The Voice Of Reason
During the continued late nights in the deserted office and the early morning taxis home through the near empty, shadowy streets of London, I formed a plan. I ran it by my wife, Michelle, for a sense check. Late at night, when only Swithers and I were in the office, I would go into his room and punch his face in. Simple, but effective. In my sleep-deprived state, I was pretty happy with that. Michelle told me it was a stupid idea, so I thought about it some more. She was right, I would lose my job. After a few more late nights, I told her about my new, improved plan. I would wait for Swithers outside the office one night, put on a balaclava and then cosh the fucker’s knees in. Taaa-Daaarrrrrr!! Now that was much more sophisticated and I had a decent chance of not getting caught. Michelle said I should get another job and resign.
I felt trapped and wanted to walk out. Convincing myself I would get through it somehow, I decided to stick out and see what happened. Backing down was not me. Then I received a call from an international law firm called StockThorn which I had interviewed with the previous summer. They invited me to an interview as an opening had arisen for a senior lawyer. I went to a few interviews and received an offer. The salary was marginally more than I was already on and I would be getting away from Jemunt.
I was approaching twelve weeks into the all-nighters, but wanted to leave it a bit longer before resigning. Swithers and Thwaytes increased their efforts to break me and I responded by appearing to grow happier by the day. I was told there was so much to do one night I would not be able to go home. I smiled and thanked them for the great quality work. Over this final period, I averaged ninety chargeable hours a week, which meant I was in the office even longer. It was time to go.
On the morning of my resignation, there were four weeks of timesheets I never put into their system. I strolled happily into work wearing a Parachute Regiment tie, which I wear for composed confrontations. I stood outside the door with a nameplate stating ‘Head of Department – M.Minge.’ I knocked, entered, closed her door and rearranged the chair in front of the desk. An underwhelming woman with a surprised look received my resignation letter. I was just going to walk away, but Michelle convinced me to explain why I was resigning.
“Oh, I’ve been meaning to speak to you,” she remarked.
“It hasn’t worked out for me here, Mrs Minge,” I began.
“I prefer Martha…”
“Whatever. I want to make my reasons for leaving clear.”
“Well, I’ve been speaking with the other partners and we’re not at all sure about you. The clients seem to like you,” she admitted, “but we just don’t get it…”
“Mrs Minge, I’m leaving because of the disgusting treatment I’ve put up with here. But it’s not just that…”
She raised her voice. “Really!? Now listen to me…”
“NO,” I growled, “I’ve done that for long enough. Shut the fuck up and listen for once. It’s not normal. You lot can’t just bully people and think it’s okay. This place is a dysfunctional shit-show…”
I’ll save the extended rant, but it took me a whole hour to explain the spiteful and unlawful working practices at Jemunt. At the end of which I was just met with a glib response.
“This has happened before and I intend to look into it. I appreciate your honesty,” Mrs Minge responded in a brief moment of candour, shifting uneasily in her chair.
I got up and walked out of her office, turning past the nauseating smell of stagnant smoke and aftershave to take the lift down. I exited the offices of Jemunt and its toxic culture for the last time. If times ever get hard in the workplace, I remind myself: At least I’m not working for those characterless tools anymore. At the end of the day, they were just corporate psychopaths. Unscrupulous, superficial, without empathy and a lack any regret for the harm they cause. As far as I was concerned, the horrendous situation I found myself in at Jemunt was personal. It was a battle of attrition. They bullied me in a sustained effort to bring me down. I may have lost two stones in weight there, but I used the experience to make my resolve stronger.
Comeuppance doesn’t always happen but, about a year after I left Jemunt, I was walking along Bishopsgate, minding my own business. The pavement was crowded and it was a nice, sunny day. But something felt odd. I had a sense someone was watching me and looked around. To my right, I saw Thwaytes walking along and staring with intent. Within a few metres, he changed direction toward me. He was not his corridors of power within the confines of Jemunt where he could give people a bad day for his own amusement. This was real. As we were about to collide, I turned and walked directly at him. Visibly shocked, Thwaytes tried to move aside and he fell past my right shoulder. I never touched him, but leant in and said “Fuck off, cunt” as he went down. He hit the pavement unceremoniously. That little man’s physical presence in the street was much smaller than his ego in the office. Like all bullies, he was just a coward. I called my wife just after it happened, told her and laughed. And then I laughed again. To be honest, I’m still smiling now.