The scene was set, a Wednesday following two days off sick. Thoroughly refreshed and filled with energy, I sat there, biding my time, for on this day I was going to undergo one of the few acts in this world I find truly exciting. Today was the day I would don my thespian hat, get into the midset of a recovering flu victim, and break the news to my boss that I was going to quit. That's it, I was leaving. Come Friday afternoon I would no longer grace that office; those fluorescent bulbs would shine down on me no longer.
For someone who isn't yet a quarter of a century old, I've had a hell of a lot of jobs. I'm pretty sure I've averaged at least one for every year of my life. Considering that I've only worked since I was sixteen, that means I've had about three jobs a year. I can assure you that I've been absolutely awful at all of them. If you want to quit a job but don't know how, I'm the man you should call. My favourites have been to simply disappear midway through the day, the end of the day, just never show up, have a ï¿½family emergency", leave the country, move back home, move back ï¿½home", move house, get another job, get ï¿½another job" or any combination of the above to create an intricate web of lies. There are some absolutely key benefits to this method of working: 1) you don't have time to really loathe your job because mentally you aren't really employed, and can keep a steady internal sympathy for the ï¿½long term staff"; and 2) it's good for your CV as having a backlog of awful jobs makes it very easy to answer those ï¿½tell me a time when..." questions.
So here I was - the day of reckoning. I'd planned my manoeuvres with military precision; each detail had been attended to like a demanding sheik. This was not going to be the clunky fumbling of a crumpled resignation letter by someone in HR. No way - that screams prison dentist, not keyhole surgeon; quitting is an exacting art.
It was around 4.30pm; I usually finish at 6pm. The perfect time. At the absolute worst you only have to sit stewing in awkwardness for an hour and a half before going home and blotting out the memory with a few ales. Just as my boss was nipping out for his mid-afternoon cigarette, I got him. ï¿½Hi, can we have a talk about last month's pay, and what's going to happen next month." This could mean anything; he probably thinks I want a rise. I hold the cards, I'm ambiguous, I'm mysterious. It's the perfect murder! So outside on the balcony the boss, with a concerned look, says: ï¿½Yeah, I think, Matthew, we should call it a day." WHAT?
I thought I held all the cards, but it turns out we're playing jenga. I'm being sacked?!? ï¿½So I'll work until Friday and then call it a day?" I hazarded. ï¿½No, how about you clear your stuff out tomorrow morning and just head off when you're ready." I could only have been more shocked if I'd actually been good at my job, and now I only had one chance left to get into work early and dispose of the mountain of evidence of my numerous cock-ups; invoices, phone messages and receipts that all needed to disappear. All I can say was that the next day was busy, and it's amazing how much paper you can shred in half an hour. Off I slipped with the tiniest box of things from my cleared desk, knowing deep down that I was the real winner. Until I saw the striking tubesters.
All these men and women standing around, not working because they might not, at some point in the future, have a job to go to. To me a job is just like life, from the word go you are just warding off death. You can either embrace it, become Buddhist and bloody well believe in a reincarnation, or reject the tenuous metaphor altogether, get fired and remain on the dole your whole life. But striking? What is that? It's like taking all the fun and exhilaration of giving the final f-you to your workplace, but at the same time maintaining the awful truth that really you will have to go back and carry on. It makes absolutely no sense!
You wouldn't see that kind of behaviour at the fire brigade - they've bucked up their ideas. Not only did they work on November 5 last time round, but oversaw massive public bonfires, even bringing their own kindling and fuel. If only I'd been thinking that way before I started shredding my documents. Pyrotechnics - that's how to get fired in style.