The Wisdom of Work Placements

By Michael Bloor

(first published in Free Flash Fiction, 24th of August, 2022)

I read somewhere that cats live in the ‘eternal present,’ which is why they never express gratitude, only pleasure. This strikes me as a pretty good life-principle: okay, gratitude goes out the window, but we could also say goodbye to regret, disappointment, guilt, remorse, etc. – a lot of heart-ache.

I was reminded of the Eternal Present Principle when young Billy was telling me about his work-placement experiences at Grantchester Engineering (‘Supplying Solenoid Solutions’). The company not only had him spending time in the different engineering departments, but also in a few back offices, like the Accounts Department.

Billy had been placed in one of those back offices (which had better be nameless) just before Christmas. It was an open-plan design – a potentially annoying arrangement if a colleague has bad work habits. In this particular office, there was an elderly gentleman who used to mutter curses to himself as he worked. A recurrent curse apparently involved the primary school playing field that backed onto his garden: ‘All that fuckin’ money and never a fuckin’ foot set on it. Fuckin’ waste of fuckin’ council tax…’ You get the picture.

On the Monday of Billy’s last week of placement, the old guy seemed particularly agitated, continually muttering, ‘It’s a fuckin’ fiddle. What a fuckin’ nerve. A complete fuckin’ fiddle…’

Less accustomed, or less accommodated, to this near-constant stream of obscene complaints than his fellow office-workers, Billy eventually asked the gentleman what had upset him. It seemed that the guy had taken his grand-daughter to see Santa Claus at the local department store:

‘That fuckin’ Santa Claus Lucky Dip at fuckin’ Williams & MacIntosh – you pay a quid and only get fuckin’ ten pence worth of fuckin’ goods out of it.’

Billy tells me he’s decided against a future job working in offices.

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