sic transit gloria mundi mensariorum (in long and tedious detail)

When Mood Music
2007-04-29 19:50:00 contemplative It’s In Our Hands (Live in Köln) – Björk

EDIT This entry has been hanging around for a while but only today (11th May) could the ghastly truth be revealed.

This entry is probably of no interest to anyone apart from me but this is my blog about my life and you are welcome to read and/or comment if you wish.

I had promised myself that I wouldn’t be late on my final day, despite having many things to do that morning, needing to go shopping at Costorphine’s Tesco Extra and being congenitally almost incapable of work-punctuality. So leaving the flat after 3pm was only being true to myself and the zeroth law.*
*There are two sorts of data: that which is backed up and that which is not lost yet. (I’m not sure of the true name of this law but I saw it on an IBM bag once and it has been engraved on my cyber-heart ever since.)

Panic at the bus-stop when I see that there’s not a 12 (straight-to-Tesco) bus due for at least 12 minutes but a 26 bus (which stops 3 minutes’ run from the store entrance) comes soon enough. Run in, can’t find the aisle in which the items I need should be, ask assistant who provides yet more evidence that my memory is more faulty that I would like, queue at the 10-items-or-less checkout and hurl mental daggers at the people in the queue (a) for taking so long (b) for having the temerity to exist at all.

Run out, thinking evil thoughts about my inability to stick to sane schedules, towards bus-stop. On the way, I spy a taxi with its ‘I’m free’ light on in the queue for the roundabout at the car-park exit but don’t have the nerve to try to hail it. Get to my bus-stop: if the timetable bears any relationship to reality, I’ll just have time to take the next 12 bus, jump off at Lightning Roundabout (at the start of South Gyle Crescent) and immediately jump on a 22 bus to take me to my work’s entrance.

Of course, the 2 minutes I wait for the next 12 bus are filled with fear and self-loathing, the 22 bus doesn’t materialise the way I want but somehow I’m at my work with 30 seconds to spare. Even better, the security guard who has derided my lack of punctuality on days I deserve this, and has now taken to deriding me when I’m on time or early, isn’t on duty and so I’m not forced to wait agonising seconds while the comptrollers of the turnstile and two security doors make me even later. (I’m convinced they do this deliberately.)

At my desk, I find a wee envelope containing a ‘fare-thee-well’ card and a leaving present: a packet of Golden Virginia. I’m so touched. I was only a temp and was in this post for less than 4 months. Work itself is fine: screening bundles of cheques for staples and other extraneous material and keying data that the cheque-sorter can’t read presents no unusual challenges. However, there is a incident that I might have recognised as a harbinger of doom: the PC across from me appears to run very slowly, taking 5 minutes to boot the data-entry and cheque-balancing* software. The staff-member attempting to use this PC force-quits the software and moves to another terminal.
*For cheques received up to 7·30pm, if there is a discrepancy between the sum of the cheques and the associated credit, we have to find and correct any mis-read or mis-keyed data. If all the data is entered correctly, we have to complete a standard letter to the relevant branch telling them that they or the customer had made a mistake. I’ve suggested that the bank uses a standard email to save a lot of paper or time. It shouldn’t be too hard to attach the images of the cheques with which we work, although I’d lay money on the branches then printing these images before doing whatever else they need.)

By 7pm, it’s becoming clear that the deliveries from branches are running late and so we occasionally twiddle our thumbs while waiting for more cheques to screen or data to enter. I feel the anxiety rising in my supervisor, team leader and shift manager that we’ll not have this run complete for its 8·30 deadline. I offer to delay my break until the work is complete and we just make the deadline, or so we think. It appears that when the staff-member using the afore-mentioned recalcitrant PC force-quitted the check-balancing software, the items she had just balanced got stuck in the bank’s cyberspace. My team-leader puts in a call to ask the software engineers to rescue these items, another to the mainframe to say we’ve not quite beaten the deadline and reports the news to our shift supervisor. By now I’m twitching from nicotine-withdrawal, hunger and wrist-cramp so I escape for my break, hoping that the huge delivery of Glaswegian and Edinburgh business that arrives around 9pm is late enough that I don’t leave other collegues in the lurch while I’m munching.

When I return from my break, I find that there’s been yet another IT issue, possibly related to the earlier one. The whole system is down and so we can only screen the cheques. Normally, cheques arrive until just after 10pm, and despite data-entry going on continuously throughout the shift, there’s up to 1000* data-items to enter manually, some wrapping up** and final transmission to the bank’s mainframe left to the back-shift supervisor, team leader and shift manager and the few temps and staff-members who work past 11·30. Today we don’t start data entry until well after 10pm. I dislike the thought of leaving the backlog to colleagues with whom I’ve enjoyed working and there’s no nightshift (who clear cheques for another bank that hires this bank’s services but can also help with any overspill we have) so I offer to stay on to help clear it.
*more on Mondays and many more the day after a bank holiday
**including packaging cheques that have passed though our system and hence been credited to their payees’ accounts for delivery to the payers’ banks and hence debiting from the payers’ accounts. The hand-over occurs in Milton Keynes. I understand that the banks usually act on the numerical and image data we and our counteparts in other banks send to each other after the ‘out-clearing’ processes which have provided my living since early January. I can’t understand why the banks can’t store each other’s cheques and send the physical items to the payers’ banks only if they are needed. The transport of cheques seems a little ecologically-unsound and so I was pleased to note yesterday that Boots (in South Gyle) no longer accepts cheques.

So after phoning to ask my hostess if she minds me coming in even later than usual (it’s a small flat and I fear disturbing her), we say goodnight to the collegues who finish at 11·30 (and there are many friendly partings for me), two staff-members, a supervisor, our team leader and our shift manager settle into keying data. There’s over 6000 items to key. Foul vending-machine tea and occasional whoops from me as we clear individual runs keep us going until 1·05 am when I key my last datum (£2·56) and it’s all done. We don’t have to prepare cheques for transport so I chat briefly with my team-leader. We discover, thanks to my Aussie Floyd t-shirt, a mutual love of Pink Floyd and then it’s time to go.

The one colleague who is leaving now goes nowhere near my current domicile so I start walking. I leave the bank at 1·23am and get to Lightning Roundabout just in time to miss a night-bus. Nothing daunted, I follow the route of the N22 along Broomhouse Drive. Some of the denizens are sat on a wall across the road from me but doing nothing anti-social, not even drinking. A little further on, a police-car pulls up to me and the police-person asks me whether I’m OK. A little un-nerved, I tell him I’m fine and prepare to tell him that I’m on my way home after working late but he tells me that he’s received a report of someone on this road being covered in blood. ‘Obviously that’s not you,’ he concludes. I wish him luck and he drives away. A little further on, I pass a bus-shelter which has had its perspex crazed and shattered but there’s no sign of blood and I walk on.

Just as I reach Stenhouse Drive (around 2am), I hear a night-bus approaching behind me. I run back towards the bus-stop I’ve just passed, flagging the driver. He stops just by me and the penultimate part of my journey (to the junction of Westfield Road and West Approach Road) takes about 5 minutes and costs me £1·50. I walk past the brooding hulk of Murrayfield Stadium to the flat and wind down with LJ and a can of Irn Bru. I’m sad to miss my many pleasant colleagues, happy that I’ve been useful despite nearly jamming a lift, pleased that several of my colleagues asked me to come back if I can and a little nervous about the future.

The next 4 months are sorted, so long as I do nothing stupid, but after that? Up to me to work hard, widen my skill-set and then rely on there being enough demand for what I offer to the Scottish publishing world. I know I don’t really want to return to the traditional 9-to-5, that I love the variety of moving from challenge to challenge and the relatively unscheduled existence and perpetual emotional roller-coaster that freelancing will entail but I’m not sure whether I can rely on it to provide income and enough stability for me, let alone anyone else who might tread in my life.

Enough! Huge thanks to

  • Antonio, Eshwara, Jim, Jennifer, Kalpanna, Martin, Michael, Reagan, Stephen, Santosh, Shri and Venkatesh (my fellow temps)
  • Ann of the wicked sense of humour (I’m sorry I took so long to see it for what it was), Beverley, Carolyn (for inadvertently reminding me that I’m not all that bad), ‘wee’ Elaine, ‘tall’ Elaine, ‘runner’ Elizabeth, ‘west-coast’ Elizabeth, Jean, Joan, Kelly H, Kelly of the interesting lanyard, Laura, Lesley, Liz, Lorraine, Lynne, Madhavi, Margaret, Maureen, Rosalind, Rose, ‘early’ Sandra, ‘late’ Sandra and Sheila (staff members: hope I’ve not forgotten anyone)
  • Lesley, Kathleen, and Sheila (supervisors)
  • Kevin and Ian (team leader and shift manager)

for putting up with my sense of numour, lift incidents, occasional trolley-crashes and lapses in screening and keying. Look out May – here I come!

EDIT For all the extra work that night, I took home an extra £4·31!


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