29 Apr 2003


I have noticed that Janice’s eyes keep changing colour. Her brown eyes have turned blue.

“I’ve you noticed anything different about Janice?” I asked Call Centre Tony after yesterday’s management meeting. He is not a fan of Janice. They never see eye to eye on anything.

“Apart from her being a fat arsed unit. No.”

They must be contacts. They make her eyes look like a teddy bear.

I wear glasses, but cannot cope with the idea of wearing a contact lens: they require a level of fastidiousness that I do not have and I can’t stand the thought of poking myself in the eye everyday.

I have seen her again – she seems to have had a mix up – there is one blue eye and one brown eye.

She looks like David Bowie - only more butch and with better teeth.

27 Apr 2003

What’s your flava?

I am coming to the end of my tether with Simon, the Craig David looky-likey on my team. He turned up 20 minutes late and would not take off the woolly swimming cap he insists on wearing to stop the headset from spoiling his extensions.

Bernard was fuming: “What are you going to do about him! He has been 40 minutes in idle this morning.”

I took him to the only private area available, a stock cupboard in the corner, and got ready to bollock him.

I noticed that there were tears in his eyes. I knew that I needed to switch to EMPATHY: “What’s wrong.”

“Nothing sir.” He said.

“Don’t call me sir. What’s the matter?”

It turns out that he had been for a tattoo the night before and was still sore. Some bloke he knew offered to do it to settle a “debt”. He removed his shirt to show me. It was awful: pussy and septic. I could just about make out a man wearing a vest, his arms stretched out, his hand ending with long talons.

I read out the words at the bottom: “Windowlene”

“No, Sir: Wolverine.”

“That’s not what it says here.”


25 Apr 2003

Particular Coughs

Television is a strange world.

Remember when you were a kid and watched “Boss Cat” and wondered why Benny and the boys would call him “TC”? All because some numbpty at the BBC thought that streetwise cat called Top Cat was corrupting. I don’t know who they were trying to fool. It was probably the same numbpty in the nineties who changed The Mutant Ninja Turtles into The Mutant Hero Turtles. He probably thought we’d be slicing the throat of our granny after watching pizza eating ninjas in a half-shell.

Everyone was talking about the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” scandal this week. Joan was obsessed, saying over the pens: “THAT TEFLON TWITTERK SAYS HE HAS HEY FEVER AND THAT”S WHY HE COUGHS …”

John Three, Moomin Papa, was complaining about the cynicism of Celador, the television company: “They kept a million quid that someone won. They managed to get the only press coverage available during the war. They got 17 million viewers watching a documentary with bleeding Martin ‘under-hand, misleading and devious’ Bashir – they advertise cough medicines in the breaks and still make a mint …” He looks disgusted.

“I heard that Tecwen Whittock has got that SARS.” Thrush said.

“Well I heard that he tried overdosing on buttercup syrup.” Tizzy insisted.

John Doe made a list - The All time Top 5 things to spend a million on: 1) Bionic legs for my cat 2) A tomahawk missile. 3) An iPod. 4) My ears pinned back. 5) A booby-trapped marker pen.

Meanwhile, I down-loaded pictures of Top Cat from the internet, printed and laminated them and pinned them to my pen walls, while dreaming of killing my team, one by one.

Maybe that numbpty from the BBC had a point.

23 Apr 2003

Now with wings

The most disgusting thing that happened in the call centre has gone down in legend.

Bess is a large woman who is on Janice’s team. She is so big that we often speculate whether she is Brian the security man in drag. You never see the two of them together.

The cleaners made a complaint to Janice. Apparently, Bess was leaving used panty liners in the waste paper bin. When Janice nervously confronted her about it, she said: “Oh. I use them as in-soles for my shoes”.

As Edison said: “Genius is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration.”

22 Apr 2003

The National Call Bored

I have a new member of the team who started today. Another lamb to the slaughter - filled with youthful promise and commitment – it will soon wear off.

Brian (The Hills Have Eyes) is his mentor. I always put the new people with Brian in the hope that they will befriend him and stop him from mithering me (he’s been telling me about an out of date Easter Egg he got for his mum all day).

This FNG (flippin’ new guy as we used to say in Nam) is disgusting. I have already named him Manic Miner because he has his finger up his nose constantly. He is like a coke addict: scraping the septum, poking the nostril and studying the finger, thumb, pinky and index finger, one after the other, buried to the knuckle. To the KNUCKLE!

I imagine its like watching one of those fisting videos you can get off e-bay. I imagine.

He is well placed, sitting with Brian, because he once did the second most disgusting thing I ever saw in the Call Centre. He once picked his teeth with a toenail clipping: it was like a scimitar. A shard of nail twiddling between his gnashers.

“That’s disgusting.” I said.

“I know. My mum says that I have toenails that would make a ‘raptor jealous.”

The MOST disgusting thing I ever saw – is a long story – I’ll tell you tomorrow.

20 Apr 2003

Beer and Beef

In a bid to be accepted by my colleagues, I have decided to join their Slimming Club. Each week we are obliged to chip in a quid to be weighed in a secret location (the stair well). Janice plots the changes on a spreadsheet and the person who loses the most weight over a month gets to take the total money.

A couple of months ago, following a documentary showing how dangerous it is, I went on Dr Atkins Diet, and lasted 3 days. It wasn’t the fact that it was high protein – I loved eating all that meat, I felt feral, like a caveman – it was the abstention from alcohol I couldn’t cope with. I could put up with bad breath and biting the toilet door every time I went for a shit (ouch – I think you burn calories trying to coax the turtle from its shell), but I struggled to resist the temptation of ice cold beer in the fridge.

Now, I am not an alcoholic (then again, don’t they all say that?), I am someone who likes to come home from The Call Centre and have a refreshing beer and leave it at that (nearly always anyway).

I was licking the condensation from the can at one stage to try and alleviate the cold turkey.

I have come up with my own best selling diet for people like me. It is called THE 8 CANS DIET. It works like this: everyone should have 8 cans of Stella a day but you need to reduce the cans you drink by the food you eat. All food has a STELLERIFIC value, for example, a kebab has a stellerific value of 3 cans, so you can have a kebab and 5 cans of Stella on my diet.

It’s a winner. You heard it here first. Next stop: Richard and Judy.

18 Apr 2003

Good Friday

Every manager wants to work the Bank Holidays, because it is double bubble plus time off in lieu. It is always really quiet too – everyone has far better things to do than ring us – or so you’d think – this afternoon I got a call from a customer:

“Hello – you ARE open then!”

“Yes sir, how can I help?”

“Nothing. I was just checking that you are open – you put it on your flyers so I wanted to make sure. Goodbye.”

I cannot imagine any circumstance where I might be at home on a Bank Holiday and think: “mmm, I must test that call centre.”

Do these people not like the James Bond matinee? Trips to B&Q? Picking the raisins out of Hot Cross buns?

16 Apr 2003


Thrush is always going on about eBay. “How much did you pay for that? How MUCH? I could have got it for you for half that on eBay. You wanna get on eBay. There are loads of bargains on eBay. Cheap as chips. Eh? Cheap as chips … Geddit? Bargain Hunt.”

He had a job lot of coaxial cable for TV aerials that he was selling by the yard in the canteen at lunch. “I made a mint from it.”

Today he had a new paperweight on his desk. “This looks interesting,” I said.

“It arrived yesterday from eBay. It is an Iraqi antiquity.”

“Nicked from a museum? Looted?”
“Ask no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.” He smugly replied.

“That’s terrible!” I lambasted him and instructed him to put it away as it was inappropriate for work. He wrapped it carefully in bubble wrap and left with his tail between his legs.

Before he went I bought a mobile phone battery for a fiver.

14 Apr 2003


The Bog Blocker has been caught … wet-handed.

Call Centre Tony was on toilet patrol at the time: “I was on the check point, when I could hear someone pulling the at the roll again, again and again. I thought to myself “hang on – that’s a lot of paper for a quarter-pounder” so I gave a warning over the top of the door of trap one: “reveal yourself or I will enter by force.”

There was no reply. So I did it again: “Reveal yourself or, by the powers vested in me by Bernard the Boss I will enter the trap!”

Still no response, but I could hear movement. Next thing I knew, there’s a flush and water came flooding out from underneath the door. I said: “pull up your trollies - I’m coming in!” I shoulder-charged the door and Bob’s your auntie’s live in lover - I’d flushed him out”

It was the Building Manager all along. He was getting a kick back from the plumbing contractors for each call out.

I don’t know why we were so surprised; after all we know from Scooby Doo that Janitors are in the shadiest profession on the planet. I imagined him being dragged out of the building, his career down the pan, shouting: “I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for those pesky skids.”

12 Apr 2003

Camp David

“Clock the lallies on the chicken. I reckon he’s a chubby chaser.” Barney, the big gay bear, was eying up a new member of Janice’s team: a young, fresh-faced youth who apparently used to be a pro-footballer.

Thrush is uncomfortable and puzzled when Barney speaks in his gay-code. A heated discussion begins with Thrush insisting that a lad could not be gay AND play soccer.

I was between two stools: the lad had more mince than Dewhurst Butchers, but he did not look like he was gay.
“Nonsense.” Barney complained, “You know that my Gaydar is better than an Awax. He’s a twink and if he isn’t I’ll show my arse in Woollies window.”

We called him over and started to grill him with some questions. I asked him where he came from.

“I was born in London but reared in Manchester … several times!”

Barney winked at Thrush. Another direct hit.

6 Apr 2003

Bog Icon

I have been in the loo and it is still ankle-deep in water.

Everything is measured in The Call Centre. Everything. There are no exceptions.

All human behaviour is prescribed a unit of productivity on the call-monitoring software: the length of each call (indicated by a ‘phone icon’); the time it takes to wrap-up, or do work after the call (a notepad icon); the length of break time (a coffee cup icon) and ‘comfort breaks’ (a bog icon – complete with a smiling face).

It is therefore possible to construct a spreadsheet determining the bladder and bowel movements of an entire office.

That’s what I have been tasked to do: construct a high level analysis of toilet activity over the past four weeks. Bernard also wants a report by individual, with up dates in running, which can identify trends or patterns of behaviour/ visits over time. I also need to provide a commentary on where people where at the time that the incidents took place.

I wouldn’t say this was a witch-hunt, but Bernard has erected a ducking stool in the middle of the office.

I hope the culprit is not on my team.

5 Apr 2003

Independent Deterrent (Part Two)

Chided, and hurt during the ‘drains up’, Tony reached into his briefcase and revealed a shoebox.

He looked at us with great expectation.

We looked back at him like a pack of dogs that had just been shown a card trick.

“It’s a shoebox.” Bernard said.

“Yes it looks like a shoebox now, but with a bit of work, care and attention, it will become a CCTV camera: stick a washer on the front; a bracket on the side; and stencil “ACME Camera Inc.” on the side. Then, Robert is your auntie’s live-in lover, as they say.” Tony said proudly.

Looking to us, and ignoring Tony, Bernard calmly addressed the meeting: “Right. Well. If no one else can come up with anything better than John Noakes here, then I suggest we move to DefCom One.”

He used the phone to give a prearranged signal.

Within minutes, a man-mountain filled the room with muscle.

“Meet Brian. Brian is now on toilet duty.” Bernard was grinning widely. “Ladies and Gentlemen – it’s Hammer Time.”

You can’t touch this.

1 Apr 2003

Independent Deterrent (Part One)

Bernard called us into his office today. On a management course he attended a couple of years ago, he learnt the expression ‘Drains up’, which he now uses to refer to meetings where he analyses a situation to the nth degree. It has never been so appropriately used as it has with our Bog Blocker situation.

There have been further incidents of the toilets being deliberately blocked, and our commitment to a peaceful resolution was being put under question.

Bernard was at his animated best, stood at the flip chart, jotting ideas down in a flurry of strokes and counter strokes to form a strategic diagram that made perfect sense during the meeting, but an hour later, when I had to prepare the minutes, was completely incomprehensible.

“The cost to result ratio is causing me concern. We have paid over four thousand pounds in call out and plumbing charges last week. It can’t go on. Let’s have a brainstorm …”

“A thought-shower.” Janice politically corrected him.

“A golden-shower.” Call Centre Tony suggested to lighten the mood.

Everyone, including me, looked at him with a hard stare.

“Please.” Janice looked disgusted. “Can I remind you of the ‘Valuing Dignity Policy’.”

“I’m not being funny. But you’re all taking this too seriously. Besides, I have the answer …” Tony said.

(to be continued)