“We are still investigating your complaint, madam, rest assured.” I try not to crack up laughing as Derek makes eye contact. “No, we’re not considering a product recall at present. Have a good day.”
“It’s totally unsafe, it just exploded for no reason whatsoever,” Derek says in a singsong voice. “What was it this time? Left it-”
We are interrupted by a low growl from Simon’s desk, a guttural cry of soul-wrenching frustration. “FUCKING PAPERCLIP!” he ejaculates.
I turn back to Derek. We’re all pissed off at Excel, nothing new. Simon has more of a temper than most of us, and is more easily irritated by that shit, but we’ve all smashed up a few computers when our formulae wouldn’t calculate before. Once, the patronising little fuck from IT ended up with a mouse lodged up his rectum for sneering that sometimes the chart function needed manual axis labelling in that awful supercilious manner of his.
“She left it plugged in,” I tell Derek. He rolls his eyes.
“When are they going to learn? We give them all this advice on how to prevent things from blowing up and it’s still ooh excuse me, I expect you to do something about this, I used my modem for an hour and it exploded.”
“It’s women,” I say. “Always expect us to do something for us…”
“Oi,” pipes up Laura, the token woman on the team.
“Present company excluded.” I give Laura a wink. We’re mates, it’s just banter. She’s the best at handling the hysterical women and we all know it.
The cleaner creaks in; it’s getting late and we’re all tired. It’s still not the end of the shift, though. We work in silence, filling in endless reports of things whiny customers expect us to do something about. Keys tap, and Simon makes noises like a couple of dogs fucking. Before the end of the shift, we’ll see the innards of his PC, I suspect.
Laura answers the phone, politely making soothing noises at someone bitching about how she urgently needs our help because her modem has exploded and it’s killed her cat. I look up to Derek to wink, but something behind him catches my eye.
Simon has leapt out of his seat. He snatches the handle of the hoover off the cleaner, and, with almost superhuman speed, beats her head in with the stand-up Dyson. Blood splatters. It’s all over Simon, it’s flicked on to Derek, it’s all over the fucking walls, and who’s going to clean it when the cleaner is now a messy stain on the carpet?
“What the fuck, Si?” I ask.
He points at his monitor. His shoulders are heaving from the exertion, his face puce in anger. At first, all I see is a pink smear of brain material sliding down it, but then I understand fully. Simon’s conditional formatting has gone to fuck.
The supervisor walks in. “What the fuck, Si?”
“Conditional formatting,” Derek, Laura and I say in unison.
The boss takes off his glasses and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Simon,” he says. “I know just how much of a complete cunt Excel is. I get it. I really do. But the customers keep getting arsey about our conduct, and this is going to be a complete cunt to sort out.”
“Can’t we make it look like an accident?” I suggest. I am reminded of the time Derek got pushed to his limits in the post room. The dickhead clerk just wouldn’t give him his fucking parcel, which Derek needed to continue with his work. In the end, we managed to convince the higher-ups that that dickhead had been so tired of his miserable life he’d ended it all with a letter opener and a franking machine. “She tripped over the wire.”
In our line of work, we’re fairly familiar with the horrible catastrophes that can befall people who don’t adequately follow advice about safety with electronics.
“Could work,” the boss says. “But listen, boys. We’ve got to try and control our tempers. We’re not going to be able use that excuse forever. It’s already a bit hot after Tony blinded that bitch in the canteen who tried to serve him fish fingers.”
A moment of quiet contemplation. We all completely understand what happened to Tony. He was hungry, and missed all the good food because he was stuck on the phone to a customer. He fucking hates fish fingers. What else was he meant to do?
“Whatever. We’ll give it a go,” says our supervisor. “Si, I hope I can cover your arse. Don’t fucking do this again, OK?”
After this harsh dressing down, Simon looks like a deflated balloon with tragic little sad-dog eyes. It’s kind of pathetic, but I sympathise. We’ve all done shit like this before and usually we don’t get chewed out like this. The supervisor leaves, looking pleased with himself. Again, I get where he’s coming from. He’s the one who has to field all the shit.
Derek steps over the bloodied corpse on the floor and pats Simon on the arm.
“It’s OK, mate. You’re tired. Tell you what, you go home and we’ll finish up for you.”
Life comes back into Simon’s eyes. “Thanks.”
“We’re all behind you, mate,” I add.
It’s a tough job, ours, and we get far too much shit when we fuck up. Could you do it?