While I was on my summer holiday, the obligatory fortnight mandated by FCA guidelines I’d like to point out, Salvation Bank’s management decided in its infinite wisdom to start rigidly enforcing their clear desk policy.
Cleaning staff carried out their orders with a zeal bordering on the ideological. They adopted the same zero tolerance approach to belongings at one’s workstation as my favourite lap dancing club in Moscow does to clothes on its exotic dancers. Nothing is permitted. No exceptions.
A return to the coalface after two weeks off is never less than unenjoyable but the new regime rendered the comeback even more torturous than it needed to be. I arrived early, intent on a morning of intensive email deletion and news/research recap (not stockbroking, mind you), but could not access my workstation as all my passwords are stored in my desk diary and that Gentle Reader, was nowhere to be seen.
Apparently, an email had been sent around in my absence warning people to collect their belongings from Lost and Found but I’m not in the habit of checking my mail when I’m in the office, let alone abroad.
Even if I had seen it, considering it was on my desk, clearly labelled with my name, implies it was neither lost and nor has it been found because everything still languishing there on the Friday before I came back was permanently destroyed which seemed an extreme measure for so venial a crime.
My first morning then was spent rummaging through random cupboards and wardrobes in forlorn pursuit of an item which was of immense importance to me, an avid note-taker and jotter-down of things, a doodler, a graphomaniac.
There are some aspects of my life to which I will never be privy again. Appointments have been lost in the item cleansing. Scraps of my verse which were developing into an epic poem were squandered in a sinister elimination. It may not be apparent from what I type here or the commission it generates, but I churn out a page of painstaking notes every day before threshing and condensing for the benefit of my clients. Now, I have nothing to write on. Even my Post-It! pad was confiscated.
As always, I found other stuff when I was rooting around in the lost property pile and pilfered an umbrella, a desk fan, a functioning stapler, a pair of scissors and shards of a broken heart which I reasoned were most probably mine. While I was at it, I had a look around for my mind which I lost some time ago but that has disappeared without trace.
While some things were mysteriously vanishing in my absence, others were miraculously arriving. Looking under my desk á la recherché du journal perdus, I spotted a small box strapped with velcro to its underside. “Occupeye” read the creepy label.
It takes a lot to arouse my curiosity but what looks like a small infra-red camera pointing directly at my crotch certainly piqued it. Is it there to record my attendance, in which case I don’t want it there? Is it there to monitor the stirrings of my groin, in which case its batteries are probably flat after my first few days back?
I don’t know how you would feel about having your genitals under round-the-clock surveillance (most of my girlfriends objected) but I felt distinctly uncomfortable. Sub-tabular self-interference will become a thing of the past.
This is, of course, the more innocent explanation. Alternatively, the gadget may be shooting detumescent gamma rays directly into the area containing my reproductive organs after a tip-off to Human Resources from the Thought Surveillance Unit which detected suspicious, immoral and possibly illegal activity taking place and ordered preventative action to be taken. The next time I’m aroused I could be Lou Ferrigno or I could be Dr David Banner.
If they are able to link the camera to my recorded phone conversations and presumably the handset has been rigged to measure my pulse and brain activity too, the Thought Surveillance Unit will discover that most of my calls see my heart actually stop and all signs of cerebration discontinue after the exchange of just a few sentences but there are one or two numbers which carry the fluting notes and fruity vowels of someone attractive and that seems to set off all manner of activity in the nether regions.
Anyway, I secretly swapped mine with the bloke opposite who brokes stocks assiduously day in, day out and took the batteries out of the one now in situ.
These Orwellian developments do not reflect well upon Salvation Bank and imply much of the expenditure on the new offices has been frittered away on the paraphernalia of a police state. I know for sure that is not an environment in which a rogue element like myself can operate.
Depressed by the realisation that if my career is not brought to an end by an order pad whose month is forever August, then my mental derangements and chronic Takotsubo cardiomyopathy will definitely do for me, I cycled home after work in Tuesday in a state best characterised as dejection.
I was stopped by a policeman on The Mall for running a red light on my bike. There's something especially galling about being lectured in a patronising manner by someone younger than me within sight of Buckingham Palace, that bastion of privilege and iniquity. Halfway through his, "Look here, Sonny Jim" routine he said,
"You're going straight through a stop light, not wearing a helmet. That’s a Fixed Penalty Notice of £50. Are you trying to get run over?"
I paused for a second, calculated that the ticket would be approximately £50 more commission than I had written that day, considered the North Korean conditions in which I am now working, the reluctance of destiny to indulge my heartfelt wishes and the unmalleability of a life which refuses to be hammered into the shape I want, before replying with a Weltschmerzy sigh, "Yes. Yes, I am."
Which disoriented him, I must say. He let me go with a ticking off but no ticket. A ticket to ride? It would have been my first of the day.