A whole week goes by in its usual uneventful drone before I’m called into a meeting by Evelyn. Since that night, not a word has been said between us but given we were hardly best friends it’s not exactly a surprise. The fact we’re having the meeting in the large boardroom indicates what she has to say must hold some gravity. Otherwise, she would have held it in one of the small glass meeting rooms just off the floor. I walk in and take my place beside Evelyn at the top of a vast marble and oak table. She continues to plow through some files ignoring my presence, so I open up a bottled water on the table in an attempt to cut through the tension. As the water flows into the glass she shifts her attention, faking surprise at my arrival.
“Hi Anthony, sorry I didn’t see you there, I got a little lost in my work.”
“It’s no problem at all Evelyn. I only arrived in myself. So what is it you want to talk to me about?”
“Anthony, as you know you’ve been an integral part of the team since you joined and have really immersed yourself seamlessly into the job. Well, all your hard work has not gone unnoticed by either myself or senior management, and as a result, you have been fast-tracked for a secondment to join a project team.”
“Yes Laura’s currently working on a project in conjunction with core operations to create a straight-through-processing environment in an attempt to dramatically decrease protocol, duplication, and paper consumption.”
“But Evelyn, I don’t know anything about, or have experience in any of those fields.”
“Yes, I know Anthony, but Laura asked for you personally, and assured me you will be given all the necessary training. The team has quite strict deadlines and needs all hands on deck in order to ensure completion. This could be a really big move for you.”
“And if I don’t like it?”
“That’s no problem at all, as I said it’s only a twelve-week secondment and your job will be still there waiting for you. This could be a great career fast track and just the boost you deserve.”
“Okay Evelyn, I’ll give it a shot. Thank you. So when do I start?”
“Whoa, that’s very quick, what about covering off my work?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything, and make sure it’s all boxed off with Ludovico.”
The meeting is brought to a close when I finally make eye contact with Evelyn, who shuffles nervously, and I thank her for the opportunity. I open the door and we both head our separate ways.
I immediately head over to Ludovico to break the good news to him. This’ll probably kill the poor ginger twat. Ever since he joined the company he’s whored himself out to everyone with a title. He’d fuck the college work experience student if he thought it’d get him an office.
He’s showing off his latest pair of designer sunglasses to Andrea. She smiles weakly, walking away, and judging by her reaction she’s thinking the exact same thing as me – sunglasses, February, Ireland.
I walk up to him but he doesn’t even notice me as he’s lost in his own vanity.
“Nice glasses,” I say.
“D&G’s finest. Not that you’d know anything about style or class, you filthy slut.” He says.
“You’re certainly right there Ludo, although you do realize it’s February and lashing rain outside? The only sun you’re likely to see in the coming weeks is the British tabloid.”
“So, any craic? What did Evebot want you for in the end?”
I smile and give him a wink.
“Yeah well, you were gone far too long for that, and there’s no way anyone would ever come back to you for seconds.”
“What about Joanne?”
“Ha! Joanne! As if that’s a benchmark to be proud of. She probably cuts herself with a razor blade just to feel alive.” The very mention of her name makes me flinch. All week she’s continuously bombarded me with love spam.
“No, I’ve actually been headhunted by another department,” I say.
“You, headhunted!” He sneers.
“Yep, they’re looking for someone with intelligence, strong communication, and leadership qualities, which mean I was the only possible candidate.”
“Now Ludovico, that’s no way to speak to your future boss.” I let that one settle with him a while as I can see he’s particularly flustered.
“So when do you start?”
“But we’re fuckin’ snowed under as it is, how am I meant to…”
Before he has a chance to finish, I interrupt.
“Don’t worry Ludo, Evelyn assured me that everything will be boxed off and that she will liaise closely with you throughout the coming weeks.”
Smiling, I take this as my cue to leave.
Later on that afternoon I head over to the project team in order to introduce myself to Laura. I know most of the faces around the department and some of the names already. Laura’s in her glass office just off the main project team floor. The door is open so I walk straight in without realizing that she’s in the middle of a telephone conversation. I’m about to leave when she catches my eye, and motions for me to sit down in a chair to the left of her desk. I take this opportunity to give her the once over while she’s preoccupied by the phone.
She’s quite attractive, but like most women, once they’ve made it she keeps her beauty understated and minimal. Her long blonde hair is tied back and her cleavage hidden behind a smart blouse and blazer. Her make up is subtle and lipstick a mere finishing touch on what is none the less a rather attractive face. My trance-like state is disrupted by the sharp sound of the phone clicking down as she hangs up.
“Hello, and how can I help you?” She asks.
“Hi Laura, I just came over to touch base.” I can tell by the blank look on her face she has no idea who I am.
“Anthony Thompson, from Evelyn Jenning’s team,” I add in order to save us both the embarrassment.
“Apologies Anthony, I wasn’t expecting you so soon.”
“That’s no problem Laura. Anyway, I was really touching base to establish my role on the team, and training etc…”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that at all Anthony. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes to run through what we need you to do. To be honest with you it’s pretty much laborious monkey work. We wouldn’t usually take on people with as much experience as yourself, but when I brought it up at the last meeting Evelyn said that things were pretty quiet around your way and that she could spare you for a few weeks.”
Evelyn you sneaky rat fuck.
“Sure Laura, that’s no problem at all.”
“Great, well just link in with Martin – he’s at the desk directly to the left of my office – and he’ll run through things with you.”
“Great Laura, thank you.”
I swiftly leave her office and move towards Martin’s desk, briefly pausing to take stock and compose myself. I know of Martin, and briefly exchange conversation templates with him from time to time in lunch queues or lifts. He’s a tall man in stature but never conveys this in his stance, which is always slumped. He generally walks around with his head down, eyes fixed to the floor, but if I was here as long as him I probably would too. Judging by his salt and pepper hair and grey completion he’s at least forty-five, although these places do have a tendency to age a person well beyond their years. I can also tell by his title that he’s either had a chequered past or isn’t quite up to the task, as he’s worked in the company before it set-up base in the IFSC, which means he’s here at least ten years. His official title is “Project team support analyst” another ten-a-penny title made up to lull staff into a fall sense of empowerment. If he was even a quarter as good at his job as he thinks he is then by sheer default he’d have made at the very least senior management by now.
After a brief chat, he runs me through what exactly the team does. It’s nothing more than an over-elaborate waffle for thirty minutes which Evelyn managed to condense down to a single line, but then I guess he has to justify his title. Trades come in, three different Swift confirmations are received, and each one has to be keyed, kept and filed. Essentially this project reduces three confirmations down to one, making the process more automated – dramatically reducing paper usage. My task is to collect the three confirmations, attach them together, and make sure they match off what is now automatically feeding into the system. I’ll give Evebot her dues. This task is definitely a fast track programme, albeit a fast track programme to nowhere.
Once Martin finishes his introduction he hands me three small piles of paper to sort out. I dutifully oblige completing the task in little over fifteen minutes. I head over to Martin to ask for more and am informed that it’s all he has so far but that he’ll throw anything my way as soon as it comes in.
I don’t even have a computer set up over this side yet to take refuge in. The rest of the afternoon drags by in a tediously draining manner. I ruffle a few pages anytime I feel someone is looking at me out of embarrassment at my idle state. I take tea breaks, water breaks, and even chill outs in the toilet to try and pass the day but every time I head back to my desk it’s still paperless. Eventually, the day draws to a close and with it possibly the longest three-and-a-half hours of my life.