Navigating the world of work is a tricky task, and not only because you need to find new and inventive ways of hiding the fact that you have spent all day on Twitter and playing solitaire. Going to work is primarily difficult because the people you meet at work are a baffling mix of people that shouldn’t actually be allowed in society, people you would never think of mixing with in real life, and people you will fall utterly in love with and never let leave your life.
Here are a few of those people:
You know that girl that practically glides into work as if her heels are made of magical propelling clouds? This is Penelope. Her hair will be twice the volume of everyone else’s and it will be soft enough that it is incapable of knotting but sturdy enough that Penelope will try out several different hairstyles a week and slay all of them. She doesn’t have a down day. There are no dramas. She comes in, gets the work done to a perfect standard, and glides on home to her pristine flat, perfect lover, and somehow is also a Mother to a small, but perfect child probably called Ava or Sebastian.
Penelope is the sort of girl who can wear all white and not spill her latte or spaghetti or toothpaste all over herself. She is a bitch and we hate her, except we don’t hate her at all because she’s actually lovely and always remembers your birthday.
I suspect Penelope probably has some kind of dark secret, like she’s secretly a cyborg or maybe she murders old people, but she definitely cannot be as perfect as she seems.
Andy is mostly great. He’ll probably have been the one to show you around when you first started. He is friendly, likeable and has your back when the boss finds out you are crap at your job. But one day you catch a glimpse of a tattoo peaking out of Andy’s shirt, it’s faded but there’s no mistaking the red background and the ominous black shape in the middle. Now the ‘S.S’ tattoo he has on his lower arm seems like it might not be the initials of a lost love and the shaved head is perhaps not a cover up for a receding hairline. You feel sick and decide to give Andy a bit more space.
Over the next few weeks Andy slips in some vague xenophobia, you try to shake it off and simply force out a weak smile and change the subject. Eventually he says something about foreign doctors and you snap and tell him not to be so stupid. Then one day you turn on the news. Your stomach drops. There’s Andy shouting abuse at a Britain First rally.
He doesn’t return to work.
Heather probably works in HR or a more caring role, she blinks very softly (which was the first thing that annoyed you) and she has perfected the patronising head tilt. Heather led the campaign to start burning incense in the office and doing lunchtime yoga, the boss loves her, she earns an awful lot of money and you can’t quite work out why as she appears to be doing nothing apart from sending out links to TED talks.
You tell Heather one day that you’d like to spend less time on yoga and more time working through a spreadsheet. She tells you that if you are not prepared to join in with yoga then she will get you fired. Her blinking is no longer soft. She doesn’t appear to be blinking at all. Then all of a sudden her eyes flash red and you catch a glimpse of what you think might be a forked tongue. That night you try to convince yourself you have a fever, but you can’t shake the memory of those red eyes.
The boss disappears soon after. His wife claims he ran away with another woman. But not before he signed over the business to Heather. You tell people of your suspicions, but saying that sweet, loving Heather might have eaten the boss makes you sound crazy. You decide the only way out is to quit. Heather tells people it’s workplace stress, probably caused by you skipping yoga.
Pete the Atheist
Pete believes he is the cleverest person at work. To an extent you agree and are impressed by the amount he has read and studied, but every now and then he comes out with talk of ‘chem trails’ and all too often blames the illuminati for his own lack of motivation to succeed.
Once upon a time Pete was going to do PHD but scared by the prospect of growing up and committing to a life of serious study, he buckled. Now he has a dead end job that he is very capable of but performs in a more than lacklustre manner. He can often be found in the staff room laughing about “religious nutjobs” whilst doodling absentmindedly on something that was probably of some importance, or lecturing people on what they are failing to understand about “the system”.
You are fond of Pete. His dry sense of humour is similar to your own, but his slightly superior intelligence means that he often catches you out and you occasionally think he thinks of you as ‘one of them’.
Years later you discover Pete on Facebook. He is married with 3 beautiful children. He’s an artist and looks to be settled and happy.
Fran is the friendliest person you have ever met in your life. She buys you little presents and will always make you a cup of tea without asking. She loves pink and smiling. She once gave you her umbrella when it was raining. If you have good news she lets out and little “Ooo” and rubs your arm in a way that she thinks is comforting and supportive. She doesn’t mind that you are utterly rubbish at reciprocating and openly flinch when she touches you because you are so unfamiliar with human contact.
But when you are alone with Fran she asks you leading questions about other people in the office. She wants to have a good bitching session, and you often fall into the trap. Afterwards she tells you what other people of said about you whilst touching your arm again and saying “And it’s honestly so rude and unfair of them to say”.
Soon after the office descends into out right war. Everyone is screaming at each other, upset about what people have said to Fran.
Sandra from accounts brings a spear in, Paul with the terrible breath from sales is found cowering in a corner sobbing, and Becky is spinning in a circle wielding a sword screaming that people should grateful that she shows them pictures of her dogs dressed up as various Kings and Queens from history.
Fran is at her desk, smiling sweetly.
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