Our Glorious Editor once contacted me under the premise of requesting that I write on the subject of the annoying things in life. There was even a deadline and talk of repercussions, it was all very exciting. Anyway, why he did this, I have no idea. I am a paragon of virtue, and there are very few things that can drive me to anger. I mean obviously, there are things like racism, ignorance, bureaucracy, tourists, people who queue too slowly, bad controls on video games, loud people, quiet people, Apple computers, Coke, jellyfish and women’s fascination with shoes.
And shellfish. God I hate shellfish…
But of all these things I hate, chief amongst them is bureaucracy. I could look up the meaning, but my basic understanding of Latin informs me that it refers to a system governed by desks, which sounds about right. I think at some point these man-shaped desks may have been human, but now they have minds not of ‘wheels and fire’ as Tolkien grumbled about industry, but of staplers and rules. You’ve probably spoken to a callcentre full of them, had to sit and wait for one to check a form for you, or if you’re particularly unlucky, sat on a bus and had to listen to one.
Boneaparte reportedly once called us a nation of shopkeepers, but I think he was a little too kind in that respect because at least a shopkeeper gives you an end product. We are now, thanks to the decimation of industry during the 1980s, a nation of middlemen. England is a country that imports goods and exports memos, and no profession is too simple or too straightforward that we can’t overcomplicate it with a callcentre or two. And once they’ve got their hooks in, well, ‘that’s the way things are done’ they’ll point out, usually with a rolled up copy of the Daily Mail. After all, it’s not their fault, it’s just their job. That’s the way the system works.
Bugger whether the system is just, or imbalanced or even makes any sense; to desk-men, the world is a yes/no field of absolutes. Maybe it’s because of the multiple-choice nature of modern education but the office world is full of people who look to fit problems into a prescribed list of set outcomes, and god help you if you’re not on that list. You’ll be passed from department to department who’ll all tell you it’s not what they deal with, sitting through a ‘reasonable waiting time’ each time you do. You’ll be sent form after form, none of which covers your situation.
And even if you finally manage to get through to someone who could genuinely help you, you’ll find out that somewhere along the line, someone made a mistake and it’s their department that has to deal with it, so you get passed back again only to find the same error cropped up, nobody’s listened to a damn word you’ve said and you’re sat in a call queue listening to Greensleeves – It’s always bloody Greensleeves – and wondering if Thomas Edison added a hidden feature that lets you strangle people down a standard telephone line.
So who am I to comment on this infection? Well, I am one. Or rather, was one. I saw it from the inside, and the systems and rules didn’t seem to make much sense to me either. Trying to query the reasoning behind some of the decisions was like trying to teach a-level French to a ham sandwich. Worst of all, I was doing it for the money, which puts me roughly on a level with the world’s prostitutes. Only it’s worse, because if I was just out whoring it would be my choice and it would only be my poor puckered dignity that suffered.
Why am I telling you this? I don’t know, part warning, part gloating. All I’m saying is the real world is out there, and it’s coming for you.
It’s not my fault, i’m just doing my job…