I haven't been forgiven for waiting in the wrong room for an hour last week. Every morning, as I arrive, Kyra looks up, pulls an exaggerated face of surprise and goes "Ooh, you haven't got lost, then", and Fiona goes "Good afternoon". We work on a staggered shift - Kyra and Fiona nine to five and me 10 to six - but no one seems to have told them this. Every day, I laugh politely and pretend that this is the first time I have heard either joke.
I might as well not bother with these niceties, because these are the only words they address to me from one day's end to the other, apart from the occasional "Can you get that?" or "I'm going to lunch now". I type in silence, eat lunch in silence, smile when Kyra and Fiona leave, pack up at six and walk to the Tube in silence. My tongue would atrophy if I stayed here.
Not that Kyra and Fiona have anything to talk to each other about. They sit back to back and don't communicate - they just pass bits of paper over with phrases such as "I think this is yours, actually". You wouldn't have immediately picked them as friends - Fiona is a straight-faced, straight- haired, straitlaced 30-year-old Sloane Ranger who wears a lot of navy blue, and Kyra is 18 with a frizzy perm and white shoes - but the wheels of most offices are oiled by the grease of social levelling.
Not here. They both look down on me, obviously, because I am the temp, but they also feel the same about each other. Fiona looks down on Kyra because she comes from Basildon and goes to the toilet. Kyra looks down on Fiona because Kyra has a fiance and Fiona doesn't. They do have one thing in common - they are both obsessed by the telephone. I've been audio- typing as much as possible to drown out their voices, but you can't stay plugged into headphones all day.
Maybe it's a case of work expanding to fill the time available. Fiona and Kyra gripe constantly about how overloaded they are, but they spend three hours each on the phone every day. Neither seems capable of carrying out another action while their mouths are in gear; all they can do is lean an elbow on the desk. And they never telephone at the same time.
Kyra will get on the blower to her mum, who she still lives with, and put in orders for what and when she wants to eat that night. Fiona, meanwhile, will type and look grim. When Kyra hangs up, she will dial immediately. "Hi, Caro? Me, yah. Ebury Wine Bar? Great." She will launch into a 15- minute dissertation on the Hugos and Charlies in her world while Kyra rolls her eyes. When she hangs up, Kyra dials. "Can I speak to Dean, please? Hello, darling, [this in tones of sugar] it's me. There's no need to be like that. I just wanted to say hello ..." Then Fiona: "Bridge? It's Fi. Caro says Ebury Wine Bar. Doesn't look like James is coming, though." Then Kyra: "Hi? It's me [sigh]. Dean. Yeah. I do love him and everything, but he can be so ..." Then Fiona: "Mum? Me. Thought I'd come down on Saturday this weekend. Mmm. Caledonian Ball." And so the day progresses - inanity piled on inanity.
I called my flatmate Joe the other day to sort out keys. Joe wanted to tell me about his new bird, who he was bringing over.
"You're not going to embarrass me, are you?" "Don't be silly. We're never embarrassing. What's her name again?" We put in five minutes, had a laugh, sorted out our movements. When I hung up, Fiona and Kyra were squabbling. "I can't do it," Fiona was saying. "I simply haven't the time. Can't you see how much work I've got here?" She paused, then nodded in my direction. "Why don't you ask - um? She's obviously not busy".Reuse content