Nine a.m. “L-agħar ħin tal-ġurnata biex tipparkja dan, boss,” as that idiot Spiteri from accounts likes to repeat everytime I walk in late, my sens ta’ urġenza close to nil, like the amount of fucks I give about Spiteri’s proverbji. Or about anyone in this place in general.
I go through my usual ritual: a curt bonġu lir-reptile li hemm fir-reception (Sandra – meta ħierġa bil-pensjoni?), grab the newspapers, head to my office, shut the door, leaf through the classifieds looking for nothing in particular, check the financial news page (Brouwersbank shares down again, the German idiots), then pretend to actually manage this dar tal-imġienen. Madhouse, fil-veru sens tal-kelma.
Imma dalgħodu we’ve got trouble. L-Indian tal-bieraħ is playing silly tricks in my stomach, so the first thing I gotta do is rush to the bathroom. Mhux il-bathroom li jużaw the others, ma tarax. I use the side door (yes my office has one of those. I don’t work for government, do I?) and sneak, unknown to Sandra, into Mr Fenech Sullivan’s office. A quick dash for it – his private bathroom.
Private bathroom? Almost a bloody spa in here. He’s got a jacuzzi (what for?), an expensive looking sound system installed in the gypsum panelling, and a strange scent of – tropical fruits? Boq. All I know is, malli naħra, it will stink worse than a Mumbai sewer. Fucking Indian food.
Whilst I’m expelling all the evil vixxri-Krishna from my insides (the first burst is over in less than five seconds), I go over the workplan for today. LOL! Work? Plan? Eżgur. All I’m thinking of is squash at one, and that party at Jonathan’s tonight. There are, however – this Indian shit seriously stinks – things that have to be sorted today. Angela Farrugia Tabone called me yesterday evening, part moaning, part foaming about a typo in one of her adverts. Do I care? Do I fuck. But – biex ma ddejjaqlix iktar żobbi after hours – I’ll have to take action. So I ponder the plan of – PLOP – EUGH – action to be taken today. Ħasla tajba lil Martine. Sorry Martine. Quick rehearsal? “This is not the first time.” “The client is very angry at this.” Self-pity card: “Daħħaltek hawn jien and you’re letting me down like this.” “I cannot tolerate sloppy work.” Well, aside from my own.
I’m finally out of the bathroom, after flushing the loki twice. I make sure the window is closed and the extractor switched off: in the unlikely event that baħnan ta’ Fenech Sullivan decides to come in today, he’ll get a whiff of my admiration for him.
Back in my office, I tap the DND button on this expensive-looking CISCO network phone or whatever it is. Could catch a wink or two here despite the storbju tal-indannati coming from downstairs. Is there a fight? Xi ġlieda oħra fuq iz-zokkor fil-bott tal-kafè? Keep the small minds occupied in their little cubicles. Aħjar jinkwetaw fuq id-deadlines.
I’ve been here for almost half an hour and the best thing I’ve done is take a dump. It’s 9.30 and the day’s work is already done. Shall I sit here like a spare prick, listening to another episode of Fawlty Prole Quarters? Dak ix-xogħol għamiltu fi żmieni and there wasn’t half the fuss there is this morning. Qishom sparaw lil xi ħadd. X’ġara, waqa’ l-gvern? They just don’t make them like they used to.
The red light on the phone goes on, without making the usual racket. To answer or not to answer?
I decide to take the call.
“Richard, Mr Fenech Sullivan has been trying to get through to you all morning…”
Sandra. Must have been milk-fed by wolves, this one.
“Strange Sandra, qalbi, I’ve been here since I came in.”
“Maybe you pressed the do not disturb button by mistake?” Bitch.
“Eh, let me see… no ta.”
“Anyway, please meet him in the boardroom straight away and ask Miss Calleja to join you.”
“Ok Sandra.” Qtajt.
X’inhu jiġri hawn? Bertu wants me and Martine in the boardroom. He’s actually here before noon. X’ġara? Why isn’t he out on his fucking boat? Għalfejn mhux qiegħed fuq xi skoll bejn hawn u Sqallija? Jew kollha ġabhom terrapien?
The worst part of all this is I actually have to go downstairs. Time to make an impression on those suckers, yet again. I put my jacket on, arrange my tie (note to self – ask Marija to get rid of that stain), wear grave expression #27 and walk out of my office, slowly but surely.
Downstairs. Darkness. Dreary. Dusseldorf. Smells of coffee, sweat, perfumes and pot noodles. Screaming from the studio. Someone chatting in the kitchen. Christabelle already in tears. Biex qed tibki ħanini? Grift difer? Telqek xi boyfriend ieħor? Daddie Richie has to take care of this bullshit too. It’s good PR.
This you-only-work-here-because-HR-had-the-last-word bunch are the “finest” according to our website. Finest among the rest, possibly. Christabelle, ħoxna iktar mill-aħħar darba li nżilt hawn, stops in her tracks and shoots me her usual puppy-pleading-for-more-soggy-dogfood look. Not now. I need to grab hold of Martine, drag her upstairs mix-xagħar t’għajnejha, and take her to El Direttore.
I still wonder how I’ve worked here in this damp, humid basement, for the good part of eight years. Beats me. I’ve been “downstairs” for less than two minutes, and can’t wait to go back to my office, comforted by my plants and my coffee. And my “To a great boss” mug this bunch of idiots gave me last Christmas. Cost them less than €0.50 each. Ara jiġux jitolbuni żieda! Jonfquha pot noodles.
Il-boardroom: we hardly ever use this room. Large table and, you guessed it, pictures of fucking sailing boats. Comfortable leather seats. Telephone sets that never rang in anger. Empty glass jugs and somewhere, hidden in these white lacquered cupboards, there should be the cookie stash. L-aqwa li għandna l-Annual Report tal-klijenti fuq il-mejda ħijj!
Sandra walks in, hunched and depressed as usual, with an espresso which she places in front of Bertu’s head of the table, and walks out without bothering to ask if we’d like a coffee ourselves. Well, Martine doesn’t drink coffee, and from the looks of it, she’s not in a position to beg for one either.
Fenech Sullivan appears in the doorway, looking rather annoyed. Well, he looks incandescent. Furious. “Morning Rich,” he says as he sits down, staring dementedly at his espresso. “Mhux se ndum għax għandi meeting ieħor nofsiegħa oħra,” he continues without looking at Martine.
Meeting nofsiegħa oħra? LOL! Il-Yacht Club żgur, u jinvolvi xi flixkun Chablis u dik il-milf tal-proprjetà. We all know you’re banging her, Bertu-boy. Stop playing El Primero with us, trid?
Back to us.
“Martine, yesterday I got a phonecall from Engela.” Qisu Engela waħda teżisti.
“She told me this is the fifth different spelling mistake you didn’t notice in her adverts. And, this morning, she also told me you used the wrong advert on the Times. What’s going on here?”
I’ve seen many people dig their own graves in this room over the years. Martine is building a fucking mausoleum and a complex of souvenir shops to go with it.