I rocked into work about 9.40 a.m. just as several earlier arrivals were exiting for morning coffee at one of the dozens of cafes down the street. Years ago people made coffee from the urn in the kitchen in twenty seconds. Now they disappear for forty-five minutes and come back with six takeaway plastic-topped cardboard coffee cups set into a cardboard carrier the size of an aircraft carrier. Productivity Commission, anyone?
After chatting with that strange breed of office workers who are always in the kitchen, I finally reached my office around 10 a.m. and commenced the twenty-first century white collar drudgery of 'checking my emails'. Naturally, I deleted most including the stupid jokes and idiot cat pictures, etc, that the cretin from the studio keeps emailing to all staff. I replied to one or two of the work-related ones in as few words as possible, and without a sign-off line. Having done with the office emails, out-of-office bouncebacks and meeting requests/confirmations/cancellations/on-hold-until-further-notices, I checked out the news headlines. Peace. (My peace, that is, not the world headlines.)
The silence was broken by the sudden ringing of the office phone. Yes. The office phone. The phone still sits there, one in each office, primeval mechanical monsters like dodos in a museum. But they are not museum pieces. Every now and then they ring, a strange insistent metallic ringing sound like the siren of a hostile 1950s flying saucer with rivets. I picked it up. You don't have to do anything with old phones; you just pick them up and talk. No buttons, no swiping, no nothing. On the line was an account executive who was sitting twenty metres away in a cubicle. He was either too lazy to walk, or too afraid to present himself in my office in person. I heard a quarter of his voice in the earpiece and the other quarter as echo from down the corridor. He wanted to brief a project. I told him to come in straight after lunch, say 3 p.m. or thereabouts.
Then I did the morning's work. The first job was to write the words for the back of one of those postcards you find in hipster cafes. The card was advertising a new low rate for a bank's credit card. The front had a picture of a cracked coffee cup sitting in a pool of leaking coffee. For the back, I wrote: 'Tired of paying too much interest on your credit card? Switch today, get a lower interest rate, and you'll no longer have to watch your money leaking away. Terms and conditions apply. Fees and charges apply. See website for details. Check the PDS before deciding if this product is right for you. Rates are correct at time of printing and may change without notice.'
It took me two and a half minutes. I billed two hours. The place has to make money. I can't help it if I work fast. I should have been a racing car driver. Or a lawyer.
Just before lunch, a junior suit dropped into my office begging for advice on wording for a sentence in a 10cm x 2 column correction notice ad which he had tried to write himself. I fixed it for him, and warned him to never again try to write any copy no matter how minor. He wandered off with his revised ad, thinking he had had an audience with a genius.
Lunch was at 12.30; yes, early, but I had earned it. I went down in the lift with the usual bunch of couriers, some of them with their bikes actually in the lift, to stop them being stolen. Despite the wave of tempting curry aromas from the Indian cafes that dominated the streetscape, I picked up some sushi and a cup of miso soup from a shop the size of a shoebox in a tiny arcade off the main street.
The place was deserted when I got back. I ate at my desk reading the Drudge Report. At 1.30 p.m. the office was still empty, so I thought I'd go for a walk. It was early autumn and the city was warm. It was the season for office girls to be wearing sleeveless dresses and bare legs like Carnaby Street in the flower power era; but they also had headphones clamped to their ears, or were staring into devices like zombies. This is not what the swinging sixties in London looked like. I went into a second hand bookshop.
Half an hour later I was engrossed in a book about antique military aircraft. I got back to the office at 2.30 p.m. and starting writing an ad about an energy company's dual-fuel discount offer. It took about twelve minutes. I was completely knackered now. I should have been a train driver or a quantity surveyor or something less stressful. I started an online crossword in one of the online British newspapers, and was interrupted by the suit who had made the 3 p.m. appointment. I told him to come back in fifteen minutes. Inconsiderate prick.
He walked in again at 3.30 p.m. with a smile on his face. Why the grin, I asked. He told me he had just organised a meeting with a client, and that he had invited me along to meet Mr Canino, the client’s MD. Then he told me the meeting was 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.
In Bayswater. This was payback.