Secret Agent: A day in the life of an estate agent

'In an embarrassing attempt to be like alan sugar, OUr manager threatened to sack me'
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The Independent Online

Any hope I had that my manager might have made a New Year's resolution to be less of an idiot was sadly quashed last week. I came into the office to find him pacing up and down as everyone else sat silently at their desks absorbed in something that looked suspiciously like an exam.

"You're late," he barked, thrusting a wodge of printed paper at my chest. "You have until 10 o'clock to complete this." Then he scratched his backside and strode off to the loo.

"What's this then?" I said, slumping into my seat and flicking through the wodge.

"Read it and see," Justin snapped, showing himself disappointingly to be the same twit he was throughout 2007. Gavin's head popped up like a meerkat's.

"It's really, really hard," he whispered.

Kelly sniggered. "What is, Gav?"

"I've been stuck on question seven for, like, ages," he continued, oblivious.

I glanced down at the sheet, entitled "Self Appraisal". It was difficult to see what he was struggling with: question seven required him to list his weaknesses.

"Don't take it so seriously, Gav," I said when I noticed that his gnawed thumb had started to bleed. "It's just some waste-of-time exercise dreamt up by saddo managers with no lives."

Unfortunately, just at that moment, our own saddo manager with no life returned, and ordered me to the back office.

"I've a good mind to fire you here and now!" he exploded, in an embarrassing attempt to be Alan Sugar. "What makes you think you can comment on something you clearly know nothing about?" It was tempting to point out that, as a veteran estate agent, he'd been doing precisely this for years, but the prospect of being unemployed in January was marginally more bleak than continuing to work for the moron, so I explained that I was only cushioning Gavin from what was bound to be a negative appraisal. "Not as negative as some," he replied, before subjecting me to a list of my own weaknesses.

The following day, Gavin was nowhere to be seen. I assumed he was out showing the wrong people the wrong property, until I got a call from his mother. He hadn't come home the previous night and since it was so improbable that he could have spent it with a girl, she wanted to check that he'd turned up for work that day. "Um... I haven't seen him," I said, "but let me ask the others."

Everyone seemed remarkably unconcerned, except Kelly, who started looking under his desk.

"I'm very worried," said his mother. "This isn't like him. Has anything happened at work?"

"Well, he did have his appraisal, but..." Immediately, she launched into an alarming account of how Gavin had suffered anxiety attacks and a nasty rash a week before his woodwork exam.

"He's a sensitive boy," she explained, then demanded to speak urgently to my manager before she called the police. I handed him the phone: time for his appraisal.