Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Yes, minister

For 6 months in 2003 I found myself working in a government department back home. My previous job fell through when the small company I worked for found itself up a financial shit creek (it has since recovered, which is good – it's a good company full of good people). We'd done a decent job on something for the department in 2002, and they were looking for somebody with my 'skills', whatever the fuck they happen to be.

The job, as much as any I've had, supported my Career Theory of Sanitisation (see Hardly working). My problem (one of them) is that I tend to get along well with most people, so when I denigrate a job I feel like I'm denigrating the people, too, and I don't mean to do that. Generally, they're good people who are just trying to muddle their way through life the best they can, as most of us are. I just happen to have the luxury of being a bit emotionally retarded and hence not having a family or mortgage or whatever it is that gets people worried and makes them forget all the idea(l)s they used to have about doing things differently. Having said that, I'm hardly reaching my own ideals. Recognising that a job is almost pointless doesn't exactly make me a world authority on making the most of opportunities / living life to the full / [insert seize-the-day cliché here]. Take this as official acknowledgment that I have no right whatsoever to comment on or criticise how anyone else lives their life. Which probably means I should shutup.

Staggeringly, I was regarded as a bit of an IT whizz in my department unit. Now, I'm not a computer moron. I can turn the things on and off, and I can fumble my away around obscure applications, like the MS Office programs. I can even download Firefox and subsequently scoff at all the Explorer users, as if I have a fucking clue why Firefox is better. But 'whizz' is pushing it. So how did I achieve demi-guru status? I knew how to remove the "DRAFT ONLY" watermark on department press release drafts. (I was actually taught this by one of the women in my unit, but the rest of the team seemed to forget that.)

When I revealed, after 5 months, that I was leaving for distant shores, they asked me if I knew anybody who could slot into my job. I suggested CJ (who has now been there for a year-and-a-half and has been made permanent... I will seek him out when I'm middle-aged and destitute and he has an inner-city house and a weekender on the south coast). I met him for lunch and to give him the low-down on the job. I'd just told him about my insane IT status when my (work-issue) mobile rang. I swear the following conversation is true.
"Hello, SW, Media and Marketing Unit."

"Hi, this is X, from the minister's office."

"Oh, hello."

"We just called the media unit – they said we should call you. We desperately need to take the 'DRAFT ONLY' bit off a press release."

"Oh. OK. Click on 'view', then 'header & footer', then ... and that should work."

"Perfect! Thank you so much!"

"No worries. My pleasure."
I gave CJ an intensive course on taking "DRAFT ONLY" off press releases. I hope he remembers this when I turn up at his house in 15 years, in tattered old jeans, a dirty great beard and an odour of stray cat's piss.


Mind if I cut in?

HABANERA SOLTERA - This dance is performed by the bride-to-be and her close friends at the traditional social gathering on the eve of the wedding. On this occasion, the bride bids farewell to the state of single-blessedness... But where is secret wombat??

Hardly working

Goodness, goodness me. Another day where I’ve reached lunch and done absolutely bugger-all work. Not that I haven’t done this in the past, but in the last few weeks it’s been the rule, not the exception. I always seem to meet deadlines – I do what I’m asked to do – but the amount of time I’ve spent fart-arsing around over the past few years is staggering. Imagine all the wonderful, productive, character-enriching activities I could have studied in the years of work-hours I’ve wasted (and that’s over only about 6 years of ‘career’). I could have mastered languages, learned to paint or play the guitar, saved starving kiddies, written novels, advanced entire fields of research…

So yet another job adds evidence to my theory that once you get into middle-class professional employment (getting in is much easier with the appropriate pieces of paper), the only things required for a financially comfortable (if not obscenely wealthy), relatively successful (if not stellar) career are:

1. a pleasant, polite demeanour
2. punctuality (relative, not absolute)
3. a presentable appearance.
Yes – if you are relatively pleasant, reasonably punctual and somewhat presentable (in short, if you are sanitised), you’ll make it to middle management, have a good material quality of life and be regarded by peers as competent and successful. In fact, in every job I’ve held, I’ve been regarded as a very good employee with an excellent work ethic. It sounds conceited, but I swear it’s true – and I also swear that, over my ‘career’, I’ve probably averaged 2-3 hours of work per 8-hour day. Now, either the world is full of people experiencing the same phenomenon – which is bloody good evidence for the Career Theory of Sanitisation – or I'm some sort of genius. And I promise you I'm not a genius.

I don’t know if this holds up in private industry, having spent only a few months there. But it works a treat in the public sector. I’d hope there’s a level of seniority above which people need genuine diligence and a bit of talent. Until I get there, I remain unconvinced.


Hey! Yeah, you! Wanna see my shell collection??

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I hate to bring this up, but...

In 1993, on the night of SMc’s 21st birthday dinner (July?), I set out to get as drunk as I possibly could. I was in love with K and I was convinced she was into someone else. The night culminated in me vomiting unceremoniously all over K as she tried to steady me in her apartment hallway. She subsequently showered me – the first time I was ever naked in her presence, and the only thing I recall thinking was that I should suck in my stomach. K and I did, incidentally, get together for a while – though not immediately after the vomiting. It isn’t a courting strategy I’m quick to recommend.

I bring this up (pun intended) because it was, until last weekend, the last time I had thrown up because of drink (or any other reason, for that matter). My almost-12-year streak ended at about 2am Sunday morning, amongst the flowers of the hosts' garden. I had no idea I still had it in me (until, suddenly, at around 2am, I didn’t).

I didn’t think I’d drunk that much. I mixed drinks, which probably didn’t help. Nor did the half-tumblers of Drambuie that somebody kept bringing me towards the end. But I really didn’t think I was close to spewing. Generally, I have a reasonably high alcohol tolerance (I’m quite a big guy, at 6'5" and close to 100kg). Maybe it was because I haven’t been drinking much at all of late. Whatever, I was suitably sheepish and, following the incident, I have a feeling I might have blathered on incessantly about how 1993 had been the last time it happened.

Prior to that, of course, I’d been dancing around like an idiot in my Betty Rubble costume (see Shine yer shoes, guv?). I also attempted to sing “never been to me” when I collected a costume award and did sing “you shook me all night long” – but was actually asked up to the mic by the band for that one. For some unfathomable reason I know the lyrics to the song. J’s band gets me to sing it for them whenever they play and I happen to be around.

(Un)fortunately, only one member of the job selection committee was present to witness this, and that was only B, the somewhat freakish scientific editor, who probably doesn’t have much sway (he set an ‘editing’ test that required candidates to technically proof a scientific paper – neither part of the job description nor anything that the successful candidate will be required to do). Here’s to professionalism. I feel sorry for the other candidates who would’ve had no idea that the test was a balls-up.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Land ahoy!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Shine yer shoes, guv?

My previous boss invited G and Y to dinner with the rival candidate. G told me today that he seems like a serious contender, and a good guy to boot. Five years editing some publication (newspaper or mag, I’m not sure) in the Ukraine, plus some decent freelancing under his belt (including an internationally published story about heli-skiing in Siberia...bloody show-off). He’s about my age, too, which makes me feel sort of weird.

I’m now semi-convinced he’ll get the job. If he was a half-generation or more older than me, I wouldn’t feel bad. But because he’s around the same age, if he does get it, it’ll be an ego blow. It’s not so much that I’ll be upset at not getting the job. And I don’t think I’m an excessively ego-driven person. But – given that even if I don’t get the job I’ll still be working here for at least a few months, and at a significantly lower professional and pay level than him – I’ll feel a bit like the underling who didn’t quite make it.

I have images of him hanging out with the people I hang out with now, laughing heartily together over some bon mot as I sit in the corner, ignored. Yesterday’s child, the kid who coulda been a contender. I know all this is crap – if he gets the job my work friends won’t abandon me and I’ll probably end up hanging out and becoming friends with him. But at some level I have a desire to be on the outer. I guess it would let me wallow in self-indulgent melancholy. And who wouldn’t want that?

On another note: J (housemate) arranged for a tailor to come to the apartment at 7 this morning to measure us up for our Flinstone costumes, which we'll wear to the party on Saturday night. I abrogated all organisational responsibility (theme = "ancient costume") to J. Consequently, I'll be appearing as Betty Rubble. This will no doubt impress the job selection committee, some of whom are bound to be at the party. I guess it might make the decision easier, one way or another. I plan to show a fair bit of leg.

Friday, April 22, 2005


Who's that going boating, then?

How high?

Just saw one of the other two candidates for the job I applied for. It's a new position at the organisation at which I'm already working.

I had my interviews yesterday and Tuesday. I think I went OK. I probably convinced everyone that I was capable of jumping to requested heights. I wore a tie on Tuesday
amazing how much impact this has when you wear one about once a year. I swear everybody I know who saw me made a comment. I dress casual for 1.5 years then spend a day looking “business-like” (ie, wearing restrictive, hot clothing in a tropical climate) and that’s supposed to make me more suitable for the job. I know I should get over this (it’s very angry-late-teens) but it’s hard not to think about how ridiculous it is.

Job interviews
and the associated morph into an institutional yes-man make me want to move to Nimbin and grow organic vegetables and pot.

The new guy looked about my age and quite slick. I saw him leaving the coffee shop with my old boss / chair of the selection committee, and my first reaction was, "ooohh, he's good! He'll probably get it."

I'm maybe not as worried about this as I should be. I should be excited and anxious about the prospect of what is a decent, big-career-step-forward position. But I'm not. Part of me thinks not getting it would be the kick in the arse I need.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Is that secret wombat being nursed by disgraced former president of the Philippines, Joseph Estrada??