The temp

Lindsey enters with offspring. There is a kind of collective gasp then half of my companions leap from their seats going 'Whoo! Izza BAY- bee!'
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Tracie at the agency has finally released me from being an NHS filing clerk. This is a good thing, as not only was the work beginning to drive me insane - I had dreams three nights running of having to remove staples from a pile of paper taller than me with my fingernails - but so were my colleagues, whose conversation never rose above the "I like fisherman's pie. You know what I do to make it more special? I put some grated cheese on top. It's lovely with tomatoes".

Mary had finished three baby cardigans by the time I left, and started a jumper, in black with a yellow V on the front, for the fiance. The thought of being there when she finished was turning me suicidal.

Now I work as a pool typist. It's factory typing, but I don't really mind; it has a wonderful meditative quality. I have become so good that I do it now without thinking. The strange thing is that the moment I do start to think about what I'm doing, I can't do it at all.

Lindsey turns up for a visit. She enters with make-up covering the bags under her eyes, large coat covering the bags in her newly maternal body, pushchair, baby. There is a sort of collective gasp, then half my companions leap from their seats going "Whooo! Izza BAY-beee!".

"BAY-beee! Wuzza wuzza wuzza! Hello sweee-tie! Can I hooold her? Ba-ba- ba-ba. Woooeee! Ickle-ickle!" I've never heard so many people revert to gurgles. Well, I have of course - whenever a baby enters the room and in a few rave clubs - but it's still a shock. They jig the tiny hand, puff out their cheeks, heap smacking kisses on the air. In the middle, the object of their attention sits impassive.

Babies bring out the most extreme levels of human behaviour. Down on the ground are the childless-but-want-them women, going "Aaah" and "Isn't he gorgeous" and working at its straps to free it for holding. Above them tower the other parents, lofty in their greater knowledge. No other situation lowers colleagues' inhibitions so much: Lindsey is cheerfully talking about her genitals and everyone else is sharing their own tales of stitches, blood, nipple shields and expressing pumps.

Not everyone, of course. As I said, only half the office rose from their seats. The rest seem to have developed uniform neck trouble, sitting stiffly with their backs to the action, pretending that nothing is happening at all. Occasionally, they catch each other's eyes and grimace, but never cast an eye in the direction of the cries of "Ohh! look! he blew a bubble!" and "My turn! Let me hold him!". I don't mind babies, but I find it hard to show interest in creatures that communicate by farting.

I head for the water cooler, find two others already there. Nursing her paper cone, Maria says "I do wish people wouldn't bring babies into offices. It's not the place". "Yuck!," says Nuala, 23, ambitious and protecting herself from the baby trap by aversion therapy. "I hate babies. Can't stand 'em". The group around the pushchair is breaking up.

Office Romeo passes. Nuala, who is protecting herself from the office Romeo trap as well, pulls a face. "Just watch John," she says. "I bet he'll try and hold it to show what a sensitive guy he is". John, true enough, pats his hair and enters the scrum. "This yours, Linds?" he says. "Isn't he lovely. Can I hold him?". Takes baby and clutches it to his chest. "How do I look? Think I'd make a good father?" He puts on a reflective face for the ladies. "I'd love one of these," he says. "I just can't seem to find the right mother".

Baby raises itself in my estimation by throwing up all over his jacket.

Comments