Secretarial - The Temp: I'd rather have a Diet Coke...
Wednesday 19 May 1999
"What are you two so excited about?"
Ronda has turned into a china doll: two circular splotches of colour on the cheeks, lips bright red from where she's been sucking and biting them in her excitement. She turns, eyes wide and sparkling, and says: "Someone's sent down a parcel to go out and it's too big to go by bike."
The two of them grab each other and pogo about the floor. "EIGHT-FOUR!" they shout, "EIGHT-FOUR!"
Ah. Eight-four. I've been hearing about Eight-four almost incessantly for the past week; now it looks as if I may finally see him. Eight-four works for the courier firm that this company has an account with, but we hardly ever see him because he is the one that drives the van and most of the stuff that leaves here can fit in an A4 envelope. But, apparently, Eight-four is the most bodacious, delicious and all round nutritious (Kadisha's words) thing ever to pass through these doors. Eight-four is a god among men. Ronda and Kadisha have mammoth crushes on Eight-four. Eight-four, according to Ronda, makes this job worthwhile.
When Ronda said that, I knew exactly what was going on. Eight-four may well be a god among men, but if Ronda and Kadisha weren't bored stupid, they would scarcely notice. As it is, their jobs are mundane in the extreme - reception work is, let's face it, only interesting if the people who come in are interesting, and this firm deals in company law - and the pair of them are on the hunt for a displacement activity. Eight-four, it seems, is that activity.
Do you remember the crushes you and your girlfriends used to have at school? The hours you spent discussing him, finding out where he liked to go, in order that you could "accidentally" bump into him? The entire afternoons that disappeared in a haze of daydreaming? And, looking back on it now, wouldn't you admit that at least three-quarters of the attraction was that school was just so damned boring you would have done anything to liven it up?
Ronda and Kadisha are behaving exactly like a pair of star-struck 12- year-olds. Ronda rings the couriers, orders the van and, when she puts down the phone, squeals: "I did it! I did it!" as though she's actually asked Eight-four out on a date. Kadisha gets out a hand mirror from her bag, studies herself in it, shrieks, "I can't let him see me looking like this!", and literally runs, despite the fact that it will be at least half an hour before the anticipated arrival, to the loo to tart herself up. Ronda, meanwhile, undoes the top buttons of her blouse and tucks the edges into her bra, revealing a vast expanse of heaving cleavage, and sprays so much Anais Anais about, you would have thought she was trying to cover up the doings of a new puppy, not making herself gorgeous.
And then they're both back behind the desk, perching on their chairs with their toes pointed and giggling. "What exactly is it with Eight-four?" I ask.
"You'll see," says Kadisha. "He looks exactly like George Michael," says Ronda.
"Only straight," Kadisha adds.
Eventually the doors slide open, and Eight-four appears. Ronda and Kadisha immediately fall silent and make themselves look busy as he approaches, leaving me, to my surprise, to hand over the parcel. Eight-four smiles and nods, and I see that he does indeed bear a strong resemblance to George Michael - that is, if George Michael had spent the last 15 years eating Mars bars behind a steering-wheel and not washing his hair, rather than going to the gym and jiggling about in toilets.
"Come for the parcel?" I ask. "That's right," he says in the thickest Geordie accent that I've ever heard. "Whya sign this for me, petal?" I sign, hand over the box, and then Eight-four goes on his way.
As the doors slide shut, Ronda and Kadisha let out a huge sigh. "Isn't he gorgeous?" says Kadisha. "I don't know how you can be so cool," says Ronda. "If I had to speak to him, I'd probably come over all silly."
And why are 'southern' ways of speaking spreading north?
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