“Sorry Dan we’ve got to let you go.”
“But why? What have I done?”
“Well, nothing at all really, that’s the point. You’re bone idle. You’re a nice bloke, everyone likes you. But we employ you to sell advertising space for a newspaper and you’ve been here six months, and you haven’t sold a thing. Frankly you’ve just spent your time arsing about instead of working.”
My boss, Richard, was a nice guy, and indeed I quite enjoyed my job, so it was a shock when he sacked me.
“I mean, Dan, I’m very sorry. If we could employ a guy to raise staff morale, tell jokes in the canteen, muck about helping the cooks with the washing-up when they’re short handed, and spend hours gossiping on the phone or listening to people’s troubles, then you’d be our man. But this wretched company has this strange policy of wanting its workers to earn money and chase new clients and pester people for business, and that’s all they care about.“
Richard warmed to his theme, getting quite angry. “Your bad luck is that you were born at the wrong time in history. You’re a lot like my dad, and he’s got laziness perfected to a fine art. My dad left school in 1967 and walked straight into a job with the local authority. He told me that he and the other employees spent all day fiddling about with bits of paper, chatting about football and cars and going to silly meetings, and none of them did a stroke of work. He got promoted time and again and now he’s got a lovely pension and a happy retirement. Britain just isn’t what it was.” He glared at me in righteous indignation. “I mean our largest asset is a workforce comprised of lazy lardarses who just want to sit about and get paid to do fuck-all, and there just aren’t enough jobs for them! It’s really very unfair. I blame computers.”
I was used to getting sacked, so it wasn’t too much of a wrench to leave Amalgamated Advertising Industries, I’d just have to chalk it up to experience.
And by now I knew quite a lot about the world of work. Richard was quite right. I would start off full of enthusiasm, but it would soon fade into laziness. Since leaving school I had been an apprentice gardener, apprentice bricklayer, office assistant in an employment exchange, a shop assistant and a lollypop man and part-time drain inspector and an undertaker’s clerk. Even though I turn up every day, get on well with my colleagues, I’ve always been sacked from every job, and always because I find it so hard to actually do any work. All my family are a bit that way. My granddad, who spent most of his life on the dole, used to tell me all about the good old days, when some lucky buggers could wangle a job in some obscure civil service department, spend forty years in an office doing bugger all, then get a knighthood and a huge pension at the end of it. “But,” he lamented, “no one appreciates the British Idler anymore. We’re getting to be just like America.”
I went off to do my regular voluntary stint at the Samaritans, listening to the poor devils who have real troubles in life. There’s nothing much you can do to help, but at least you can listen, and I’ve always been good at that. What I’m not good at is organising myself to make telephone sales, arrange things with other people, doing practical tasks, or indeed do anything proactive at all really, I’m more of a taker of orders and avoiding-doing-anything-at-all-if-I-can-get-away-with-it, kind of person.
On the way home I passed this shop, where a new business had started. ‘Life coaching and career choices’, it said in the window, and I thought what have I got to lose?
Derek, the man I spoke to, was really nice.
“Um,” he said, unable to suppress his laughter. “Sounds to me as if you’ve done pretty much every job under the sun! Why do you think you keep getting sacked?”
“Basically I’m a lazy person. It runs in the family.”
“So you’re telling me you want a career where you don’t have to do much work? Where you get paid to go to a place and sit about all day gossiping?”
“Well, at least you’re honest. Most people pretend they’re hard workers.”
“I’ve no objection to hard work. As long as it’s other people doing it.”
Chloe, Derek’s sister, was at the nearby desk. She was a chubby, friendly girl who had a lovely smile, and I liked her immediately, especially when she offered me one of the lovely jam doughnuts she’d just bought from the local baker. I wondered fleetingly what it might be like to be a baker, sampling all those wonderful cakes, then thought of the early starts, the heavy lifting and the sheer hard work of it, and knew it wasn’t for me.
The next day I popped back to see Derek. We had got on very well, and chatted about football, and it turned out we both supported the local team, and I had a spare couple of tickets for the game on Saturday. And I brought a box of luxury jam doughnuts for Chloe, and she was delighted with them.
As I was leaving, Derek made a suggestion.
“Look, Dan, we’re just starting up this business, and we need a bit of help. We can’t pay you anything, but would you like to help us out by chatting to prospective clients and making tea and coffee? Sort of work experience. And if it works out and business expands it could become a bit of a job.”
“What me? Advising people on how to change their careers?”
“Why not? You’ve had plenty of jobs in the past, you’re good at talking to people, you’re very likeable. In this game you don’t so much suggest new ideas to people, it’s more listening to what they think they want and encouraging them. Telling them about motivation, lifestyle choices, finding themselves, how to relax by doing yoga and aromatherapy. We use fancy catchphrases, and spin people a line.” He smiled. “In fact, between you and me, it’s all a lot of bluff and bullshit. We don’t really work very hard at all.”
“Sounds like it’s tailor made for me then.”
That was five years ago, and I’ve never looked back.
I became a partner in the business, married Chloe and we all made money, but unfortunately for the first time in my life I found that I had to do some work. In the end we all felt it was getting too much like a job, so we sold the business and made a fortune.
But I still hadn’t found the perfect lazy man’s job. It seemed that it just didn’t exist anywhere in England.
Until I decided to stand as a Member of Parliament for my area.
When I was voted in, I couldn’t believe my luck.
Finally, I had found the perfect job.
(image by Gerd Altman from Pixabay)