The Temp: Oh, to be teetotal - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

The Temp: Oh, to be teetotal

I have one of those Sundays where you go out to lunch at midday and come home at 2am after 14 hours' solid drinking and nothing to eat apart from the ossified heel of a loaf of bread and cheese off which you've had to cut the mouldy bits. And as Monday means new job day for temps, I'm in trouble.

7am: I obviously didn't scrape the mould off that cheese too well, as it is now coating the roof of my mouth. Then realise that my body has been pinned down in the night by Lilliputians, and I am unable to move. Drift back into partial coma.

8am: eyes spring open, feet hit floor. One of those sour headaches, like someone running their fingernails down a blackboard, grips the back of my skull, while someone thumps between my eyes with a rubber hammer. Run bath, consider coffee, realise I've got 45 minutes to get across town. Consider ditching bath but alcohol seeps out through your pores, or so my mother told me. If I'm not going to go into a new workplace smelling of meths, bath it has to be. Besides, the only way to get the black stuff from under my fingernails is to wash my hair.

8.30: No tights. There are five pairs, actually, but each has a large hole in the left calf from the square metal dustbin under the desk at my last place of work. Pull on suit and rip button off shirt. Oh-god-oh- god.

8.40: Run to Tube. Paranoia convinces me that someone is following me and ducking behind hedges when I look back. There is a high-pitched whine in my ears. Long for a sausage sandwich, but turning up to a new job and eating breakfast is black mark central.

8.50: Newsagent has run out of tights. Down into Tube, swipe on foundation on the platform. Strap-hang to Bank, then get a seat by elbowing an old lady out of the way. Blusher, mascara, eyeshadow. Draw a pair of lips on, the cupid's bow exaggerated to drag queen proportions by the lurching of the carriage.

9.10: Shop in station has only American tan tights. Almost cry, then buy them anyway. Run down Moorgate, catch heel in grating, tear chunk out of knee.

9.15: arrive. Announce myself to kindly-looking matron. "You're late," she snarls. "I'm sorry," I say, "I had an accident." Point to my knee, which is black and crusty with red bits. "My God," she says. "Haven't you got any tights?" I brandish my American tans and she says "Well, they're not going to cover it." "I'm sorry," I say. "I'll show you the switchboard," she says in that "and call the agency" voice.

As she brushes past me, she sniffs and looks suspicious. Leads me into a windowless room where a digital switchboard and a pair of headphones await. "You know how it works?" "Yes. Is the database up-to-date?" "Of course," she snarls. She turns her head away, then throws me a look of disgusted comprehension. Now I know she's going to call the agency. All I can think of is the extra Ibuprofen in my handbag. The phone goes.

She stands and watches as I take my seat, strap on the headphones, hit return and say in my sweetest voice, "Good morning, Alcohol Information Group. How can I help you?"

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