Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Who Do You Do?

I have been off work ill, and apart from having constant sore throat, headache, back pains and exhaustion, it's been quite pleasant. Because being ill has meant that I do not have to be at work..

But on Monday morning I feel well enough to venture over to the Town Hall and start catching up on the Email Pile.

Some minutes elapse before I realise that the dark head at the seat behind my own does not belong to Jumper-Wearing Colleague, but to a complete stranger. He politely turns and introduces himself to me. He is a new colleague who has joined us that very day! I have long since stopped feeling any surprise that a new member of staff can suddenly appear in our midst without any of us having the slightest notion of what they are there for, because despite New Boss's early monologue on The Benefits of Communication, the departmental waters have now become worryingly opaque and murky.

But there is always such a sense of hope about meeting a new colleague. New people know nothing of office politics, cliques and bullying ! New people offer the Decent People a rare opportunity to chat away with relative safety !! New people might actually influence the department for good, by bringing fresh water into our stagnant, festering little pond....!!!

My hopes, sadly, are dimmed before the day has ended.

New Boss, whom I have already ascertained has employed Affable New Colleague on several previous occasions (The Clue: they both hail from Yorkshire....), enters the office to whisk him off to some Council shindig related to Affable New Colleague's area of work. The latter gathers together his coat and possessions. He smiles at me, and I say:

"it was lovely to meet you".

New Boss bursts out laughing, and repeats "it was lovely to meet you", loudly mimicking the precise way in which I have said this phrase.

I look at him in disbelief.

If I was from Nigeria, or Jamaica, or Bangalore, or Lithuania; if I had a stammer, or a lisp, or even the mildest speech imperfection; I doubt that even New Boss would consider it appropriate public sector conduct to mimic and mock the way I speak (although perhaps I am over-estimating his sense of propriety...). But because I am white, middle class and well spoken; it would appear I am fair game !

It might be wishful thinking on my part, but it seems to me that Affable New Colleague looks a little embarrassed. It's his first day, and it seems a little soon for him to have been introduced to the grim reality of my department, but hey...

"What's so funny about what I have just said?" I ask New Boss.

I ask courteously, but possibly there is steel in my tone. For New Boss suddenly pretends he has said it to Life Coach who is sitting next to me (a somewhat tenuous pretence, as Life Coach Colleague didn't actually utter the words New Boss mimicked !)

I say, in explanation, to Affable New Colleague: "the problem is that I am just too posh for New Boss".

New Boss then comes out with the Classic Bully's Defence - "you're so over-sensitive".

Affable New Colleague turns to me.

"I am not from the same place as New Boss," he says. "I am from York. We are more civilised there".

Blimey. I feel rather as I imagine the Virgin Queen must have felt when Raleigh flung his cape beneath her feet. Rescued. (I doubt Affable New Colleague will ever be encouraged to come to my defence again, but I cherish his gallantry nonetheless).

New Boss marches out of the office, looking unimpressed.
He looks like a strutting little popinjay.
Oh ! Hang on. That's because he IS a strutting little popinjay !

I aim a few words at his departing back, in the broadest Northern accent I can muster:

"Naigght, choook".

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
As they say.
In Yorkshire.

1 comment:

  1. Like your style! Good to hear you are still surviving in that environment.