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Wednesday, February 16, 2005


The Sucky Jobs I Have Had: Pause For Thought

So, let's summarize. My "career" in the 1990s sucked because of the following factors:

-Obnoxious coworkers and managers;
-Being forced to perform various degrading and useless errands;
-Acerebral copying of data from one medium to another;
-Dysfunctional organisations;
-Routes to career advancement blocked;
-Being forced to listen to endless tsunami of drivel from ditzes at neighboring desks;
-Unrealistic deadlines forcing me to work like a coked-up beaver to meet them;
-Utter, senseless futility.

My "professional" life in the 1990s had only one redeeming feature: the fact that I did not have to endure all of these torments at the same time. In my darkest hours-

(And there were some profoundly dark ones. I believe I was clinically depressed throughout my first year at Angus Ogg and my entire time at Changi. I was certainly sullen, listless, self-pitying and generally bad company)-

In my darkest hours I could still console myself with the thought that Things Could Be Worse.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


The Sucky Jobs I Have Had, Part V

Changi Asset Management
The least said about this Gehenna the better.

It made Angus Ogg look efficient. As an example, this twelve-storey corporate monolith had precisely one fax room. All faxes had to be sent and received from this fax room.

(I swear to God I am not making this up. I wish I was).

The fax room communicated with the rest of the building by a team of elderly message boys who used to totter up and down the stairs about four times a day. They went home at three-thirty pm.

Our clients used to send us faxes with messages like "Our agent in Buttfuqistan has been kidnapped by the Robert Fisk Appreciation Society, please send 2,000,000 groats ransom by close of business or he'll be short one head", and we would get them the next morning at ten-thirty, when the messengers' pacemakers kicked in again. This sort of thing happened on a regular basis.

I worked for one of those teams that are very common in financial organisations, that do nothing and do it with great thoroughness. The principal activity seemed to be producing weighty reports that were snail-mailed out to clients who, as far as I could work out, threw them away on receipt. Several hundred of these things had to be produced every month, to ridiculously unfeasible deadlines. If I had to sum up my time at Changi, I'd say frenzied drudgery.

They also used to do fantastically bizarre things like taking a two hour liquid lunch and then saying, "Damn, we haven't finished our reports. We'll have to work the weekend again".

When I worked at Changi I could not imagine that a more pathetic, humiliating, dispriting and utterly worthless hellhole could possibly exist. When I found another job at the beginning of 2000 I was sure that there was nowhere to go but up.


The Sucky Jobs I Have Had, Part IV

Morgan Stanley
Actually, this didn't suck. I'm proud to have worked there (which is why I'm using the real name of the firm, rather than a thinly disguished nom de clef like all the other Sucky Employers).

There were only two problems with Stanley.

One, in order to get a well-paid job you pretty much had to join the Marine Corps. Pretty much all the directors were Marines. (And the Corps wouldn't have an unorganised grab-astic piece of amphibioid shit like me, I'm sorry to say).

And the other problem was that I had to sit next to the Secretary From Hell who had some kind of compulsive disorder that meant she had to spend hours on the phone describing every single facet of her, and her children's, and her extended family's, life. Imagine the Daily Bleat without the humour, without the satire, with Gnat replaced by two fantastically stupid and banal brats, and two hours long. Every day. Right next to your ear. Loud.

Other than that, it was a good place to work.


The Sucky Jobs I Have Had, Part III

Angus Ogg Bank
Even today, I find it hard to believe I pissed away nearly two years in this profoundly dysfunctional institution. They were famed across London's financial district as the bank that employed people who had no business being employed in banking. Among other quirks, they paid a bagpiper in full Highland dress to play the Last Post at six pm every evening. Also, anyone caught riding in the lift without wearing his jacket was fired on the spot. I'd say the only redeeming feature of Angus Ogg was the people. I'm still friends with some of my co-workers from those days.

The managers, however, were all assholes, except one, who was a moonbat instead.

During my tenure at Angus Ogg, Princess Di smacked into a Parisian underpass and became Princess Di-ed. And there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth among the servile regophiles that infest London. The day after Diana got mashed into pulp, this moonbat manager came to me with tears in his eyes and said, "xj, you're clever, explain it to me: you go all your life believing in God and then something like this happens. How is this possible?"

Just so we're clear: this wasn't some overpromoted kid. This was a mature man, a father of children, an executive of a large corporation. He had presumably heard about the genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia and Stalin's gulags and the whole two world wars thing, and probably at some point somebody had brought up the fact that there were these guys called the Nazis that had murdered, oh, six, seven million people in cold blood, and yet the only thing that had ever caused this moonbat to doubt his faith in a benevolent God was a car wreck involving a dumb, useless ditz whose only achievement in life was to marry a big-eared hippy who had the hots for another woman, cheat on him with an even bigger loser than Prince Jug-Ears, and give birth to a dork with a swastika fetish.

Diana? To coin a phrase, "Screw her".


The Sucky Jobs I Have Had, Part II

Scaife Trust
I spent three weeks in this appalling institution. My job consisted almost exclusively of copying numbers from one piece of paper to another.

In pencil.


The Sucky Jobs I Have Had, Part I

Whitehall Trust
Straight out of college, I got a job with the investment arm of a commercial bank that had delusions of Goldman Sachs. The environment could be described as Boiler Room meets Full Metal Jacket. (I was Gomer Pyle, of course).

Supposedly, I was being trained to become a Big Swinging Dick; in actual fact I was a sort of gofer-cum-frat-pledge for whatever nonsense the bank's traders could dream up. One incident springs to mind. The boss-fella had decided, for some reason, that it was critical to the success of his global currency options trading desk that he find out precisely when King Charles I was executed. Of course, finding out this vital piece of business information was my job, because everything was.

Now, this was in the mid-90s, pre-Google and practically pre-Internet. If you wanted to find out information back in those days, you had to phone people like some kind of Neanderthal. So I phoned up the history departments of a couple universities that owed me favours, but I couldn't dig up anyone whose area of study was "Incompetent and Vainglorious 17th Century Monarchs, Capping Thereof". I told this to the boss-fella, who by the way was a stereotypical Yorkshireman, whom I'll call Byeck. The following dialogue ensued:

BYECK: Bah! Useless, xj! Try the King Charles Society!
xj: Is there a King Charles Society?
BYECK: There must be! Ask directory enquiries!

So I called up "directory enquiries", that is to say the phone information service, and they gave me a number...

VOICE ON PHONE: Hello, King Charles.
xj: Hello, could you tell me when King Charles was executed?
VOICE ON PHONE: Haven't a clue mate, this is the King Charles public house.

That was the sort of thing I did for a living in my first job.

There was also the matter of the hookers.

On my very first day, Byeck slapped a phone number down in front of me and told me, "xj, phone up this number and book yourself a massage."

My first thought was Now this is what I call a sign-on bonus. My second thought was, Wait a minute, this will turn out to be the CEO's daughter, won't it?

But I called up the number and sure enough, I got a hooker. She, ah, read me the menu. I did not in fact book a "massage": calls on trading floors are recorded and I had some vague notion that it might be used in evidence against me.

(It was. Someone got the tape of the call and played it on the PA system. Glad I didn't ask for anything Wonkette...).

It turned out that Byeck suspected the woman living in the apartment above him of being a hooker, and had got her number somehow. Then he had decided that, rather than cut into his busy schedule of... whatever, he was going to get the newbie to do it.

He told me he wasn't surprised that the woman had turned out to be a hooker because only three types of people could afford to live in central London: foreign exchange traders (like him), libel lawyers, and prostitutes.

Y'know, if a young person were to come to me for career advice, I think I'd have to plump for prostitution, as I suspect it would be significantly less psychologically damaging than foreign exchange trading. (Of course, nobody with any morals what so ever would become an, excuse the expression, libel lawyer).

As for the other traders, they were almost all as big or bigger assholes than the boss-fella. One threatened to fire me when he didn't like the cup of tea I brought him from the tea shop across the street. ("That's harsh", commented Byeck. "Just suspend him for a few weeks without pay"). It was something of a relief when the failure of the European currency system to collapse on schedule convinced the bank's executives to downsize the foreign exchange department, and me with it.

Update: Speaking of hookers, I see that Belle is posting again. The Curse of xj has been lifted!?!?

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