I started work at this medium-sized company in the Autumn. They make sheds. That is sheds with light-fittings and electric wiring. Marketed as an extra living space for your garden the uses seem endless; a Yoga studio, a home-office, a childrens’ room. Prices seem to start from around £10,000 and go up to £20,000.00 or more. It crossed my mind that you could just buy a shed, fit some lighting, put up some insulation and pop in a heater by yourself. But I am of course thinking of utility not what the shed will do for the value of my property.
The first shock was the office. Guess what? The IT department (I was employed to help with the company websites) was situated in a shed. In IT terms this is called “eating your own dog food”; it means consuming your own products. As the new boy I was put on the side of the desk next to the door; every time someone came in they would open the door right behind me and a draft of cold air would flood around me. The IT manager, Snorkel, was actually a sadist. As I arrived on my first day to see the “office” for the first time, in a harsh voice devoid of care he indicated where I was to sit. I spent the first two days with my eyes brimming with tears at this humiliation and lack of care.
Why did I stay? David Bowie sings “Don’t stay in a bad place where they don’t care how you feel”. So; why did I stay? (Indeed why did I stay beyond day 1?) Why does anyone stay in such companies? Because the options seem limited. In my case; I had been looking for a contract for 6 months with no success. Then an offer came for a salaried job with a local company. At least it was a job. Not having worked for 6 months I was fast running out of money. When the approach came I was initially optimistic. The name suggested something to do with Yoga or the environment. Sheds was a disappointment; but it was just 10 minutes drive from home and the salary was, as salaries go, reasonable. Probably I was scared that I wouldn’t get a contract and probably I was influenced by conformist social pressure from my family to get a job. In reality I should have held out for a while longer.
I was held in a shed but conditions for the manual workers who made the sheds were worse. While I was there a humiliating electronic clocking in system was introduced for the “boys” – using finger or thumb scans. How the directors of this company squared this in their minds with the guff in the company literature about supporting and encouraging staff members I don’t know. But then no one in the commercial world means what they say these days and no one expects anyone to mean what they say.
One of my coworkers was Alex. Alex died in a motorbike crash in about December. He was half-Greek, half-Welsh, thoroughly racist. If he’d ever been taken to a psychiatrist they would have labeled him as “Aspergers”. Alex was a big man but not capable of riding the high-powered motorbike which was his pride and joy and which probably formed an important part of his identity. He’d had a premonition of his death a few weeks before. He told me he had a feeling that something bad was going to happen. From the way he said it it sounded very serious. I felt it. I wish I’d thought; what could go wrong? He knew himself, anyway. And, for a while, he stopped riding his bike and came to work by car. On the fateful day in December, (I think it was December), another guy who’d been away on an extended holiday was due to come back. There was some beef between A. and R. A. was probably tense or anxious about the meeting. He came to work by bike, and was probably riding too fast. A wretch of a van-driver drove onto the main road without checking his mirror and that was the end of Alex. He didn’t make it into work. His parents came by a few weeks later, to see where their son had spent his last days. But, what could we offer them? A few words are hardly a substitute for a son.
I lasted at Groin Relics for another few months. Somehow I stuck it through the Winter with the cold wind blowing round my legs and neck. The work was quite interesting. But, in the end, a shed is a shed.