Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Adventures of an Italian in Germany, Part II: Getting to work


I'm in a really jolly mood: yesterday I upped my record for oldest woman ever snogged, she must have been over the age of 45. (I don't know if that should make me happy, but hey, I'm not acting precious and fuck you to the aristocrats!!!!). But anyway, I was telling you guys what work is like here in Germany. So let me reprise my story where I left it: we were saying how our offices had been invaded by flies, and how we had to cope with the garbage, which was almost as bad as Frank’s eccentric sense of dress.

On a side note, though, I also began acquainting myself with the environment of the office. 'So this,' I told myself, 'is where mortals in the West spend their lives.' It was a fascinating ecosystem to be in. I suspected that what I was witnessing in there was not a random collection of individuals, but a very precise balance of personalities which worked towards inducing not the best conditions for work, but, on the contrary, by far the best conditions for slack. Everyone was always producing just enough chat to keep their fingers off the keyboard, but not so much that it would attract the attention of any higher authority. This equilibrium was obtained by a careful assumption of roles (by personality) when a new individual entered the group. For instance, I suspect that a common figure to all offices is what I came to dub the Tragedian. This is an individual of remarkably low intelligence, usually with very few interesting things to say, who complains about absolutely everything. In our case, of course, what with the garbage, the flies, the heat and the organisation of our bosses (with glossaries appearing or disappearing at utter whim and assignments being given and cancelled in the space of a couple of hours), the Tragedian had plenty to wax lyrical about. Our specific Tragedian was Paola, a woman with a nose like one of those potatoes which you see winning prizes at fairs, and a polemical instinct which could suplex Cicero. Not knowing her role, I of course went and sat right next to her. She began her acquaintance by drawing a line between my space on the table and hers like we were a divorced couple, and informing me that I was absolutely forbidden from killing any flies on her side of the table - because, apparently, it 'disgusted' her. How she could possibly prefer to have them festering around and settling on her hair and face is to me a mystery. She was almost more aggravating than the flies themselves.

And in all of this was Frank. He was a pretty incompetent if very good-willing leader, to be honest. I can't fault his generosity and good mind, and my experience would have been mightily less enjoyable if he hadn't been there. Aside from being ugly as fuck, however, he also had the most outrageous sense of dress that this planet or any other has ever witnessed. Well, perhaps the second most outrageous: I once had a Spanish teacher who competed with the guy, coming to class dressed up as a piano (I swear to God I'm not making this up. She was wearing a long black dress with a whole keyboard running down it and musical notes instead of laces on her shoes). I don't know if Frank beat her, but he sure as hell gave her a good run for her money. I personally think you should never wear a suit and a bandana at the same time, but why would you want to compound them with a quasi-phluorescent Spider-man T-shirt under it? Or what about the time he came in dressed in a sky-blue boiler's suit and we thought one of the workers from the thermoelectric complex had mistakenly stumbled into the office?

Then, on the morning of one of the most beautiful days since the fall of the Berlin wall, Paola announced that she was having her boyfriend over for the week and she would not be around at all after work (I'd realised something good was going on around her royal chambers because the gusto and the enthusiasm with which she had spent the whole day complaining had to be seen to be believed). We were free of the witch!

I was so happy I decided it would have been unpardonable not to organize something. So I called up my Italian colleagues and rounded them up for a night out.

Stuff happened there, of course – but once again, this story is getting too long to recount. I promise, the next part is going to be the last, but you'll get it all in Part III!

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