Week 6

A phone call, problematic, even for Anjana, the most enthusiastic worker here. The voice was affronted by their own phone call, reminding Anjana again and again that they were not stupid, presumably they thought most of our callers were.

After the call ended, Anjana explained that the caller was self-employed and fuming that they were not entitled to financial support because of savings they had accrued over some years. They made multiple references to their accountant, while their wife shouted inaudible nonsense in the background.

This is one of the most disturbing aural spectacles we are exposed to at the call centre. Hearing someone realise their own vulnerability and try to deny it by doubling down on demeaning antics – shrinking us, enlarging them – is unsettling to say the least. I almost miss the empty theatre of social whining. In the old world such a voice would be the point of ridicule for all the office. We would mock the richness of their arrogance, the inability to appreciate what they have, and light heartedly gesturing to our own jealousies. Nothing serious.

Now though the rules have changed, the tectonic plates beneath our feet seem fidgety. Not too fidgety however, this is perhaps the true tragedy. The meta structure will not shift, just a little damage to the body, hegemony survives. This the caller is beginning to realise, but mourners must dance with denial before they lay with acceptance. How much kicking and screaming before he realises his inevitable relegation to serfdom?

In between his desperate attempts to assert himself as a fully-fledged member of the business class, he denounced the government, much like I do, at five in the morning, in my brother’s living room, bandmates sat around, five sickly moons, each with a bleeding nose.

The caller shouted that the government was opening golf clubs but not helping him. He is teetering on the edge of real revelations, if he leans, falls, bangs his head, surely, he will wake up, aware that the amount of land afforded to golf courses is disgusting. It has been disgusting for a long time. There is more land allotted to golf courses in the UK, then there is social housing. This poor fellow was not ready to consider how most golf courses exist as sickly places of worship. A holy land for the mantra that inequality is good.

And maybe some inequality is good, what do I know? Maybe I’m beginning to sound like George Galloway, where red wine and rhetoric are too emphatically infused.

The point is the bloke who rang up was a cunt but I felt a bit sorry for him.

The calls continued coming and we continued phoning out. I was moved to a bigger room, in the centre, for all to see my computer screen. I was to be policed, by mob/colleague rule.

On Tuesday my normal place of work was broken into and I had to attend to the building to meet the police. A new officer explained that someone with mental health problems had been arrested. He asked me some questions, noted the answers in his little book and then lost his book. While he and his superior officer scoured the building, looking for clues and the book – which was packed with clues – I wondered if there would ever be a situation where the English came out every Thursday to applaud the police? I couldn’t see it.

All this commotion had put in me in the mood for some lager and keyboard.

The next morning I felt sick. I walked to the station where I got the train every morning. I forgot my card to get through the barriers.

‘Can I come through please mate?’. I asked, brandishing my fob like some piss-stinking detective.

The guy wasn’t having any of it. ‘Get the bus.’ He yawned.

Well you can fuck that sky high! I thought. If you have a dodgy tummy and your normal route to work is denied then there’s only one thing for it. Sick Day.

Now, the rules around sick days have changed. You can’t just say you have a runny nose and a temperature. If you do, you have to stay home for five years, posting hateful messages to anyone who criticises the prime minister for shaking hands with highly contagious people, recording yourself exercising outside and sending it to the BBC and posting lightly sketched self-help memes that say things like ‘You Got This’. Got what? Coronavirus? Fuck off.

I phoned in and mumbled some vague nonsense about work commitments and off I went. Back home. Back to bed.

Lots of people have different theories about sick days. Some people say that you should always take more than one day off because if you don’t your boss will think it was a sham. Others say you can’t get a promotion if you have sick days, you should go to work and wait to be sent home. I personally believe if you are sick, then you are sick. If I don’t feel well after going to bed early then I am not going to work. However, if I have had a few too many drinks, I have a different system. With a hangover, I wake up and get ready to go to work but I keep a lookout for signs telling me today is a sick day. If the shower isn’t getting hot then I don’t go to work. If my trousers rip on the way to work then it’s a sick day. If nothing disrupts my normal routine then I must go to work. It’s good to have a code.

The rude guard disrupted my routine. Not divine intervention, but an autonomous individual and simultaneously a component in my calculations, as I was in his. He had his code and I had and still have mine. The city is a tapestry of codes, diverting and influencing one and other.

Long live the sick day.


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