Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Boss (short)

He sits at his desk, croaking well-meaning grumbles like a bloated amphibian, short-tempered and snuffly, shuffling his day’s work-papers decisively to one side and then to the other, busily resenting bothersome questions and dismissing with an irritated wave the foot-to-foot shuffling questioner, immersed in their own miserable frustrated hurry. He frowns away all plaintiffs, referring them mercilessly to unfathomable systems and processes of his own unnavigable design, impatient and work-wearied at the start of the day. “Get to the point”, he tells them, and those naïve enough to do so get the bluntest of short shrifts, “what on earth do I have you here for if I have to do your JOB AS WELL AS MINE” he barks, heartless and oblivious to their helplessness.

“Hello you”, I breeze, adopting his accent to announce my address to his personal self, “how’s your motor?” Tectonic plates shift under his amphibian features and he suddenly radiates cuddly uncleness; she’s running a lot better now, do I want to borrow it at the weekend, know you’re visiting family and the trains, well they’re terrible dear, isn’t it? The mottled cheeks wobble with jollity: do I have everything I need for the day? Lots to do yes, but all in a day’s work, isn’t it, how did it go with the stuff he put together for me last time? “Lovely, lovely job, thanks for the help, much appreciated”, oh not at all, flushing slate pink under the compliment, just let him know anytime, always there to help. His smile puts an arm around me and the grey-skinned dictator is another man, one who swallows him up on a bad day, except you know that you know, that you’re never really sure who swallowed whom.


Very short story

The lady looked at her watch again, reflexively. It didn’t look like she even noticed the time. More like she just had to do something other than be still, and so repeated the motions of pushing up her sleeve, looking at her watch, pursing up her lips, pulling her sleeve down, looking out of the window, crossing her legs, sighing, pushing up her sleeve and looking at her watch again.

The other passengers noticed the slight oddness of her behaviour but, not wanting to make contact, they busied their eyes reading and re-reading the advertising that lined the inside of the tram.

Sascha stood up from her seat, looked around at the other passengers, smiling, and announced loudly, “Ladies and Gentlemen! Today is free foot massage day. There is a free five-minute foot massage for anybody here, now. If you would like a free foot massage, please simply take off your shoes.”

The other passengers stared at her for a moment, then looked away. Nobody spoke. Some returned to inspecting the advertising. Some stared at their feet as though their feet had embarrassed them.

Sascha smiled again, then sat down and took her shoes off.

Managing Alexandra England

Freelancing means there’s no difference between the company and you. For me, this means firstly that I can bitch about myself over a cup of tea, but be magnanimous and forgive myself because I’m so good at what I do. Secondly, it means I read far too many productivity and self-management blogs to try and get my staff under control. They’re great – my favourites are Lifehacker and Stepcase Lifehack, both of which have lots of great advice, although not very often the advice I really need: “stop reading blogs and get on with something!”.

One piece of advice they frequently repeat is the need to manage our online identities, to make sure that what people see about us online isn’t damaging, and is hopefully helpful to us in getting the jobs, clients, partners and lifestyles we want. This is often a two-pronged effort, consisting of a “landing page” website (mine’s under construction) and a tightening, throttling even, of social media. The logic says that if our future bosses, partners and colleagues are all googling us to dredge the dirt on our misdeeds, then we should get there first and tidy up.

I got curious – what does the web really have to say about me then? There’s a site called webmii that rakes up everything it can find on a name you give it: on my name it found a couple of pictures of me that I use for profiles, and my profiles at places like Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and so on. So far, so innocuous.

Google had more to say, and also found my profiles and comments on:
mac forums
glue translation forums
yahoo answers

and comments on a board where I thanked Dashama (my online yoga teacher) for her free yoga lessons. It also found this blog, and my previous online home, Bolts from the Black.

Ok, deep breath, that is actually quite a lot. There are details about almost every aspect of my life. A total stranger could find out very very quickly, (even more quickly now that I’ve collected all those links in one place!) that I’m a Quaker and a non-theist, a linguist, teacher and translator, a film, book, comic, music and comedy lover, a traveller, a student, a divorcee, newbie aikidoka and a person who starts things she sometimes doesn’t finish. But what didn’t it find?

Hate. There isn’t any hate, for me or from me: I have argued with racists and I’ve told a Yahoo asker that he really should write his own university essays, but that’s all friendly, open-minded stuff. There’s no badmouthing, no threats, no lies. There’s drunkenness, there’s a great deal of silliness and friends, and there are some really, really, unflattering pictures. If a prospective client were to look me up, would they, after discovering all of these things about me, still be interested? And does it matter?

No. For me, it doesn’t actually matter, because it’s all true. It is, however badly judged and embarrassing, all me. Maybe I could conceal it from people, and maybe they would be more likely to give me what I want – but I would have basically lied to get it.

I come from a small town in Wales where your business is everybody’s business, and I wasn’t brought up to do things in public that I don’t want my mum to find out about – there is really no hope of keeping things secret forever in a small town. If the internet has made us a global village, then we’re all living in the online equivalent of my small town, knowing the neighbours talk and hoping they aren’t saying anything bad. From experience, I can confirm that there’s nothing you can do to stop them. All you can do is watch your mouth, exercise a bit of self-control, stand by what you’ve done if you had good reason and apologise sincerely if you didn’t.

So, potential clients, bosses, colleagues, partners, please feel free. If you find things you don’t like, then I’m glad for both of us that we’ll never be forced to upset each other in person. If you find things you like, good! There’s plenty more where that came from, because that’s the real deal.

As Dan from Gloucester once wrote on my boiler, “Happiness is free – fill your boots!”