Michael Bywater Column: Hello? It's me. I'm on the train

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The Independent Culture
HELLO? I'M on the train. The train. I'm on the train. The eleven hundred. Yes. We'll be getting in at twelve fifty-five. It's a sort of religious experience, really; a bit like making an intellectual decision to start going to church again, only to find God himself on the door at Sunday Mass. "Hello! It's Me! Take a pew!"

I'm on the train and I've made a decision. From now on I am going to put my trust in management. I've been fighting it so long, frankly it's a relief. They're ... sorry? What do you mean, "management of what"? Management isn't of anything. Management just is. If I said "It's raining" you wouldn't say "What is?", would you? It's the same with management. Management is good. Management is wise. Management is not puffed up, nor seeketh after its own. Faith, hope and management; but the greatest of these three is management. And here, on the train - I'm on the train, can you tell Debbie I'm - here, on the train, like a vision of God at the church door, is a manager. Before my auto da fe, I would have berated him. I would have told you about his smug face, his nasty "crisp" shirt, his cloacal bearing, the Fahrenheit whirling off his scrawny body ... but now I love Kevin because I know that he and all the other Kevins are my salvation.

Kevin hasn't shut up since the train - I'm on the train, yes - pulled out of St Pancras. Out came the cellphone, the A5 executive time management system, the Cross ballpoint pen, and off he went. Kevin is remorseless, relentless, unceasing, just like God Himself. Down the clogged airwaves churns an endless stream of memos, messages, notes and queries, and yet not once - it's Market Harborough now - has Kevin said anything interesting; not once has he committed anything to the microwaves which, if expunged or never said, would make any difference to the world at all. And for this, they pay Kevin. For this, Kevin is able to maintain a wife ("Hello, dear, it's me; I'm on the train") who presumably allows him to have sex with her, and a house in which Kevin and his wife have that sex, and quite possibly children who, benighted, think of Kevin as "Daddy". Kevin's vapourings, his choked and rigid circumlocutions, enable Kevin to eat and go on holiday and drive his car ("Debbie? Kevin. Can you book my car in for its service? I'm on the train") and have his Jasper Conran suit ("I don't think of myself as a run-of-the-mill manager; I like to be a bit different. I'm on the train") dry-cleaned, and to, in general, live.

How am I different? Three ways. I don't make anyone's life a misery (except for my intimates, who weep, it must be said, their pints); I don't whine and whine and whine on my mobile telephone; and Kevin gets a lot more money than I do. I do not have a car or a house or a wife; my clothes, though exquisite, cost me dear and in more than money; and I had to buy my own train ticket.

So my act of faith is ratified. Kevin, a manager - perhaps the Platonic manager of whom all other managers are a mere imperfect copy - has the edge over me. From now on, I shall listen to what management says, and learn their vocabulary and their enchanting little ways, and I shall be happy. Oops. With regard to my happiness, this ongoing matter will be agendized for executive committee consideration with a view to progressing the matter having regard to group and divisional strategic objectives. I'm on the train.

Nor is it just words. It's actions. Not actions like you or I might mean them; no - management actions are what happen when you draw up a ratified statement of group and divisional strategic objectives, then action them with a view to progressing same. Management actions are diminutions. You, too, can get on a train and listen to the Kevins, paring their cheese: an inch off here, false instead of real, cut back the workforce, lower the quality and hope the punters won't notice. And there, in the end, is the secret. The punters won't notice. They never do. So, from now on, I shall leave out one syllable in every sent. Similarly wht letrs. And, just as peple buy and eat Ginster's Brnch Bars and Miller's Jumbo Ssage Rolls, you won't padding notice if cereal nostril I pad out my copy hoof uterus with rubbish padding to make it lung earlobe slurry look as if my stuff is more intellectually nutrit than it reall is. Jokes will be prested as ither setup or pnchline but nt bth. Wy dd t chikn crs th rd? Haha. See? Y har nticed. Ths is t wa frward. Hl? Hl? I'm on the tr.