the fatty.”

I blanch. Where is the political correctness that I know slithers around in the basements of these organisations, waiting to rear up and bite anyone who doesn’t toe the line? I rush off into the ward to see if I can see this monster. I return after a half an hour. How can you hide 200 kgs of fat? I haven’t found her.

Day 14. I lunch with a group of co-workers. I have now managed to mentally remember faces that go with nametags and telephone numbers and job positions. If you want such and such then so and so is your person. All firmly ingrained. But, as I look across the cafeteria table, I see a mismatched nametag with a face. I know it’s mismatched because I have talked to Veronica the day before and she was a Clinical Neuropsychologist who had a master’s degree from a prestigious English University. I know because I talked to her about her Masters thesis and about England. We got on. Now she is Dr Carol Neumann, Senior Registrar. I glance across the room. Here is another person who the day before was an aide. The lowest health position. Now she is wearing all the regalia; the watch, the badge, the little symbol thing. She is a registered health professional. Able to make life and death decisions while she hovers on her professional feet. I shake my head. Surely they wouldn’t so this on a ward of people who are confused, unstable, fragile?

I am in a meeting with a senior member of staff when we come upon a vexating question, which demands the consultation of a young consultant. Female. He, of fifty or more years, is suddenly fuelled with energy as he skips across the corridor and bangs on her office door. His sagging jowls and gut have suddenly and miraculously hardened up and his voice assumes a new trill as he enters the office.

“Just need a quicky,” he blurts out arching his darkened eyebrows and sneering with a gauche, mock, sexuality. “Just need a quicky,” he repeats leering now and then if she hadn’t already got the sexual innuendo he turns to me and repeats the performance.

She is quite accommodating and I realise that this is probably not the first time that such an encounter has happened. I don’t know which one to be more embarrassed for.

We have a lunchtime presentation from the Quality Control police. This is a new thing in the organisation and is supposed to earn them something called ‘accreditation’. From what I can work out accreditation will allow them to do exactly as they were doing before but to have a plaque on the wall that says that there are lots of bits of paper around the building that say that they are good at what they do. Everyone listens in what I think is a somewhat enforced enrapture for the first hour then I hear the occasional beeper going off and certain people disappear never to be seen again. Then one of the presenters makes a foolish mistake and asks if there are any questions. They come and it is evident that, for the sake of politeness or maybe misplaced sorrow, they are malicious attacks on the whole concept of Quality Control. The two presenters are professional and they deflect the moans with faint praise and, increasingly, a kind of practiced condescension. Judiciously, they suggest a break for tea and sandwiches and the charade goes on for another half an hour before bothy sides concede a silent defeat and resume their day.

I am in yet another meeting. We are discussing something which I think is marginally related to anything useful in the sphere of things when my fellow worker suddenly rises to her feet and closes the door. Conspirationally she draws herself behind me and whispers that this is a commercially sensitive subject and we should not send out a memo to certain members of staff who may steal industrial secrets. Well, I’m normally bored nine on a scale of ten so I play along with her game. Next, we have her PA in the room and the three of us hatch an elaborate scheme to safeguard our commercially sensitive information. I am enthralled. So this is how they spice up there humdrum lives. I get home that night and find an email, blinking at me from the glowing screen. It informs me to forget everything that was discussed today. That I am no longer flabbergasted by this request tells me that I am slowly being assimilated into the organisation.

The week after I am innocently clearing my emails when one of the industrial spies sidles into my room, looks back down the corridor, and then whispers that he would like to talk to me about a sensitive subject. He quietly closes the door, peering back through the rapidly disappearing crack to make certain that no-one had glided down the hall and has their ear to the wood as he tells me a story full of conspiracies, plots, and Machiavellian machinations. He has been away from work for a few days because he received a vile letter from the business manager and he has been informed that he is slacking and needs to up his work rate if he is to remain in employment. This has caused so much stress that he has been unable to concentrate on his work and has had to contact a union representative. I listen sympathetically to him and start to realise that he is either seriously deluded or it is about time that I started drawing lines in the sand as to who I trust in this place. Rapidly it is becoming a mirror image of my former job. At least I have not been called to intervene and I make a vow that I will remain peripheral to all of this.

Day 36. She comes into my office again to tell me about her latest reearch idea. I don’t for a moment think that she has any desire to do any research. I secretly think that she is trying to seduce me. She poses on one leg and thrusts her chest out as she talks to me. It is not an unattractive sight. She is maybe in her mid thirties and has a very nice looking body which she tends to put at odd angles suggesting (to my warped mind) that these positions could be interesting sexual mechanics that we might try at some future date. This is perhaps her sixth visit and the time she spends with me gets longer and longer. Today she lets slip that she lost her husband to cancer twelve years ago. She also lets slip that although she looks after herself physically she has a bit of tinnae. I nod wisely and say I have a bit of Menieres disease myself, thinking I will dazzle her with my medical knowledge. She doesn’t even blink as she tactfully tells me she gets it after swimming in the physiotherapy pool and not using the mats properly. Then that moment comes. She is describing a creepy person she encountered when she first starting her working life and she starts stroking my arm and shoulder and rubbing up against me. Is this good acting or am I being made? I not so tactfully look at my clock and suggest that we resume this conversation over lunch with twenty other people watching.

Its time for the troops to be cajoled into another period of work. Patient numbers have been down, patient complaints have been up, and the Gumment is looking at cutting yet more costs. The Chief Executive issues a statement. We are to have a mid-winter celebration and he has promised a speaker, AN ANTARTIC EXPLORER, fine food, wine, and A PRTOMINENT BAND. He also sprinkles his newsletter with little snippets of praise, which are followed by WELL DONE’S and BE PROUD’S. I can just imagine him in his skyscraper office, looking down on his minions scurrying to and fro in the hospital lobby. The capital letters are for when he feels that he needs to yell. It probably doesn’t occur to him that the very people he is praising see him as faintly ridiculous.

A wide-eyed lady frantically pushes buttons on the security door, which prevents our ‘at-risk’ patients from venturing out into areas where they may be unsafe. Dressed in yellow, her hands shake as she cannot work out the simple four-digit code that releases the catch. She looks furtively along the corridor, as if she is trying to avoid meeting someone’s eyes. I ask if I can help with the door and she indicates that she wants to see one of the therapy staff but her husband must not know that she is in the building. I am puzzled but take the staff members name and go looking for him. She stands at the door, looking left and right and I am afraid she may try and escape before I can do my simple job. I notice that she has something large and shiny sticking out the top of her bag and I hope that this is not some instrument of destruction. I find the person she requires and she brushes past me as they move toward his office. Another staff member approaches me and asks where they have gone because yet another staff member wants to see the woman in yellow. I fight my need to find out what this is all about but I suspect it is a common occurrence. A stay in a hospital is often a time to enrich and strengthen a relationship. It is also a time when the bonds or chains are finally broken.

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