The Changing Face of Consumerism XII: Applied Economics and the Kindle Generation

Sometimes it’s better just to keep your mouth shut. I know this. I may be opinionated, but there’s a time and a place to express those opinions. More often than not, 9:05am in the office is neither the time nor the place. But sometimes I just can’t help myself.

It was just another day at the office, same as any other. I was trying to do something productive, because despite my abhorrence of ‘the system’ and working for ‘the man’, I appreciate that I’m being paid (albeit not nearly enough) not only for my time, but to use that time fruitfully (when IT permit) and besides, I’m one of those people who prefers to actually make busy rather than feign being busy. Perhaps I’d feel differently if I felt any affinity with the goons who occupy the desks within conversationable proximity to mine, but endless drivel about ‘Corro’ and ‘I’m a Celebrity’ fills me with a compulsion to burrow myself into a small dark corner, meaning that more often than not, I’ll bung a CD in the player or find an album on-line to stream, plug my phones in and create my own virtual cocoon in which to work. But sometimes I find it’s impossible to shut out the babble, and equally impossible to keep my trap shut.

Such was the scenario the other day. Three or four people seated behind me had been discussing books. Books I wasn’t bothered about. By which I mean, I’m not big on thrillers, and am wholly indifferent to the works of multi-million selling thriller author James Patterson. I was able to let the debate over whether or not his name was Patterson or Pattinson drift by, although I was pleased when one of the debaters thought to look him up on-line, and was also thus able to confirm the title of one of his books, courtesy of Amazon.

And so the subject moved to the topic of the Kindle.

“I love having my Kindle,” pronounced the middle-aged woman in the centre of the conversation, who’d been recounting how she’d hooked her husband on a certain author’s books by buying him one once. “But Kindle books are so expensive!”

“I know, I’d have thought they’d have been about a quid or something,” replied the colleague to her left, a tubby guy with a beard and spectacles in his mid to late twenties.

It’s a common complaint. If you read reader reviews of books on Amazon, there’ll invariably be a number harping on about the price of the Kindle edition – especially with new publications – to the extent that some titles attract dozens of one-star reviews without a single mention of the writing, the plot, the characters or any other aspect of thee contents of the book itself. Many of the reviewers aren’t even in a position to comment on the book, having posted their review in a fit of pique at the rip-off price being asked for the text with remarks like ‘I refused to buy it at that price’ and ‘I’ve ordered the paperback instead, but will have to wait several days for it to arrive in the post. And I’ve had to pay shipping on top!’

In today’s culture of immediacy and instant gratification, no-one wants to wait. And no-one wants clutter, either, hence the popularity of the Kindle. As the people behind me noted, it’s possible to store several hundred books, which would otherwise require many feet of shelves, on a single, portable device. But no-one seems to think it reasonable that they should pay for this convenience: they want it now, and they want it cheap, or better still, for free. But of course, that isn’t how capitalism works. Exploitation may be a significant feature of consumerism, with both consumer and producer being exploited for the benefit of the capitalists who hold the real power, but there has to be as degree of give and take, and if there’s no profit to be made from a end product, there’s simply no point in producing it, however useful it may be. But by the same token, the more useful or desirable a commodity, the higher its value in the marketplace. Whether that value is real or perceived is largely down to supply and demand, the market and marketing. It appears the perceived value of an e-book is comparatively low.

And so they whinged on in this fashion for a couple of minutes or so, bemoaning the fact that Kindle e-books are overpriced considering the fact there are no production costs involved.

As someone who has experience of publishing, both as an author and a publisher – albeit on a small scale – I felt qualified to wade in on this debate. Not that these individuals would have been aware of this: I tend to keep myself to myself, and not to talk about my writing or publishing activity in the workplace. Nevertheless, on this occasion, I found it impossible to let it go, and the fact my involvement in the publishing industry is on a small scale means it’s something that’s particularly close to my heart: it’s something that’s real and tangible, whereas with large-scale publishing – as with any large organisation – the realities become more abstracted as the process becomes increasingly distant. As with the music industry, Joe Public only conceives of the colossus: the multi-billion dollar international labels and the major-name chart acts. It’s understandable, of course, but the big names – and the big money associated with them – only account for a fraction of the whole. The common misconception is that everyone who has a book published is coining it in, because they hear about the immense earnings of the likes of J. K. Rowling and E. L. James. The majority of people don’t seem to realise that there are countless books that aren’t on the bestseller list, that aren’t published by Penguin or Bloomsbury. These are the people who buy one or two books a year, or possibly three when they raided a 3-for-2 offer at Waterstones or WHS or maybe their local supermarket. These are the people who, in the days before Kindle, would make sure the one, two or three books they purchased were at least 400 pages long because a 400-page book represents better value for money than a 250-page book that costs roughly the same. They’re the people who read series books because they know the characters and are comfortable with them, but are reluctant to try anything else because they don’t know what to expect: they might not like it. Better to play safe and go with what you know than risk disappointment and wasting money.

I don’t actually believe that all artists (by which I mean musicians writers, film-makers, dancers, whatever) should be able to make a living from what they do, even if such a scenario was feasible. There simply isn’t room for every artist, aspiring or otherwise, to achieve such widespread recognition as to sustain a living wage from their work, and there are many who simply aren’t worthy or, to be blunt, good enough. But I do believe that all artists should be fairly paid for what they do, just as any other form of labour should receive reasonable recompense.

If Kindle e-books really did all cost in the region of £1, you can guarantee that the ones who would see the biggest reduction in their cut of the profit (and there’s scant profit to be made on anything costing a pound) would be the writers. It hardly seems fair that the person responsible for the creation of the product should be paid less because some consumers choose to purchase a different format. The end product may be different, but the input itself remains the same. Would an office worker – the likes of the individuals idling away large portions of their working days debating the ways in which they spend their disposable income and leisure time – consider it acceptable to be paid less for dealing with emails instead of printed letters? Of course not: in fact, I suspect the opposite would be true, and that they would probably consider it reasonable to expect to be paid more, because the reduced overheads associated with e-comms over conventional paper and envelope snail-mail would logically enhance company profits – why shouldn’t they benefit? And this made for the starting point of my interjection into the conversation.

“The writers have still got to be paid,” I began. “On a paperback, they get pence in royalties…”

Naturally, the precise amount varies between books, publishers and authors, and the range is immense, and the actual royalty will depend on whether or not the book sells at its RRP or at a discounted price. But, for simplicity’s sake, it’s not unreasonable to work on the basis of the author’s royalty for a paperback being it’s around the 8% (although anywhere between 5% and 10% would be considered ‘average’), for hardback around 12%, and for e-books in the region of 20%. If a paperback retails at £7.99, you’re looking at 63p per copy going to the author (before tax). It takes a many multiples of 63p to equal a living wage. Given that it’s reported that 95% of all books published achieve sales of 100 or fewer, you can hardly consider writing a surefire route to riches, and when you also take into account the number of hours it takes to write a novel…

“Of course the writer’s have got to be paid,” agreed the woman, peering over her reading glasses. “But there’s no printing cost with a book on Kindle…”

I realised I needed to keep it brief and simple. And so I elected to pass on the details of the debate, hoping against hope that my sowing the seed may at least give them a prompt that would set these everyday consumers on a track of consideration.

I decided not to explain that obviously, the bigger the publisher, the more people are involved in the process. But against that, higher volumes of sales mean it’s easier to reduce unit costs… although it usually takes a bigger marketing budget to achieve those sales volumes. I also let pass the idea of there being a correspondence between market forces and cost in capitalist culture, namely that there’s a clear logic to charging the most people are willing to pay for a commodity. If a significant portion of any given target market are willing to pay, say, £10 for something, but consider £15 too expensive, why would anyone in the business of business, i.e. making a profit, charge only £5 for it?

The fact she’d already told her colleagues, “I buy loads more now I’ve got my Kindle. I keep finding stuff and thinking ‘What’s that?’” was evidence enough that however unreasonable she considers the price of e-books, the cost isn’t high enough to be prohibitive – and so the equation of balancing cost against demand and convenience works. This woman clearly isn’t alone, and as much as anything, I suspect the convenience is the real key here. The Kindle appeals to the demand everything, demand it yesterday if not sooner consumer society we live in and that the Internet has facilitated. Our needs haven’t changed all that radically, but our expectations have. Consequently, our demands have changed in line with those expectations. This then becomes a self-propagating cycle, and like a junky who experiences diminishing returns with every hit as their habit becomes more complete, so the consumer appetite grows evermore insatiable, needing more and faster. Yet each time the demand is met, so expectations grow, and as those expectations come to be met, so demand grows.

“That’s true,” I countered, “but the print cost actually only accounts for some of the actual cost of publishing a book. With an e-book, you’ve still got the bulk of the other costs involved in the publication process, like paying proof readers, like cover art, promotion… and you have to reformat a text for Kindle. Plus you’re paying for the convenience of the format, of having it instantly. Besides, given how little authors do earn on each book sold, if there is scope for paying a bit more, then that can only be a good thing.”

The woman looked at me boredly, then replied, “Yes, I know and understand all that, but I still would have thought they’d be cheaper. You know, like around a pound or so.”

 

Kindle

A Kindle. Publish a book formatted for this, charge over the odds and make a mint. It works for me! Pass the Bolly, will you?

The Worker pt 7: Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Sunday morning. Hangover. Took him a moment to realise where he was. Home. His own bed. A good sign. Fully dressed. He glanced around, the movement of his eyeballs in their sockets making him wince in pain. The pungent aroma of the previous night’s smoke which clung to his clothes, mingled with the sickly-sweet tartness of stale sweat made his stomach lurch, but he observed with relieve that his bed was free of puke and he’d not pissed or shat himself either. Ok, so it was rare for either of those things to happen, but they weren’t unheard of. How had he got home? And when? Where had he been, even? After arriving at the club, already hammered, some time after ten or thereabouts, everything was a blank. He felt like shit, felt like he was gonna die.

He moaned and gingerly winched himself out of bed. Went to the bathroom, pissed like a horse for a good couple of minutes. Bliss! Chugged half a pint of full-fat milk straight from the carton, threw down some painkillers and tossed some bread in the toaster. Checked the clock. Ok, so it wasn’t Sunday morning any more, it was closer to 1pm. A seriously heavy night. He buttered the hot toast on ejection from the machine and took a couple of bites before a wave of nausea broke from the pit of his stomach. He made haste back to the bathroom and spewed it all back up. mouth, nose, some serious velocity. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and crawled back to bed.

The next time he woke it was just after 3pm. He still felt rough, but nothing like the way he had felt before. What a waste of a day. Still in the clothes from the night before, he went back to the kitchen and prepared a mammoth fried breakfast and sat in front of the television while he troughed down the greasy collation. There was a match on. He didn’t really give a shit about Liverpool or Chelsea, being a Man U supporter but football’s football.

CouchPotato

A generic image of a bloke slobbing out on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon

 

Afternoon rolled into evening as he sat, vegetating, on the sofa. Fuck it, he couldn’t be arsed to wash up or so any washing, not today. It would keep. Around 8, he decided to take a shower, after which, still wrapped in his towel, he fired up the PC and checked his emails. Nothing much doing. He logged into his Facebook account. A few tagged pics from last night were up already, and a number of people had left him comments, too. But as far as he could ascertain, he’d only danced like a twat and tried cracking onto a couple of birds, both absolute munters, by all accounts. But he’d not screwed either of them – because they’d turned him down flat – and he’d not flashed his cock or arse, so on balance, no cause for concern. He idly flipped up some porn pages. Before long, his horn was throbbing as hard as his head had been earlier in the day, and he knocked out a mix over a couple of chicks lezzing it up. Job done, he wiped himself down, put the telly on and watched some second-rate eighties action movie till just gone midnight. Waste of a day, alright, but it sure as hell beat having to go to work.

 

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

The Worker pt 6: Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), or, Living for the Weekend

He woke around 10. Didn’t feel too bad. Probably still drunk. But he was home and in his own bed. Beat the sofa, or, worse, the gutter or a police cell. Would’ve been nice to have been someone else’s bed, he thought, but waking up next to some eight-pint hound wouldn’t’ve been good. The pungent aroma of the previous night’s smoke which clung to his clothes, hair and skin, mingled with the sickly-sweet tartness of stale sweat made his stomach lurch, but he observed with relieve that his bed was free of puke and he’d not pissed or shat himself either.

He moaned and gingerly winched himself out of bed. Went to the bathroom, pissed like a horse for a good couple of minutes. Bliss! He ambled into the kitchen and tossed some stale bread in the toaster. Checked the clock: force of habit. He buttered the hot toast on ejection from the machine and took a couple of bites. The hangover was starting to kick in. His head’s pounding and his guts are churning. He takes a heavy beershit, then gets dressed.

A trip to the supermarket takes a decent chunk out of his day. He hates going to the supermarket, but needs must, and sometimes there are some fine fillies out and about. He once pulled a bird in the supermarket. Just sidled on up to her in the cereal aisle, like in the Cornflakes ad, only smoother of course. Went out for a couple of weeks. She’d been alright to look at, but a major pain in the arse, wanted a relationship and all that shit. He wasn’t up for all that, he was the free and single, wild oats type. As he’s just been paid, he treats himself to a couple of frozen pizzas, stocks up on the microwave meals, a crate of Carling on special, bread, milk, bacon for a fry-up tomorrow. Throws in a pack of puddings – sundae type things – and some Smirnoff Ice, too. He might have a couple of those while warming up for tonight.

Decisions, decisions! The shorter checkout queue, or the checkout with the tasty piece serving? No contest! He threw in some smooth lines while the cute bit of fluff scanned his goods. Never mind his goods, he was checking out hers!

Once home, he flicks on the television, watches the football. Necks a couple of the cans of Carling. Throws a pizza in the oven for an early tea before it’s time to start getting ready. Going out tonight, going out tonight… While the pizza was heating through, he fired up the PC and surfed for porn. A quick flog of the hog, and then, while munching on the pizza, he flitted around on Facebook and downed a couple more tins.

Turning off the computer, he docked his i-Pod and scanned for the Hard-Fi album. Cranked it up while he took a shower. Squirted a large dollop of shampoo onto his head, worked to a lather. Rinse and repeat. As seen on TV. Stepped out of the shower, towelled dry, starting with a jaunty flossing. Pumped the volume up even higher when ‘Living for the Weekend’ came on as he doused himself in deodorant and doused himself in aftershave. So rarely did a song sum up his life so completely. Yes, this song was his life. He fucking loved it.

Started off in Wetherspoon’s, then on to Yates’s. After that, a quick stop in Varsity. Ok, Varsity’s not everyone’s first choice, but it’s a place to go to meet people. And, as Andy points out, there are some tidy birds in there, especially on a Saturday night.

Busy Bar

A typical busy bar on a Saturday night

 

The round is pulled and they get stuck in, it’s onto the next in under 10 minutes. The dollybirds from the local offices, and the shop-workers too – there were some particularly tasty checkout girls in some of the supermarkets, not to mention the chicks in the clothing stores, even River Island and Top Man – would be tottering in wearing their high heels, short skirts and low cut tops before long. He felt like trying his hand for some action tonight. He’d not had his end away in months now, and he was getting tired of the hand-shandies. He was feeling lucky, but needed to build his courage first. The totty began rolling up, right on cue and before long it was wall-to-wall flange, there for the taking. Andy got the next round in, and as the beers really start to flow, he’s on his way….

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

The Worker pt 5: Friday I’m in Love

Bollocks! He awoke with a start. He had been deep in sleep, in the middle of some long and winding epic dream. There had been some crazy alarms and sirens, fires everywhere and bombs dropping…. but in a jolting instant he realised that the alarm of his dream had been the alarm clock by the bed. How long ha it been going? He checks the time: 8:02. Fuck, shit, bollocks, bugger fuck cunt, he’s going to have to get a move on. He hauls his arse out of bed and throws on yesterday’s clothes that are strewn at the foot of the bed. No time for breakfast – he’s still out of milk, and bread, too – he brushes his hair, cleans his teeth. He’s running late, so no time for a shave today. 8:27 and he’s having to run to make the 8:30 bus: the bus-stop is an eight and a half minute walk but he can make it in half that at a run. He hates running, because he’s not fit – too much beer, too many cigarettes – and he hates arriving at work an exhausted ball of sweat. But he can’t be late. He’s in luck: the bus is running a couple of minutes late, and he arrives, panting and thoroughly fagged out just as it pulls up.

It doesn’t take long before the tedium sets in. He usually enjoys Fridays – the vibe tended to be more upbeat, and everyone felt the tension lift as they coasted toward the weekend. But the morning dragged, and he could feel his boss’ eyes on him, boring into the back of his head. He was keeping his nose clean and his head down. Same as ever, really. He couldn’t fathom why this authoritarian jumpstart little prick had it in for him. Probably for no other reason than because he seemed like an easy target for the power-tripping jobsworth cunt. He tried to convince himself of this, but was certain that the fat bitch at the next desk was shooting him suspicious glances. She was a conniving manipulative cow at the best of times, and while he thought their run-in from a few weeks ago had blown over, perhaps she’d been biding her time before deciding to make him pay by using underhanded tactics. So the truth hurt, and if she couldn’t take being told that she was a lazy, ass-climbing selfish lump of lard who couldn’t get a shag because she was such a miserable, self-seeking boot, it was her tough shit.

 

Image1

An office, predictably enough

The calls keep on coming, but, less frequent, he finds his concentration drifting and his time between calls clock-watching. It’s payday: there are beers with his name on, and he can’t wait to get stuck in!

Midday and he was close to the turtle’s head so decided rushed the closing of the call he was on and go and bab one out. The humid fug of body-temperature merde hung heavy in the air, and he was dismayed to find the seat still warm. But he wasn’t in a position to be picky. He laid his cable swiftly and was back at his desk within 4 minutes.

The afternoon drags, but 5:30 eventually rolls round and he’s down the pub inside 5 minutes. Steve arrives, then Andy, then Simon, with Joe and Garry in tow. They’re all buoyed up because it’s Friday and they’re raring to go. The first round is pulled and they get stuck in, it’s onto round two in under 10 minutes. Ok, Varsity’s not everyone’s first choice, but it’s close to work and it’s a place to go to meet people. And, as Andy points out, there are some tidy birds in there, especially on a Friday night. The dollybirds from the offices nearby would be tottering in wearing their high heels, short skirts and low cut tops before long. He felt like trying his hand for some action tonight. He’d not had his end away in months now, and he was getting tired of the hand-shandies. He was feeling lucky, but needed to build his courage first. The totty began rolling up, right on cue and before long it was wall-to-wall minge, there for the taking. Andy got the next round in, and as the beers really start to flow, he’s on his way….

 

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

The Worker pt 4: Thursday Afternoon (edit)

The harsh buzz of the alarm slices through the darkness and sears his sleeping brain. He sits up and checks the clock: 7:30. He hits the snooze button, but is surprisingly awake for this time of day. Perhaps as well. He has to be up and out. Chances are he’s still a bit pissed and that last night’s imbibing will catch up with him later, but there’s no time to think about that now. He dresses, eats breakfast, brushes his hair, cleans his teeth, runs the electric shaver over his face. The stubble had been getting itchy and was looking a bit too ginger for his liking. Miraculously, he makes the bus with time to spare, before realising he’s not eaten. Shit.

8:59 and he’s still on the bus, stuck in traffic and some distance from work. An accident up ahead or something. His colon starts creaking and his mouth’s as dry as a pro’s quim. He thinks he should phone in to let his boss know he’ll be late, but the battery on his phone’s dead. He’d forgotten to charge it last night. The bus drops him at the office 10 minutes late. In the office, firing up his workstation, positioning his chair, the usual routine. This morning it’s harder than usual though. A hangover is starting to kick in. His head’s pounding and his guts are churning. And hovering at his shoulder, it’s his manager. Wants a word.

Back at his desk, still bruised from his bollocking – the bus was late defence was no defence – should have got an earlier bus, was the counter, and his phone’s dead battery was no excuse for not phoning in. The fact it was a mere 10-minute delay counted for nothing and it would be a written warning next time – The phone rang. He took the call, went through the scripted schpiel, dispensed some pointless information to the frustrated old goat at the other end of the line, updated the systems, shunted some papers around. Rinse and repeat. The phone rang. He took the call. Etc. Such is the daily grind of the 9-5.

Tension was building now. The hangover wasn’t helping, he always got anxious when suffering the withdrawal. Slow creeping paranoia, he felt as though his boss was watching his every move to make sure he wasn’t away from his desk when he shouldn’t be, wasn’t making personal calls or accessing the Internet for non-work purposes.

Lunchtime rolled around and he was glad of the fresh air. He didn’t really feel like eating all that much, but could feel himself flagging so stocked up on crisps and chocolate for later, and purchased a can of Coke to give himself the pep he needed.

 

Image1

An office circa 2006. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, pretty much.

The afternoon was a drag, even more so than usual. The influx of work – phone calls, emails, paper correspondence – demanding his attention was ceaseless. 5:30 seemed a long way off. Being pulled out for a second meeting by his boss for not turning over enough calls an hour really put his back up. He tried to defend his ‘stats’ by pointing out that it was simply impossible to get rid of some callers, but the manager was having none of it. And the issue of his timekeeping is brought up again. A rage welled in his chest. His boss was a snotty little cunt who had no idea of what actually doing the work entailed. He was momentarily tempted to get his coat and get the fuck out there and then. But he took a piss, washed his face and calmed down and decided to stick it out till 5.30. Eventually it came, and he headed home.

His house was a shit-tip but he couldn’t be arsed to do anything about it. He cracked open one of the cans left from the night before and called out for a pizza. It had been a shitty day and he deserved some kind of compensation, some kind of comfort. At least tomorrow was Friday.

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

The Worker pt. 3: Wednesday Morning 3am

Holy fuck! He awoke with a start. He had been deep in sleep, in the middle of some long and winding epic dream. There had been some crazy alarms and sirens, fires everywhere and bombs dropping…. but in a jolting instant he realised that the alarm of his dream had been the alarm clock by the bed. How long ha it been going? He checks the time: 8:02. Fuck, shit, bollocks, bugger fuck cunt, he’s going to have to get a move on. He hauled his arse out of bed and threw on yesterday’s clothes that were strewn at the foot of the bed. No time for breakfast – he’d used up the last of the milk yesterday and hadn’t made it to the supermarket since – he brushed his hair, cleaned his teeth. He was running late, so no time for a shave today. 8:27 and he’s having to run to make the 8:30 bus: the bus-stop is an eight and a half minute walk but he can make it in half that at a run. He hates running, because he’s not fit – too much beer, too many cigarettes – and he hates arriving at work an exhausted ball of sweat. But he can’t be late. He’s in luck: the bus is running a couple of minutes late, and he arrives, panting and thoroughly fagged out just as it pulls up.

9:00 on the dot and he’s made it to the office, firing up his workstation, positioning his chair, the usual routine. The phone rang. He took the call, went through the scripted schpiel, dispensed some pointless information to the frustrated old goat at the other end of the line, updated the systems, shunted some papers around. Rinse and repeat. The phone rang. He took the call. Etc. Such is the daily grind of the 9-5.

The calls kept on coming and the papers kept on piling up, and while he was on the rota for taking his lunch hour from 12:30 to 13:30, he was stuck on a call with some irate customer and wasn’t able to get away until 12:50. But then, the phones were supposed to be manned by a certain number of staff – 10, equating to 50% of the team – at any given time, and the workshy heifer at the next desk was late back from her lunch. When she did arrive, he noted with disdain just how badly she was starting to smell, a side-effect of her fucked-up interpretation of the Atkins diet. As she ploughed her way through a large bag of pork scratchings, he paused when she realised he was clocking her, his face conveying a disgust and disbelief it was hard to disguise. She explained – not for the first time, and with a cloud of deep-fried and seasoned pork rind gusting from her chops as she spoke – that she could eat all the fats she wanted, but absolutely no carbs. Sure. His boss was circling like a shark. He couldn’t fathom why the power-hungry corporate tosser had taken such a dislike to him, but it seemed as though he was on a mission. He has to watch his back: one step out of line and the boss would be on him, and could bring him down. He’d seen it done before.

 

Image1

An office, 7am today and funnier than Ricky Gervais will ever be

He was getting hungry and struggled to contain his frustration. It was the same pretty much every day and the days had a tendency to run together, like watercolours on saturated paper. He could feel himself getting down. He was in a rut and he knew it. Same shit, different day and no mistake: every day drains into the next, and every day is exactly the same. Could be worse, he reminded himself. It was only work, after all, not his life. His evenings and weekends were his own, at least. Please give me evenings and weekends…

Lunch: he nipped out to the sandwich shop at the top of the street, bought a nutritionally vapid ham salad sandwich on flaccid white bread. The ham was dry, anaemic, the salad wilted to fuck. Sluiced it down with a can of Tango. He could ill afford to dine this way as he was well in the red and pay-day was still a fortnight off, but he simply couldn’t find the motivation to prepare a packed lunch.

His truncated lunch hour – he had to be back by 13:30, and while some of his colleagues were capable of getting away with pulling epic skives and late sign-ins, he was neither comfortable with nor in a position to do the same – was over all too soon and he returned to his desk, signed back into his terminal and the onslaught, the grind continued. The influx of work – phone calls, emails, paper correspondence – demanding his attention was ceaseless. 5:30 seemed a long way off.

The cleaner came round on her weekly circuit, with a bucket containing a couple of inches of fetid brown water and a Jaycloth, which she proceeded to smear over each desk in turn, before lifting the receiver of any phone not in use – or even phones in use if headsets were plugged in – and wiping the mouth and earpieces with the same crutty cloth. No rinse, only repeat: six, eight, ten desks and telephones would get this once-over before the encrusted cloth was returned to the bucket for a brief swill.

5:30 rolled around eventually, he switched off his workstation, clocked off, took a long, long piss that felt like heaven, and left the building. He’d hoped to get a couple of pints in after work, but Steve was taking his girlfriend out for a meal and Simon had his mum coming round. At the bus stop, his bowels started growling. He didn’t have log to wait for a bus home, but it got stuck in traffic. Discomfort began to nudge at his lower abdomen. The jam seemed to last forever, and he was practically touching cloth by the time he got home. He threw his jacket over the back of the sofa and went to curl one out. The relief!

Movements complete, he cracked open a can of beer. It didn’t last long. What to eat? There wasn’t much in. His funds were low and he’d not had the cash or motivation to make the trip to the supermarket at the weekend. A sad, salt-heavy microwave meal for one sat brooding in the back of the cupboard, so he nuked the plastic tray and chowed down the stodgy collation without enthusiasm, washed it down with a second can of lager. It was piss, but it was cold and alcoholic. He wanted more, so nipped round to the offy a couple of streets away and stuck a couple of four-packs on special on his credit card. He’d worry about paying it off later.

Cracking open the first of the eight fresh cans, he flicked on the TV but there was fuck all on so he fired up the PC and surfed for porn. He whipped up a serving of cream, then idled away the remainder of the evening on Facebook and another half dozen tins. Midnight rolled around and rather worse for wear, he decided it was time to hit the sack. He needed to sleep: there was work tomorrow.

 

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

The Worker pt. 2: Ruby Tuesday, or, Tuesday’s gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you

Shit! How long has the alarm been going? He must’ve been sound asleep. The harsh buzz of the alarm slices through the darkness and sears his sleeping brain. He sits upright with a start and checks the clock: 7:52. He hit the snooze button and buried his head in the pillow, but it was no good. Under the duvet, it was warm and comfortable and life was good. But the alarm persisted and he forced himself to vacate his haven. He dressed, ate breakfast, brushed his hair, cleaned his teeth. He was running late, so no time for a shave today. 8:25 and he’s having to run to make the 8:30 bus: the bus-stop is an eight and a half minute walk but he can make it in half that at a run. He hates running, because he’s not fit – too much beer, too many cigarettes – and he hates arriving at work an exhausted ball of sweat. But he can’t be late, he’s been late too many times recently and his timekeeping has become an issue. He’s already on a first warning.

8:59 and he’s in the office, firing up his workstation, positioning his chair, the usual routine. The phone rang. He took the call, went through the scripted schpiel, dispensed some pointless information to the frustrated old goat at the other end of the line, updated the systems, shunted some papers around. Rinse and repeat. The phone rang. He took the call. Etc. Such is the daily grind of the 9-5.

The calls kept on coming and the papers kept on piling up, and while he was on the rota for taking his lunch hour from 12:30 to 13:30, he was stuck on a call with some irate customer and wasn’t able to get away until 12:50. But then, the phones were supposed to be manned by a certain number of staff – 10, equating to 50% of the team – at any given time, and the workshy heifer at the next desk was late back from her lunch. His boss was circling like a shark. He couldn’t fathom why the power-hungry corporate tosser had taken such a dislike to him, but it seemed as though he was on a mission. He has to watch his back: one step out of line and the boss would be on him, and could bring him down. He’d seen it done before.

He was getting hungry and struggled to contain his frustration. It was the same pretty much every day and the days had a tendency to run together, like watercolours on saturated paper. Another cup of rancid instant coffee as stagnant as his life, another plastic spoon, another whinging tosser, the hours passed into days passed into weeks passed into months passed into years, a wasted life, an accidental career. All the other jobs advertised locally were much of a muchness. No, the only way out was redundancy or retirement. Or death. He found it hard to rouse any sense of optimism. Too long in the rut, his spirit had been ground down and eventually crushed, all sense of hope extinguished. They owned him and he knew it.

Lunch: he nipped out to the sandwich shop at the top of the street, bought a nutritionally vapid ham salad sandwich on flaccid white bread. The ham was dry, anaemic, the salad wilted to fuck. Sluiced it down with a can of Tango. He could ill afford to dine this way as he was well in the red and pay-day was still a fortnight off, but he simply couldn’t find the motivation to prepare a packed lunch.

His truncated lunch hour – he had to be back by 13:00, and while some of his colleagues were capable of getting away with pulling epic skives and late sign-ins, he was neither comfortable with nor in a position to do the same – was over all too soon and he returned to his desk, signed back into his terminal and the onslaught, the grind continued. The influx of work – phone calls, emails, paper correspondence – demanding his attention was ceaseless. 5:30 seemed a long way off.

 

Image1

An office, 8:15 this morning

 

An hour later and his bladder was growing taught. He desperately needed to piss, but there was simply no respite. He was also tired, so tired. More cups of gut-rotting instant coffee was the only means available of fending off this terminal fatigue.

5:30 rolled around eventually, he switched off his workstation, clocked off, took a long, long piss that felt like heaven, and left the building. He didn’t have log to wait for a bus home. On arrival, he cracked open a can of beer. It didn’t last long. What to eat? There wasn’t much in. His funds were low and he’d not had the cash or motivation to make the trip to the supermarket at the weekend. A sad, salt-heavy microwave meal for one sat brooding in the back of the cupboard, so he nuked the plastic tray and chowed down the stodgy collation without enthusiasm, washed it down with a second can of lager. It was piss, but it was cold and alcoholic.

He flicked on the TV but there was fuck all on so he fired up the PC and surfed for porn. A quick one off the wrist and then idled away the remainder of the evening on Facebook and a couple more tins. Midnight rolled around and he decided it was time to hit the sack. He needed to sleep: there was work tomorrow.

 

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk