Secretarial The Temp: Don't you get sniffy with me

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The Independent Culture
ROB ALWAYS starts the day in a gloom and ends it on a high. I've noticed this about various people I've worked for, particularly in the financial, fashion and advertising industries, but increasingly, it seems to be creeping into the way that people in service industries - even accountants - deal with the day.

The quiet depression, verging on paranoia, first thing, and the endless cups of black coffee and surreptitious nose-picking; the sudden mid-morning surge when they become garrulous, confident, fast-moving; the gradual change over the afternoon from cheerful to manic, from confident to aggressive, from friendly to prone to picking fights, from energetic to vacillating between walking about very, very fast on stiff legs, while failing to register someone is talking to them.

Rob shows all these traits every day, and it makes him, at best, mercurial to work for; at worst, virtually impossible. Imagine trying to get a rush job done for someone who has lost all sense of time, and turns up every two minutes to ask if you still haven't finished yet. Imagine answering the phone and fobbing people off because your boss is in the loo for the fourth time that morning.

The whole city seems to be awash with cocaine at the moment. Two years ago, it was self-help, and you'd tiptoe around trying to avoid stressing people as you knew they'd just been to counselling. Two years before, they were all so obsessed with the gym that you kept tripping over feet in plaster stuck out into aisles.

Now today's Caring New Labour Yuppies are behaving exactly like the Age of Greed Yuppies of 10 years ago: running off at the drop of a rolled- up tenner to the disabled loo, with its handy shelves and marvellous sound-proofing - and come out five minutes later, eyes shining, and sniffing the air like a weasel that's just found a little bunny rabbit.

What I don't understand is this: cocaine seems to have some bizarre effect on Yuppie eyesight: it seems to convince takers that everyone nearby is blind. I don't want to be a heavy mummy, but whatever you think about the stuff, it's illegal, and those who take it really should be a little discreet. But not your Yuppie cokehead.

Whenever Rob does one of his hourly top-up trips to the loo, he actually removes his credit card from his wallet and carries it in full view across the floor with him. And he has mates, as well, who when he starts to walk will start to walk as well; they converge, the three of them, on the corridor at the same time every hour, and come back laughing like crazies, punching each other on the arm, and rush back to their desks to shout at their juniors. Damn, I just can't wait until they rediscover paintballing and we can settle back down to a simple, adrenalin-fuelled lifestyle.

Rob's sitting there in front of me now in his executive chair, cracking his knuckles in front of him, smiling like a Maori death mask, his head jerking from side to side like a bird of prey. And I'm waiting for the next moment when he will let out a sniff starting somewhere in the soul, working its way to the lungs, up through the soft palate, trying desperately to dislodge the blockage in his nostrils. Honestly: it's not only illegal, it's very distracting.

It's like sharing an office with a Dyno-Rob.