Posted by: Gregoryno6 | May 6, 2013

The FI and the Righteous Exit, Part One.

I’ve never been particularly ambitious in my working life. Deciding early that climbing corporate ladders did not appeal, I have opted instead to take whatever available work kept me fed and sheltered and clothed, and left me free to pursue my own interests outside of business hours. This approach to employment isn’t without its share of risk. Sometimes, I’ve come to realise, I landed the job simply because rival applicants – either more perceptive or more picky – let me have it. When the man said ‘All those interested step forward’, everyone except myself took a step back.

May 7 2013 marks a special anniversary for me. Ten years ago I committed an act of workplace liberation.

I’ve walked out on employers before and since. But this particular departure was an event in itself. There is a degree of vindictiveness in my satisfaction as I mark the day. I admit that. Under the circumstances I excuse myself that failing.

‘The situation is little short of intolerable,’ the renowned Burroughs once intoned. By the time of my exit I’d left Intolerable well behind. There were no signs on that nasty stretch of road; some highways are navigated only with senses and intuitions. Subconsciously I had known it for a while. The border, though unmarked, had definitely been crossed: goodbye, Intolerable. Hello, Torment of Frustration.

Already I suspect some readers are asking the inevitable questions. What stopped you from leaving sooner? Why did you persist in a situation that clearly made you unhappy? These are common questions, and the answers usually seem feeble. They come down to the fundamental motivation of fear. That moment when the cons are finally and irretrievably seen to outweigh the pros can be postponed for decades if one keeps one’s head at the right angle – at least, that’s what I’ve heard. I’ve never managed it for more than a couple of years.

The cons normally centre around the people I’m working with. My experience of life has brought me into contact with people of diverse temperaments and backgrounds. Most of my rough edges have been worn smooth. Some people however grind those smooth edges back to roughness. Such were my employers ten years ago – a married couple who owned a small business. I point the finger at both, since the wife was the paymistress and occasionally had to be reminded that payday was yesterday. But the male of the partnership was far and away the more aggravating. My dislike of that man remains strong today – so strong that even in the privacy of my own mind I will not use his name. Until my dying day he is, and will remain, The Fucking Imbecile.

I was coming off an extended holiday in 2001 when I joined FI and his wife in their enterprise. I applied for an advertised position and it was mine within the space of eight hours – as noted earlier, alternative candidates had not hesitated to excuse themselves. FI had three critical weaknesses. The first, which I discovered quickly, was an unhealthy love for the sound of his own voice. The business had an office at the rear of the premises for FI, Mrs FI, and the fourth staff member (when we had one). I had a desk there too, for those times when I was not working in the storeroom or out on a delivery run. FI was usually the first to pick up the phone, and his capacity for verbiage was prodigious. I never saw it happen, but I believe it quite possible that FI could have started a phone conversation at 8:30 and kept it going all day.

The pair of them were usually still working when I left at 5. A rather dirty look from FI became standard accompaniment to my leaving. It occurred to me to suggest he park an egg timer next to his phone.

A champion jaw-flapper himself, FI had only respect for anyone who could outtalk him. Shysters were drawn to him like seagulls to a half-eaten hamburger. FI’s business coach would drop in from time to time. This man could gab without pausing for an hour at a stretch. The coach was a shameless shonk who claimed other people’s work as his own. Most of his motivating literature was copied without acknowledgement from original sources; his company logo bore a very close resemblance to another firm’s. They must have cottoned on to him, or maybe they were another of his clients, but the coach’s emblem was de-glamourised suddenly and without explanation. It was reduced from golden initials with a metallic shine to a plain black font. For a man who had a story to top every story around him, the coach stayed strangely silent about that. FI eventually acknowledged that the coach was full of it. But not before he’d paid out some hefty consulting fees.

FI was a sucker for sure things and get rich quick, results guaranteed scams. He never put the company into ruinous debt, but whatever rewards he did reap were small and fleeting. I was treated to the Gospel of Skybiz. There was a sales rep with the firm at this time; this was just a few months after I’d joined. FI laid the routine on both of us and said ‘How can you pass up a deal like this?’ Quite easily, I replied. What you’ve just described is a pyramid scheme. The rep was more cautious and agreed to throw in a few dollars.

FI became a Skybiz evangelist. Unsuspecting customers – usually first timers – would suddenly be asked: ‘Have you got a few moments to listen to a business proposition?’ I was gently mocked with a comment like ‘Greg doesn’t have to stay and listen – he’s heard it all before.’ Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there goes the fool who turned down a chance to gain incredible riches. Won’t HE look silly, eh? The innocent shoppers, thus trapped, would bolt at the earliest decent opportunity. They were never seen again on the premises.

Flyers were printed up, gorgeous rainbow invitations for me to add to every parcel that went out. I was meanwhile doing some research online – my first exercise as an internet detective, actually – and found ‘Skybiz’ being tagged repeatedly as a scam. When the ACCC moved on the firm I mentioned it to the sales rep. He said I should do the right thing, and show it to FI.

The beautiful flyers went into the bin.


(The story concludes with Part Two, tomorrow…)

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