The temp

I may only have been in the copying department for two weeks, but even I can tell the new boy's been brought in to give Phil the elbow...
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The Independent Culture
Everyone here is a contract worker, so they're easily culled. Phil reckons he will get his marching orders soon because we have a new member of staff, Kingsley. Kingsley was simply here without warning on Monday morning, dressed in a three-piece and going "bwooar, it's a bit hot down here, innit?".

Kingsley obviously hasn't the first idea that he's been brought in to give someone else the elbow, and seems a bit hurt by how standoffish Phil is when he makes printroom smalltalk, comments on the contents of that day's Sun, suggests that everyone might like to go for a drink. Dave is treading a tightrope between the two of them: obviously he doesn't want to show disloyalty to Phil, but he can see the cards spread out as well as the rest of us and knows he's likely to know Kingsley for longer.

Alec, meanwhile, hasn't backed down on the clothing tip despite the fact that the place stinks like a sauna, the boys not having been overeducated on the properties of the anti-perspirant. I have scrounged an old interview suit off flatmate Trish on condition that I get it cleaned after. It's going to be a bit stinky after a couple of weeks' solid wear, but I've never needed a suit in my life and I'm not laying out for one for the sake of two weeks' work: there would be nothing left from the miserly pittance the agency pays me for being here if I did.

The heat comes from the fact that this basement is full of giant humming machinery: machinery that chugs out A1 prints, blueprints, microfiches, photographs, massive drawings and turns them into 2ins-square negatives, guillotines that whoosh a blade along a strip of wire, copiers that sort 200-page documents in batches of 20. Like a factory, it's fascinating as long as you don't have to spend the rest of your life working in it. Dave, who, when he's not swapping revolting jokes about sex with Phil, is quite a sweetie and has perfected the art of doing crosswords while working the copier, walked me round them during a lull, showing me which buttons to press and twiddling mysterious exposure buttons. I almost had a crush on him by the time he'd shown me the art of map-folding, though the bum-fluff on his upper lip is a bit offputting.

Mike, as usual, is at meetings; I haven't exchanged more than 40 words with him in three weeks. Evil Alec spends increasing amounts of time in the gents with a comb: the joy of his uniform strictures is that the hair transplant is beginning to wilt in the heat and his scalp now looks like alien spaceships have been making patterns in it.

He clocks off on the dot of 5.30pm, and we get to have a reasonably cordial half hour after he's gone; Phil stashes beers in his bottom drawer, and is happy to share when he's in a good mood. When I have a real job, I'll keep a sherry bottle. It makes that last grind a bit less painful. The other day, I was sitting on the table by the big camera, swigging and swinging my legs and cross-examining Phil about how it worked.

Suddenly, he walked over and grabbed my wrist, going, "C'mon". I recoiled slightly, thinking that this was some caveman thing, but he nodded and said: "C'mon. Yer want some pics of yerself, don't yer?" He shouted over to Kingsley. "Oi! Mate! C'mere a mo!" "Now," he said, "All you do is bend over backwards - hold her hands, will yer, mate? - and I'll press the button." Bent over in a position I haven't achieved since gym class, I gazed up into a tiny lens while Phil went zzz-zzz-zzz to get a focus. Then clunk, and Kingsley was hauling me back upright.

"That's so cool," I said to Phil as he slotted my negative into the printing- up machine. "Yer," said Phil, draining his tinny, "Nice little bit of kit. Costs pounds 950,000, does that." So thanks to the miracles of modern technology, Alec still doesn't have a full head of hair, but I have a bedroom wall plastered with posters of myself, eerily facelifted by the effects of gravity.

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