Secretarial: The Temp
Wednesday 10 June 1998
They have a television in my office. I don't know if this is a normal piece of office furniture, but as there's a potted plant on top of it and occasionally someone flicks up Teletext to consult share prices, I think it is. But what it is over the course of the next month is a source of resentment for the women as suddenly half their colleagues develop an inviolable interest in the fate of the Faroe Islands, Ukraine, Iran, even France. I mean, the Afghan earthquake gets half a column buried deep in the Sun and Gazza getting sacked gets six full pages: 5,000 dead versus one dead drunk. The only way they would have got more coverage would have been if their football team had been involved. In fact, they probably were. But as they weren't playing England it doesn't really matter.
The thing about football is that it provides endless excuses for shirking. Get yourself into a lads' office and you're guaranteed several more days off a year than your female colleagues, even if it is taken in dribs and drabs. And it's so transparent. Have you ever watched the men in an office while the footie's on? Have you ever noticed how much longer chores take, how much more standing up and walking across the room so you can pause for five minutes by the screen on the way back? A document needs copying? Do it a page at a time. Got a water cooler? Develop severe dehydration. Female colleagues getting stroppy? Ignore them: this is bonding, and it's more important than any deadline.
Girls: if any of this sounds familiar to you, if you've found yourself doing even more than the usual more than your fair share of work in the last week, it's time for some guerrilla warfare. Get those fatigues on, girls, and go underground: here is the Temporary Guide to sabotaging football in the workplace:
1) Develop an interest in football. Not that hard; some women swear by it. But for the purposes of the exercise, try to learn as little about the game as possible while seeming to wish to learn. Then stand by the screen and go, "But I don't understand why they didn't get a penalty if the man in the green shirt touched the ball", "But it hit the bar and bounced in. Surely he doesn't get a whole point for that?" and "So the ones in the striped shorts are the goodies?" until your colleagues are driven back to their desks.
2) Memorise catchlines employed by those watching games. Wait until everyone is working quietly, then take turns to leap to your feet and shout "Go on, my son!", "What a goal!" and "Yes, Yes! YESSS!". Should guarantee, if nothing else, a few coffee burns.
3) Remember: TV companies fill the schedule holes during World Cup with excellent black-and-white movies. Time the amount of time the football is on each day and insist on parity for Bette Davis. Then gather round the screen going "He's given her a mink. I bet she shoots him in the last reel."
4) Use that stopwatch again. Record the amount of time football watchers waste standing, coffee-holding arm crossed over their belly, other hand jiggling coins in their pocket, in front of the screen/gathered round the radio. Divide this time by the number of non-football watchers. All non-participants should then add this amount of time to their lunch hour. With any luck, you'll be out 'til four for the rest of the month.
5) Whenever footie comes on, all female employees to get out nail varnish, face packs, hair glop etc and gather in large group to discuss, use and spray around. If they can ruthlessly manipulate a gender stereotype, then so can you.
6) if all else fails (and because of the risk to life both from electrocution and subsequent violence, this is an extreme measure), give a very generous drink of water to that poor, irradiated pot plant.
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