Friday Fictioneers – The Means of Production

Photo by C E Ayrs

Decided to give Friday Fictioneers a go this week, run by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  I’m honestly not a huge political history buff, but decided to try and go in that direction anyway. I also would like to leave a disclaimer that even though I do work in manufacturing, this is definitely not something I am planning! 

No missed calls. No new emails.

After two cups of espresso and reading 30 pages the latest Simon Sinek book, he picked up his eerily silent company phone, perplexed.

As he drove to the office, he decided that great leadership was creating a self-sufficient workforce which did not bombard him with communications every minute.

He pulled up to the gate. Reversed. Pulled up again. This automatic number plate recognition system was beyond ridiculous. He owned the building, for God’s sake!

He jabbed at the intercom.

“I’m sorry,” a voice came through the static. “You’re no longer permitted in this factory…”

A Fairy Tale With No Fairies, Just A Mildly Disappointed Cleaner And A Guy That Looked A Bit Like Neil Gaiman

Once upon a time, there was a girl who worked as a temporary cleaner for her university. She was assigned to work for three days in a hall of residence that was much like the other halls of residence. It was neither grand nor squalid, it was just alright.

On the first day, she worked alone. It was a tiring job, but the time went by quickly so she didn’t mind too much. She cleaned bathrooms and mopped floors and dusted and hoovered, and she was very proud of how nice it looked when she had finished.

On the second day, she worked with one of the permanent cleaners, who was a very kind lady and let the girl take a coffee break at eleven. The girl wiped bathrooms and made beds, and the guests were quite pleased that their coffee sachets had been replaced.

On the third day, she came to work and noticed another temporary cleaner who she hadn’t met before. He was shy but handsome, and he looked a lot like a young Neil Gaiman. When the other cleaners asked if he had done this before, he mumbled, “Oh, erm, I’ve done some shifts on University Park…”

The girl laughed inside, because that is exactly what she told them when she first arrived, in the exact same apologetic tone of voice.

She only saw him once after that. He was carrying a heavy load of linen, and her cleaning trolley was in the way. She stammered and apologized as she tried to move the cart out of the way, but he just smiled at her, and she smiled back. She had hoped to see him again when they clocked out, but her hair was frizzy, her face was red, and she was quite sweaty in her ill-fitting blouse from Primark, so she probably wouldn’t have tried to talk to him anyway.

She got home, and was so (mildly) disappointed that she would never see him again, she wrote a whole blog post about it the next day, in fairy tale form.

And there wasn’t a happily ever after. (Not this time, anyway.)

The Library Book Project – 13 October 2010

To read more about the library book project, click here.

I count the change in my hand, hoping that I miscounted or that an extra pound coin will appear somewhere. The sum of money in my palm does not change. I shift my weight and begin to make decisions. Maybe if I made half? No, I’d still have to buy the same amount of eggs and ground almonds. The macarons will have to wait for another day. I venture down the baking aisle, flicking through the recipe book of my mind.

As tempted as I am to go look at cheap fruit, chocolate is a surefire winner at these family get-togethers. No matter what Nigella says, all I can afford is the supermarket value range, so that is what I pick up. I already have all the other ingredients, so I walk towards the chilled goods section. Philadelphia is on offer, giving me a glimmer of hope, but I am twenty pence short of being able to choose it over the own-brand cream cheese.

Once home, I find the recipe book and lay out the ingredients, relieved that I have everything I need. I love baking. It really is just as simple as following the recipe. If only life worked that way, just get the ingredients and follow the instructions. While you’re at school, they make out that’s the way forwards. A handful of hard work, some education, a splash of initiative, and a couple of good ideas. Mix them together and you’ve got a bowl of success.

It wasn’t until I graduated that I realized I was fresh out of good ideas. A minimum wage cleaning job ensued, one I’m still trenched in, waiting for that golden handshake to pull me up. If it wasn’t for my boyfriend, who got straight into the graduate scheme he wanted, I’d probably be back to living with my parents. He makes it feel okay that I’m a cleaner, he makes me believe this rut really is temporary. My family are the opposite. Why am I in minimum wage work? The idea is abhorrent to them. What am I doing about it?

I didn’t even want to go to my father’s birthday party, but I knew that wanting avoid those questions wasn’t exactly a reasonable excuse. I’m determined to give them something positive to say to me this time. I stare at the brownies in the oven. Even if it’s something small.

The Library Book Project – 23 November 2009

To read more about this project, click here.

Today, this company will lose a major asset. I open the top drawer of my desk, revealing reams of printed paper that are dated between yesterday and and five years ago. No, surely I must have cleaned out this drawer since I first moved into this office? I suppose I always had far better things to do. I was a busy woman, constantly managing and advising the junior staff, who always seem so much more clueless than I was at their ages. They’re not completely incompetent, but they can’t back up their own egotistical bluster.

Amongst the stream of fury, I feel a small amount of relief that I’m not obliged to clear out all these documents. Most of them could probably go in the bin, but I’ve always erred on the side of caution, which is why the second drawer down is equally full. In fact, all four drawers contain nothing but pages which now have no relevance or importance to me. It’s liberating and soul-destroying all at the same time.

At first they wanted me to reduce my hours. That conversation left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It was sickly, sugary lines from a man half my age. Made me almost long for the days when sexism was rampant, but at least the man (it was almost always a man) in charge didn’t bullshit you and pretend that everything was for your own good.

I vowed not to let it set me back. I joined the gym. Even though I can afford books, I frequented the library because I couldn’t think of any more excuses to go outside. I ended up drinking wine on the evenings and watching box sets of my favorite televisions shows. When I retired to bed I’d still be wide awake, wondering what I’d done wrong, and why they wanted less of me rather than more. Hadn’t I proved myself invaluable?

Soon, my colleagues will come into the office and present me with a card and some flowers, congratulating me on my early retirement. None of them will look me in the eye. Tomorrow, I will be the main course on the cafeteria gossip menu.