Finance: The Trader - Bin-liners and champagne

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The Independent Culture
THERE'S A lot of rubbish talked about redundancy, especially by people who've never been on the receiving end. Take Norman's comment that firing me was as painful for him as for me. Funny, then, that I was the one snuffling into a sodden handkerchief as the security guard escorted me to personnel, the one feeling as if the world had suddenly stopped turning.

The man from personnel was little better. His attempts at empathy made me feel ill. How on earth could he think he knew how I felt, when I didn't even know? Any minute now, I thought, I'll wake up and everything will be fine again; that's how unreal it all seemed. The man from personnel was droning on and on about conditions, but I couldn't concentrate. Suddenly the droning stopped.

"How much are you taking in of this?" the man asked. I told him. "So, not even in one ear and out the other?" he said. "Well, it's all written down here anyway. Why don't I get you a cup of tea and leave you alone for a few minutes?" And he tiptoed off as if he were visiting a hospital.

I sat, numb and terribly, terribly rejected. All I could think was, how could they not want me? If Jane had been there with a crystal ball, she'd have pointed out that 53 other people from our bank would be feeling the same by the end of the day, but she wasn't, so there was nothing to disturb my wallow in self-pity.

Still, after a few minutes I dried my eyes, and the words on the paper slowly came into sharper focus. One month's pay instead of notice... six months' salary, tax free... services of an outplacement agency... could keep car for two months, or buy on favourable terms. So I wasn't going to starve, at least.

The man from personnel came back with my tea and a plate of custard creams. "Here," he said, "this'll make you feel better." If only it were that simple, I mused, we'd save the NHS loads of money: no more expensive drugs, just a packet of biscuits and a nice hot cup of tea. Only problem was, I didn't feel I could ever eat again. Perhaps I would starve after all.

"Would you like to call someone?" the man asked. "You're allowed to make a phone call." Just like being under arrest, I thought, but suddenly it did seem a good idea to speak to a friend. I started to dial Olivier's number, then remembered he was away on business. Then I realised it wasn't another City type I needed; I needed Sasha.

Sasha's mother and mine linked up at antenatal classes and have forced us to be friends ever since. She's terribly arty, and has friends who design jewellery and hate capitalism - although they are willing to compromise on the subject of private income. Anyway, right then Sash and her trustafarian pals seemed just the ticket, so I put in the call and Sash told me to leap into a taxi.

It was 20 minutes until the security guard arrived with the contents of my desk in a black bin-liner, and another 20 while he went back for my Psion 5 Series which Norman had mistaken for company property.

By the time I reached Sash's she was in fine cheer. "Excellent news," she cried, hugging me and pouring a vast glass of champagne. "No more horrid trading."

"Yes," I said, feeling suddenly defiant. "They don't want me, so why should I want them?" And we both got very drunk.