Tag Archives: glasgow

A Bit of the Ol’ Feng Shoo-ee, like

The fuckin' hoose.

The fuckin’ hoose.

* Warning, written entirely in Scots.  For a brief explanation of this project please click here.

Me and big Debs pure hud it out the other day. Jesus man. Like throwin’ fuckin fire baws at wan another. I hud tae get hur telt tae calm doon else some cunt wid ring the polis, then that’d be me, parole gubbed and an away fir the wee man’s Christmas again. Anyway, the dippit wee coo was tryin’ tae tell me that the hoose needed fixin’, and than everyhin was aw in the wrang order an that. I takes this as a personal dig like, given that this cunt wis the cunt that hoisted aw the fuckin’ furniture in.

‘We need a change’ she says, ‘Ah’ve been thinkin’ that we’ve goat fuck all ay that Feng shoo-ee like,’ she says.

Well, Christ in a fuckin’ Cosworth. Feng Shoo-ee she says!? We live in fuckin’ Kirky, nae Bay-jing like.

I says, ‘You’re fuckin’ wrang love, take a wee peep in the bin, I had Feng Shoo-ee fried rice a couple a nights ago! Fuckin’ magic by the way!’

She goes, ‘Ho you! That’s fuckin’ racist, and goes well against ma new frame ah mind by the way. I’m a changed woman.’

Fuckin’ changed woman she says?! She thinks I think she doesnae take a pish in the shower. I know hur inside fuckin’ oot. And she’s packed full a shite.

‘Whit fuckin’ programs have you bin watchin’? Givin’ it aww that fuckin’ feng shoo-ee shite.’

‘Actually ah went tae see a spiritualist yesterday, and he telt that ma chi was aw gammy an aff tae fuck, an that it was probably on account ay the sofa bein’ in the rang place or sumthin.’

Ah wis fuckin’ speechless. Ah just, ah didnae know wit tae say. Here’s me just tryin’ tae watch a bit a Jeremy Kyle and she’s tellin’ me I need swap the TV wi the fridge and drag the fuckin’ bed oot ontae the landin’. No chance.

‘So who was this fuckin’ spiritualist then?’

‘You don’t know him.’

‘How don’t ah know him?’

‘Coz he’s a pal ah Leslie-Ann’s.’

‘Leslie-Ann aye? You ridin’ him?’

‘Ah um tae fuck ya cheeky basturt!’

‘Awright awright! Sorry love, just, I wis just fuckin’ askin’! Awright? So, where am I stickin’ the fuckin’ couch then?’

She looked aroon the room and I knew she hadnae a fuckin’ clue whit she was bangin’ oan about. You kin fuck off wi your fuckin’ chinky feng shoo-ee shite. This is fuckin’ Scotland. In this country the couch faces the telly, and everyhin’ else just gets fuckin’ dumped somewhere aroon it.

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Exemption – Part Two

We sat for about an hour that day. That was about as much as I could handle. He had the curtains drawn in the flat. The smoke sat thick, hovering above our heads. The light in the corner of the room gave a warm little glow.

“So this job. You selling stuff?” he asked after a long period of silence. He didn’t look away from the TV as he asked me. There was something dire on. It was that lull before the kids TV started.

“Nah, customer service. Fixing people’s problems.” I kept looking at the Bob Marley poster above his head.

“Right. Sounds shit man.”

“Yup, but I’m skint. So I need to work more.”

“Can’t you get something doing…eh…” he squinted at the crack in the curtains, at the light seeping through, “in….what did you study again?”

“Chemical Engineering” I said.

“Yeah, that’s it. Can’t you do something involving chemicals?”

“There’s nothing out there brother. Just call centers and debt collectors.”

He pulled his knees up to his chest and shook his head.

“Fuck that.”

“Yeah man, fuck bein’ a debt collector. Knowing my luck I’d get sent round to my own house!”

He smiled and laughed a little. He shook his head.

“Education, education, education eh?” he said, giving me a wink.

“Yeah.”

“Fucking Blair mate. The country’s fucked. You go to high school. You go to uni. You get the degree. And now what? A Chemical Engineer working in a fucking call center. They fucked you mate” He passed the joint back to me.

I looked at him. He was still wearing his pajamas. It was 2.40 in the afternoon. The Bob Marley poster over his head read ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ . I wondered if they fucked him too. It didn’t seem like it. I didn’t have an Xbox. I didn’t have ketchup.

“Nah I’m alright man.”

He shrugged and sat back with the rest of the joint. I saw a little smile come over his face as he put the joint back up to his lips. We sat in silence for a minute or so, the TV buzzing in the background.

“So how much are you after?” he asked me, dropping the last of the joint into the cup of moldy tea.

“Just a half ounce this time” I said, wishing I had just made this a social call. Aye right. A social call to the Mood Hoover. That would be right.

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Exemption – Part One

“I have another interview tomorrow” I said to John. He was sat across from me.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. A call center.”

“Jesus. It’s come to that?”

“I know. I know.”

We were round at his house. His flatmate was out somewhere. I liked John but I found him sort of depressing. My flatmate Graham and I called him ‘The Mood Hoover’. He was downer man, no doubt about that. But a good guy. He served a purpose.

“Have you found anything?” I asked, looking up at him as I licked the Rizla and spun the joint up.

“Nah man. Haven’t been looking. What’s the point? I’m only going to find call centers.”

He just sat, slumped, on the couch, gazing at the TV. I tried not to look at it. But everywhere I looked there was something that depressed me. There was a coffee table between us in the middle of the small room. It was covered in shit. Dirty old plates with ketchup dried onto them. A mug that had a mouthful of tea left in it, the milk curdling and rising to the top of the brown liquid like ice caps. There were nightclub flyers with rectangles ripped off them strewn across the table, roached for the thousands of spliffs smoked in that room. I saw the bills from British Gas, the Glasgow City Council and Vodafone sitting on the magazine rack under the surface. His big bag of grass was sitting on top of the bills. There must have been five ounces sitting in there.

“There’s nothing out there” he said, looking at me after I lit the joint and leaned back.

“I know. It’s pretty fucking barren isn’t it?”

He nodded, watching the joint in my hands. I looked around the table for his ashtray. He watched me looking. He watched the joint looking.

“Just use one of the plates” he said. I looked hard at the crusty plate before leaning forward and flicking the ash onto it. I would have preferred to use my own hand. “I stopped looking a while back.”

“So how much are you getting on the dole?” I asked. I knew it couldn’t be bad if he could afford rent, weed and ketchup. Well, the weed paid for itself.

“Well it’s not just the dole. I get a hundred pound a week from them. I get council tax exemption. I get disability.”

“What? Disability? What the fuck’s wrong with you?” I asked, holding out the joint.

“I’ve got M.E.” he said, reaching out for the joint.

“M.E.?”

“It means I’m always tired.”

“Always stoned I think is what it means” I said with a laugh. I leaned back in the arm chair again. That weed was really strong. I could see how it could keep you out of the workplace. I felt like I was sinking into the chair. I tightened my grip on the arm rests.

“Naw man. I’m fuckin’ ill.”

“Yeah” I said looking back at the TV. There was an Xbox 360 under the TV. There were unboxed CDs spilt across the floor. I wondered how many disabled people in the UK had an Xbox 360 to numb their pain.

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7. Mare Buses – Part Three

This was the first time I’d been tae the countryside in eleven years. That’s a long time for someone who generally hates cities. I could never convince ma cousin Sandy and the like to take a wee excursion up to the Highlands. They were always all like, ‘Nah man, all they fuckin’ stupit choochter bastards runnin’ aboot, nae clubs, pish weather, blah blah blah’ . You see, me and ma family were goin’ to a wee village called Achnafachel a couple of times a summer until I was about twelve. After that I started tae think that I was too cool tae sleep in a tent with ma parents. I loved goin there but things were gettin’ nasty at home. I’d go and stay with ma Aunty Mary in Blantyre and my folks would go away together and to try to glue back together whatever pieces of their relationship that they were prepared to salvage. I remember hangin’ about before they’d leave, packing everything into the car and they’d already started gettin’ on one another’s tits. I always hoped that they’d be pure happy on the way there, singin’ along with ma maw’s Rod Stewart tape in the car and re-kindling their pre-marriage romance on the idyllic mountain roads of the Scottish Highlands. I would think about them doing all of the things that we used do together. Fishing, walking, cooking, playing fitball, exploring. Everything would be the same, but I wouldnae be there. I always used tae think that they would be havin’ a great time gettin’ a chance to enjoy one another’s company without me. At that time they were havin’ regular verbal punch-up’s and I always felt like I was the root of the problems. I’d see pictures of ma parents before I was born and couldn’t help but notice that they looked happier when I just wasn’t fuckin’ there. Photographs of them smiling at each other, kissing in front of some decaying Highland castle or standing proudly next to their new gold Volkswagen Golf. Before me, they had more money, more freedom, their eyes were burstin’ with a hope and optimism that was completely redundant after I was born. But as I got older, I realized that they were never really happy. Cause despite what people try to tell you tae protect their own interests, photographs can lie. They were probably happyish for the first year, but after that it was consistently miserable. Ma dad regretted gettin’ married and havin’ a kid so young, and my mum regretted havin’ a wee kid with someone who was basically a big kid. I didn’t see any of this until they broke up. Ma maw started goin’ with an older widower with a couple of ready-made, microwave kids almost immediately. Dad transformed into an aging man hoor, shaggin’ every single mum in the scheme. I was just sort of forgotten about. Left in the middle just doing ma best to shelter maself from the fallout. I guess you can see my battle scars on the surface of my decisions.

*
The journey was, again, uncomfortable. The condition of the road was top drawer. But our driver was an animal, and possibly a certified space cadet. The traffic was fairly heavy and our driver overestimated the torque of his bus numerous times during the journey. He would pull out on blind corners to overtake three lorries in one go, getting interrupted halfway by an oil tanker grumbling its way quickly towards us, and swinging back in at the last second. But there was absolutely no point in worrying about the death. If he was going to kill us, I couldn’t stop him. Dwelling on it only made the journey more unpleasant. I was distracted by an information sign above the driver’s seat. It was all in Hindi and written in paint or blood or something. I assume that the phone number was who you call if your bus driver thinks he’s Danny Zuko. Although I was convinced I would cover the final miles of this trip in an ambulance, I started laughing.

The number was 01412369109: A Glasgow number.

I sat for a while and entertained the thought that the Indian Public Transportation office had outsourced their call centers to Glasgow.
“Awrite your froo tae the Injin Govermnt Publick transport office, yer speakin’ tae Anne Marie the day, how kin ah help ye? Whit? Overtakin’ oan a blind corner? He nivir did! Rite, well let me tell ya this by the way, he’s in it up tae his hairy wee baws, let me tell ye that son. Ah’ll just stick ye froo tae the relevant departmnt. Okay, aye, okay, bye.”
This scene kept my thoughts in my head, away from the traffic coming in the other direction, just long enough for me to doze off.

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7. Mare buses – Part Two

So, the bus. It was a bit nicer than the piss bus, but it was still an Indian bus. I was starting to think that I was going to develop Parkinson’s if I kept traveling the country on these fuckin’ things. I had a seat this time because I’d allowed myself to get all wrapped up in the girl’s mentality traveling cheap. They thought that ten quid was too much to pay for an overnight bus journey with a wee coffin for a bed, so they opted to sit upright for the whole journey, saving us a grand total of two pounds. That was certainly an error in judgment I won’t be making again folks. So anyway, I thought I’d get down to a bit of writing. I was startin’  tae feel guilty about no daemin much since I got here. I had an idea about some guy who lives somewhere in London for a couple of years, comes tae India and tries tae make it happen here as a photographer, falls in love and so on. Right, obviously that sounds shit, but when you strip anything down to its bare essence, it’s gonna sound shit. Football? A load of rich twats kicking a piece of leather around a pitch. Kurt Cobain? Some greasy skag boy who cannae sing. The Sistine Chapel? Some paint on a ceiling. I’m not tryin’ to compare my idea to any of those things, but you’s knew that anyway. I’m just making a point. It might no be as shite as it sounds.

I quickly realized that there was no way to write anything on these buses. The ricktor scale was at about a hundred and forty. As soon as I put the pen on the page we fell into a pot hole like a fuckin’ coalmine and I gouged a big line right up the paper. Could have been God’s way of tellin’ me that ma idea was pish. I tried to do a wee bit in Goa but I didn’t get the inspiration like. This time I felt like I had the fire, but it was raining heavily. I gave up on penning my masterpiece and decided just to look out of the window again. I normally hate doing that though cause it feels like I’m wasting time. But watchin’ the transition from urban India to industrial India to rural India is quite somethin’ man. All the bustle and modernization gradually fades out and is replaced by big bleak factories, pumping the country into this new age of wealth and catastrophe. The factories start to crumble away and you’re left with nothing, not even any debris from the industry. I sat looking out at the fresh scenery and had to give my mind time to adapt. I’d never seen sand so far from the sea, lush green plants without want for water, people so removed from the needless complications of the 21st century. It was incredible man.

But the maddest thing is right, the deeper you get into the countryside the less cows there are! I’d imagine that in every other country in the world, the cow-to-cunt ratio increases the further into the sticks you get. But in India there seems to be a trend amongst the cows to migrate to the cities and towns, like people. They come to the city in search of a better life for their herd and for their calves.  Some are destined for a life of poverty, nibblin’ bike tires and plastic tea cups, stragglers at the back of the city rat race. Others find that affluence in the dumping ground behind restaurants or in the tips behind flower markets. It’s a two sided coin for the poor old Indian cows. But as I got further into nowhere I noticed that the number of goats increases. Which is cool like. Another semi-exotic animal I can cross off the list I never made. Goats are actually a bit exotic for me. When you come from the east end of Glasgow and the most exotic animal you’ve ever seen is an Alsatian with a police officer tied to it, a goat’s a sweet fuckin’ treat. Like desert. I like their tits the best though. Cows have more rounded, shapely boobs but the wee goat’s tits look like those tubes that you use to decorate a wedding cake. Mad long saggy things danglin’ between their legs. Hilarious man.

So back to the bus journey. It had all turned into a bit of a zoo. The girls had caused quite a stir with the Indian men you see. They were the main attraction, like a couple of new-born Pandas. I was the zoo keeper’s dug. Nobody gave a fuck. Wee brown, moustached heads poked over the seats, tryin’ tae get a waft of liberated femininity and a wee peek at their white skin. They were the only females on the bus who weren’t wrapped in about four miles of cloth you see. An Indian man slid into the empty seat next tae me. The girls sat together across the aisle. He was in his twenties, long, lanky and frayed like old rope. The chewing of tobacco made his Tom Selik moustache roll around on his top lip.

“Girlfriends?” he asked, throwing a finger towards the girls.

“Nah man, sadly not. I just met them here like.”

He raised his eyebrows in the middle and slid his tobacco-stained bottom lip out in that, Sean Connery “interesshting…” kind-of-way. He looked over at them and then back to me.

“No girlfriend?” he asked, surprised.

“Naw, well aye, ah dunno. It’s complicated.”

His head stopped wobbling and he tilted it to one side, looking confused.

“Her name?” he said, pointing towards the shorter one.

“Ask her?” I said, not really understandin’ why he didn’t just ask her. I know it’s in the culture not to acknowledge women as being human beings sometimes, but if he fancies her (which he obviously does, judging by the rusty chewing tobacco drool that’s practically drippin’ onto ma knee) he should just ask her what her name is.

“What?” he said, leaning in with his ear but keeping his eyes locked on the blonde, blue and cream of the girls.

“Ask her.” I said again.

“Ah, Oscar. Okay.”

I just burst out laughing. It’s not his fault like, but it was fucking funny.

“No girlfriend?” he asked again. I decided that there was no point in trying to explain the complex romantic tragedy I was starring in, for the benefit of an Indian man on a bus. I didn’t update you’s on that situation did I? Anyway, it’s all a bit of a mess. I got to the internet café quickly in Bombay and had a Facebook message from her waitin’ there for me. The subject was ‘So…what’s going on?’ I sort of just sat there and looked at it for a wee minute, a bit shocked like. ‘What’s going on?’ she says. Christ on Christmas tree! Nice to hear from you love! Fuck me. Leave without saying anything, keep me in suspense and now we do this over a thread message on Facebook?! Why don’t I just make things better by proposing by to you on fuckin’ Twitter? Jesus, anyway. I’ve been thinkin’ about my last night in Glasgow town over and over man. The way she just floated in and floated out without saying a word. It was painful and confusing then and I don’t really know if it’s gotten any easier to deal with. I guess it’s still stirring up some sort of residual pain inside me, but every day it gets sort of less, even if I don’t really want it to. Anyway, this is what she wrote:

Hey!

How’s India? Having fun? Bet its amazing!

Nothings been happening since you left but its only been a week.

So, what’s going on with us then? I mean I like you and I would love something more steady to happen one day but…what’s going on?

Write me!

xXx

Right. What sense of my situation could I possibly draw from that cryptic, minefield of heartache?  As far as I could tell, she would like to be free to ride other guys in my absence, be it temporary or permanent. Is that what you got from that message or I am havin’ a wee self-esteem hemorrhage here? But what could I expect from this situation? We weren’t together for that long and I’m gonna be away for an as-yet undetermined period of time. That grey area of commitment to the common cause of fidelity is giving me a fuckin’ headache man. Cause I’m tryin’ to change ma ways, know what ah mean? The old me would’ve been straight in there with one or both of these Chilean girls and would’ve given her about three thrusts of thought before ignorin’ the feelings of deceit and concentrating on blowin’ ma load. But the new me, the changed, responsible, pays-his-council-tax-on-time me can’t move onto someone else until there’s some sort of closure. Don’t get me wrong, a wee bit of Latin lovin’ wouldn’t go a miss right now. But I came here to change, not to become a bigger shite bag. Arrrgh! That’s the thing with your conscience; it’s really only a good thing in the long run.

I didn’t write back to her.

“No kids, no wife, no girlfriend, no problems” I told the guy and he started laughing. He knew the score. The boy probably had about four kids and a wife exactly like her mother, burstin’ his gap every day. I turned away, trying ma best to let him know that I didn’t want to talk anymore. Nobody brings a book or an MP3 player onto the buses here so people just blether away to you cause you’re different from them. It’s like friendly racism. Tae the boy’s credit, he took the hint and went back to his seat. I got back to looking at Rajasthan grow.

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7. Mare Buses – Part One

The shame of unnecessarily pissing into a bottle and clutching its warmth to my quivering breast had soiled ma memory of Bombay. It was the last minute own goal that crushed ma spirits and was a lot to bounce back from. I decided to jump from one bus onto another and escaped to the desert land of Rajasthan.

I was pure psyched about getting up there. Goa gave me a wee taste for the quiet life away from the cities and I was keen to keep the rural party rolling on. Being born and raised in Glasgow is enough to make you loathe cities. Too big, too busy, too expensive, too hectic, too loud, too much. I needed that tranquility man, just tae take the edge off the culture shock like. The hour that I spent in the Bombay mix was plenty for me. If I ever thought that Glasgow was in some way insane, this was another level. Rickshaws swerving through traffic and cows, people whispering “hash, hash? Smoke some?” from the dark of alleyways, clouds of spiced steam bursting from every hole in the wall restaurant. Colors, sounds, shapes and emotions everywhere man. But the big difference between here and home, is that the poverty is actually real here. Genuinely hungry people. Not like that stuff that they try to sell to you as poverty at home. For example, not having enough dole money left after buying two grams of speed to get a name and number on the back of your Rangers top is not poverty. Being so hungry that there’s nothing left. Just the hunger and the begging to stop it spreading. That’s poverty. I dunno, it’s very different from seeing the hunger in Africa on the telly at Comic Relief. That’s just words and pictures and violins. You say, “Aww that’s a shame, someone should do somethin’ about that. Where’s ma purse? Is a fiver enough?” and then that’s that. Change the channel on the plasma TV with a clear conscience, supressin’ the thoughts that your money probably went towards the payments of the Oxfam website designer’s plasma TV. Maybe that’s a bit cynical. People don’t need to be discouraged from givin’ a few quid if they can afford to. But I reckon seeing it with your own eyes can make you a bit critical of the ‘good work’ done by Bono the Ballbag, Bob Saggy Geldof and whole charitable organization thing. I mean, after all this time, we’re still loaded and they’re still skint, basically.

Anyway, time to jump off the see-saw of cynicism for a moment and get back to my Indian adventure. The minty wee Chilean lassies had decided that Bombay wasn’t for them. “We…eh…don’ta want to stayee here aneemore. Is fucking bad,” said the shorter, slightly more attractive piece. I concurred, and we jumped a bus an hour later. None of us were into the growth driven, city swingin’, slumdog livin’ of Bombay. We decided to take the next bus to Udaipur in Rajasthan, some mad wee city with a bunch of temples that the Lonely Planet (or Tony’s Planet as I’ve started calling it) told me to visit. They were both taking a break from their architecture degree to fart around India on the old hardcore holiday budget of half a shoe-string each per day. That’s no really for me. I’m no an affluent guy like, but I’m not one of these people that’ll eat a bread sandwich for ma dinner.

“Tony’s Planet says that we kin get a room for next tae fuck all in U….Udai..pur. Udaipur. Like a hunner an twinty rupees.” I says to them. They just looked vacantly at me and started conferring in Spanish.

“Rooms you is..eh..are talkeeng abow? Wan hundred twenty rupees?” said the shorter one in her mad sexy Spanglish.

“Aye” I replied in my mad daft Scotlish.

“What?”

“Yes.”

They suddenly got pure excited like couple of junkies who’d found a pound. They start muttering figures back and forth to each other. And then turned back to me.

“So dazz forty rupees each!” she squeaked with a big smile.

“Eh….” I eh’d. Not to sound like a rabid sex pest or anythin’, but I was plannin’ on havin’ a bit of alone time, if you know what I mean. I didnae get any of that last night because my penis was too busy being rammed into a bottle and filling it with piss. The wee man had been through enough shame without pulling the head off him at the back of a bus. Udaipur would be my chance to have a wee bit of free fun on my own. And you cannae dae that in the same room as a couple of other people, particularly not if they’re female and especially not if you’re thinking about them while you do it. Poor form man. I don’t want to have to be squeezing in a cheeky Clydesdale bank in the communal toilets, or lying in bed at night, regulating their breathing to check they’re asleep before lifting my sleeping bag at the groin to reduce rustling. It sounds like someone running in a shell suit. No no no man, I’m pretty sure that some people would regard that tae be sexual harassment.

“Eh…” I continued, “Ah kind a need a room tae masel, nae offence like. Just need eh…some alone time.” They suddenly got all cold. They turned away from me, turned up their noses and turned on the Spanish. They were genuinely pissed off at me cause I wouldn’t join them in their bread and water lifestyle. I didn’t know what they were sayin’ but they were obviously ragin’ about how they had to pay more than forty pence each for a bed for the night.

But there was a bit more to it than that. I reckon that they knew the truth. I could see it in their eyes. I mean, I could just be a bit paranoid, but I think the thing that was really annoying them was that they had to pay fourteen pence each for me to have a wank.

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5. Leavin’ Goa – Part Three

We eventually get to the travel agent’s he’s been dragging me to all along. After all the talk of mind bending terrorist drugs and road side bombs, I had forgotten what the fuck I was looking for. I sat down in the travel agent’s and just sorta let them get on with robbin’ ma money. I coulnd’t even be arsed puttin’ up a fight cause I just wanted to get the fuck out of Goa. So ten minutes later I have a bus ticket to Bombay leaving in five minutes. I bomb it down the street with ma big daft backpack on, wobblin’ side to side and almost knockin’ people over. Just as I get to the door of the bus, these two wee Chilean lassies walked off the bus, bagless and rolling a couple of rollies. They were a couple of crusties like, but definitely very attractive under all that muck. They had those mad Ali Baba trousers and their hair was naturally dredding cause it hadn’t felt a shampoo lather since Santiago. Their faces were that black that they looked like they’d been in a coal mine for three months. I just sorta smiled at them and let them get off, show them that chivalry isn’t dead like. Well, I can’t pretend to be too gentlemanly, I did take a wee peek at their arses before I went up the stairs. I cannae help it man.

This nice, air-conditioned coach was a lot better than the vibrating tool box I rode here on. I had a wee coffin thing that I could lie down in and close the wee door. It was like I was packing maself. Turns out that these wee Chilean girls had the coffin next to mine so as soon as the bus started we struck up conversation. Their English wasnae great but then, neither was mine! We did our best tae try tae communicate but you just end up havin’ the same conversation.

“Where you from? Nice. I’ve always wanted to go there. Where have you been? Great. Yeah, I heard that place was really nice. Yeah, uh huh, yeah I loved it there, so quiet. How long are you here for? Right, yeah, I’m gonna be here for another month and then ….”

You get the idea. Same shit over and over again. But when an attractive albeit grime caked lady is involved in this conversation with you, you tend to up your up your game and pretend it’s the first time you’ve been through this shit. That does sound a bit ignorant of me but you know, I’d love it if now and again someone just approached me with something that wasnae some shite small talk. Asked me how ma first pet died or if I’d rather have feet instead of hands or penises instead of fingers. Just somethin’ a bit more interestin’ you know. But we’re all here for the same reasons though and I’m just happy havin’ people to talk to, even if we are always saying the same things.

After the small talk I just shut my wee coffin, opened the window and had a fag. Watchin’ India pass-by is really somethin’ man I’m tellin’ you. The people, the traffic, the animals everywhere, everyone just hangin’ around and getting on with their business in what I was beginning to learn was a very relaxed pace. Every time we got stuck in traffic, which felt like almost every four feet, people would be pure wavin’ and smilin’ at me, just like that. If you did that in Glasgow, boys’d loose their minds! You can’t just stare and wave at random people in a place like Glasgow. Here though, in India, everyone’s treated like a brother they never knew they had.  People want to know your story and you want to know theirs. It’s hard tae put the things I see intae words. I’ll get better at that, I promise.

Anyway, back to the journey. So, obviously, I’m a Scottish man right. I wasn’t born wearing sunglasses. I was born wearing wet socks. India is a hot country and Goa is one of the hotter parts of India. I am not accustomed to sweating without exercising so I was just kicking about in a vest and jeans. I’m thinking more about function than fashion here darlings so please forgive me. But I was hot so I just got stuck into my vest. This however didn’t prove to be such a good decision come the dark of night. I’d got on the bus and thought I’d be too hot if anything and left my sleeping bag in ma rucksack in the back. I only realized that this would be a fairly massive error in judgment at about eight o’clock, when it was far too late to sort it out.

Cause it gets cold here at night man, like turbo Baltic. Ma coffin had a slight gap in the window which let air rush in. Now this was a god send and a much appreciated design flaw during the heat of the afternoon, but I began to curse that bastard crack in the cold of night. It was just whistling through and spraying me with icy cold air for the entire journey. The hairs on ma arms were standing on end and my nipples had gone like pool cue tips. I started contemplating suicide. Not seriously considerin’ it like but you know, gettin’ those casual thoughts, ‘ah could just end it all and everything would be so much easier’. I reckon most people get those thoughts every now and again.

Back and forth I tossed and turned trying to endure this exhausted nightmare. I had done my hip in on the beach in Vagator playing football with some young Indian lads. First time I played in ages. I had trials for Hamilton Accies mind, so I’m not a bad player. But we were dickin’ about, someone kicked the ball up in the air so I jumped for it. I tried tae dae a mad overhead bicycle kick but just ended up getting tangled up in my own lanky limbs and falling into a heap on the beach. I hit the wet sand with a huge belly flop slap and nearly put maself in a fuckin’ wheelchair! So this hip was hurtin’ me every time I moved. And on top of that I’m tryin’ to avoide draft like Vietnam. I almost felt a tear in my eye but I couldnae be sure if that was cause of the cold or because I thought I was gonna lose my nose tae frostbite. As far as yours truly could tell, there was only one way to survive. I ripped off the curtains from my little window and draped them over myself in a desperate attempt to maintain a decent body temperature. These things were no bigger or thcker than cheap, Poundland dish towels. Not exactly the insulating system I was hoping but it was certainly on a par with nothing, if not slightly better.

So there I was trembling like Michael J Fox’s trifle inside this wee mad coffin box thing in a bus in India. I was lyin’ there beggin’ ma brain just to shut down for a wee while and bring this torment a little quicker to its conclusion. Just as I’m beginnin’ to dose off, I start burstin’ for a piss. Like right out of nowhere man, I suddenly need to skoosh somewhere. These roads are like the surface of the moon by the way, so every bump that we went over or crater we fell into was makin’ me need to pee more! I could feel the warm pish sloshing around inside ma bag. My jap’s eye wept a spicy yellow tear with every bump. It was fuckin’ horrible man. The worst part is though, there’s no lavies on these buses so you have to just wait for the driver to decide that he needs a piss, or…you can piss somewhere else.

Now I’m no saint right. I’ve relieved maself in places I shouldn’t have and I’m ashamed to admit that yes, a bus is one of those places. I opted against lying on my side and pissing out of the window because on those bumpy roads it was obvious I would end up covered in piss. The only other option was to pish in a bottle. Now this should pose no problems as I’ve been to T in the Park and anyone with a nose on their face and a gag reflex in their throat knows that an Irn-Bru bottle is better than a festival toilet. I scuffle about in the dark trying to find an empty bottle of water to pish into. I find a liter bottle and reckon that’s probably an adequate enough volume. But I drink the remainder of another one and have it open and at the ready just incase. I kinda had to sit on ma knees, crook my neck and hunch over to get my angles right but I managed to get everything lined up and ready. Whenever I pee in an unusual environment or situation I tend tae get that wee delay, where you can’t quite go. It’s usually just in public toilets that this happens but I suppose you’re also prone to the old phantom pish when you’re trying to pee into a bottle on public transportation.

Finally, I just couldn’t hold it anymore. It was like an eruption. Ah could feel it start from inside ma body. An overwhelming feeling of relief came over me. If the situation hadn’t been so tragic it might’ve felt euphoric. After a few seconds I realized that the feeling of relief wasn’t comin’ from emptyin’ ma bladder but it was comin’ in through ma hands. The roastin’ hot pish was warming my hands up so much that I didn’t feel cold anymore. It was wonderful. I forced every droplet of urine oot ma pipe until the bottle was almost full. And then, gently holding the bottle with one hand, I scuffled around in the dark again for the lid, a most important necessity when handling a bottle of piss on a bumpy bus, found it and screwed it back on incredibly tight. That bottle was never meant to be opened again.

Folks I had to stop after a few moments to asses my life and particularly this trough that my path had brought me into. I lay there in a bus bound for Bombay with two small burgundy bus curtains draped over me, clutching onto a container of my own piss to my chest like it was a hot water bottle.

That was a low point, even for me. I didn’t give a fuck though because my body was warm and my bladder was drained. And with that unusual feeling of contentment and suppressed shame, I slowly fell asleep,                       only to be woken up about five minutes later by the sound “tsssssssssssssst” and the whole bus grinding to a halt. I rubbed ma exhausted wee eyes and almost got blinded by the light coming through the curtainless windows. The bus had stopped at a service station. This meant that everyone could get off for a piss or get something out of their bags in the back, like a forgotten sleeping bag for example.

I was ragin’ man. Pure ragin’.

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5. Leavin’ Goa – Part Two

So I bored a wee Mechano bus to Panajim and had tae stand fir the whole fuckin’ journey. An hour and a half cramped up against the door in a bus with about forty-thousand people crammed in beside me. It was an arduous voyage brethren, let me tell you that. When I got to Panajim I planned to get the next sleeper bus going to Bombay. I didn’t really know what I would do when I got there but I figured I would read the Lonely Planet and work something out. That fuckin’ Lonely Planet man. As soon as my pasty, arctic white hands pull that book out of ma massive brand-new, shiny rucksack, I might as well have a sign above my head saving “Rape my bank account”.

As luck would have it I met a couple of wee Chilean lassies on the bus. They were looking pretty sure of what they were up to and I obviously didn’t really have a clue what I was up to. I saw them walk out of a travel agent’s so I crossed the road looking for a bus ticket somewhere. But I was promptly blind-sided by this shifty little Indian guy who looked like Mr. Bean. He starts tryin’ tae bring me to a ‘better’ travel agents and kicks off by trying to sell me some hash. I show a little bit of interest out of habit but I actually want him to just get to fuck so I can get a bus ticket a get out of Goa. No more salesmen please! But he’s goin’ on and on and I’m getting really pissed off because we’ve walked past about four travel agents in search of his travel agents. He moves on from hash and starts trying to punt Ketamine onto me. I say no thank you. He goes into his pants and pulls oot a wee baggy with two mental lookin’ pills that were as big as Alka-Seltzers.

“What the fuck are they?”

“These are the thing crazy mother-fucks take before they kill every mother-fuck in sight. Terrorists, Paki bastards, take this fuck pill before exploding. “

I just looked blankly at the guy, not really knowin’ how I should react.

“700 rupees” he said.

I just started laughin’ in the wee guy’s face.

“If you like this things, I can find weapons.”

I promptly stopped laughing.

“What weapons can you get?” I said, in a tone which expressed genuine curiosity but absolutely no desire to buy a rocket launcher.

I could see that the wee man had started thinkin’ that he was the big man. This sneaky wee smile spread across his stubbly wee face.

“Well,” he starts all nonchalantly, like an Italian looking at a menu, “machine gun, hand gun, grenade. As you like.”

“Aye, put me doon for one handgun.” I says, just playin’ around with him, thinkin’ he’s full of shite. But Mr. Bean the Drug Machine just lifts his shirt up and flashes this mad old rusty gun at me!

“You like?” he says, grinin’ at me with his big toenail teeth.

“Whit?! Fuckin’ put that away man, jesus!” I shouted and whispered at the same time. “No man, I was only jokin’! Do I look like the sort of guy who’s going to start a fuckin’ insurgency at the Pakistan border? No!? Look at me man?! Just take me to this travel agent’s!”

“Okay, some hash?”

“….Okay, but just the hash please” I answered.

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5. Leavin’ Goa – Part One

So I made it to India ladies and gentlemen! It was a twenty-four hour journey which started in Glasgow, then to Heathrow, then to Istanbul and finally to Delhi. That’s what you get when you fly with Turkish Airlines. I thought I was gonna be buried underneath a heap of molten airplane somewhere in the Afgan desert. So I got to Delhi and fuck all noteworthy happened. Hated it man. Far too chaotic and It felt like every cunt was tryin’ tae penetrate me via ma wallet. I lost a lot of money in a day in Dehli, but I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first. I opted to take the plane to Goa and kept to the original promise I made to myself.  Get to a beach and not think for about three weeks. But Goa, I don’t know man. It feels like I asked for a Jimi Hendrix record but got a Kula Shaker tape. Not quite the hippy groove I was imagining, just a sort of tragic attempt tae cling on. It’s quieter than I thought which is both good and bad, but it’s a hoor of a lot more expensive than I thought it would be. There were lots more inappropriately G-strung German men playin’ beach tennis than I thought there would be and I saw a Cow eatin’ a bike tire. Mental man. Like I said, not quite what I was expectin’ but I guess that was the whole point of comin’ here in the first place. Escaping predictability.

Beaches, relaxin’ tae the max, cocktail in a half coconut, blah blah blah. Beach paradise in the sun, you know how it is darlings. But I will say one thing about Goa, I’ve never bin hassled to buy so much shit I didn’t want in my entire life. Honestly man, the sandy beaches of Goa are strewn with about half a million sunglasses salesmen. Nothin’ you can possibly say to them will deter them from huddlin’around you like drunken tramps around an oil drum fire. Their fuckin’ relentless man and a pure nightmare to get rid of. The followin’ exchange of words was it for me. No more Goa.

“Hello my friend, your cuntree?”

“Scotland.”

“Oh ho! Scot-o-land! Capital city: Edinburgh. President: David Cameron!”

“Ha ha, aye that’s right aye. He’s a prick though.”

“What?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“You want buy sunglasses? I give you nice price!”

“No thanks man.”

“Scot-o-land price!”

“Mate, if ah want any price it’s the fuckin’ Indian price.”

“Ha ha! You is funny guy!”

“Thanks.”

“Just looking, no have buy. 500 rupees only.”

“No.”

“Okay 100 rupees.”

“What?”

“100 rupees, India price.”

“And 500 rupees is Scotland price?”

“What?”

“Nothing, no. No sunglasses please.”

“Please.”

“No.”

“This is nice price, nice sunglass, your sunglass not so nice as much these.”

“Cunt, these are Ray Bans. Real fuckin’ Ray Bans.”

“No. Is fake.”

“Look at them! They’re real!”

“Hmmm.”

“Don’t fuckin’ bend them! Here gimme them back.”

“Is fake.”

“They just look fake to you because you’ve never seen a real pair.”

“I is see real pair. These thing. Yours fake I think.”

“No. Expensive.”

“How much?”

“A lot.”

“How many Rupees?”

“I dunno, about 5000.”

I didn’t bother explainin’ tae him that ma cousin Sandy’s mate Mental Gerry had been on the way to my 21st and realized he hadn’t bought me a present, so he nicked a pair a Ray Bans fae some flashy cunt’s BMW. I promised that I would make an effort tae be more truthful with people but tryin’ to explain all of that tae this guy seemed like a pointless gesture of honesty.

“5000 rupees?! From her?” he pointed at a woman selling jewelry and sunglasses a bit further down the beach.

“No. I got them in Glasgow. Mate, I wouldn’t pay £70 for a pair a sunglasses from a woman on a beach in India.”

“What?”

“It doesn’t matter. No. No Sunglasses today.”

“Please. Two pairs. Nice price.”

“Brother. I don’t need two pairs of sunglasses!”

“Yes! Two eyes, two sunglasses!”

“No cunt!?! Two eyes, one sunglasses!?!”

I couldn’t do it any longer. I just walked off. I don’t think doing that to this guy was as bad as walkin’ away from that cunt at the party. I still felt kind of bad about that. Doesn’t matter now though. This was different. This guy was going to chip away at me all fuckin’ afternoon until I bought something to make him go away. You know his stuff’s shit, he knows his stuff’s shit, you both know that he’s selling you silence. So I walked away from him and kept walking, all the way to my beach hut made oot of banana boxes, packed my bag and left Vagator beach with the compass set for north.

That exchange had been the second last of that kind in Goa. I had spent ten days goin’ up and doon the coast oan these rickety buses that sounded like football studs in a tumble dryer, searching for the one thing the hippies all failed to get; a bit of fuckin’ peace man.

***

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Dennis and Chelsea

“Hellllllllloh there and welcome to Pascal Insurance and how can I be of service to you today?” Chelsea chirped.

I shifted my eyes towards the enthusiastic blurt that sat next to me. I looked her up and down slowly. I tried for a second to guess her weight. I thought it to be somewhere in the region of eighteen to twenty-four stones. This estimate was too vague for my liking. I am not accustomed to guessing the weight of people who couldn’t hang themselves on account of there not being a tree branch strong enough. I conceded that conjuring up an accurate figure was beyond my capabilities, so I shifted my thoughts to comparisons. What does she weigh an equal amount to? A four man canoe? An oven filled with bricks? An empty bottle bank?

I sat pondering over her heft as if I would win her if I guessed correctly. Her entire frame was a lot to take in. There were so many squidgy looking patches which should have been firm. So many flab craters that should have been flat and so many chins dangling from her muscular jaw. This engrossed my thoughts until I heard someone barking something into my left ear.

“Hello? Are you still there?” the angry person asked.

I snapped out of my daze.

“Yes, eh sorry about that Miss….”

I started as my eyes quickly scanned the computer screen for the customer’s name, “es Cartwright. Now if you could just go over the problem again for me one more time I’ll try to get this sorted for you,” I said, propping my heavy head with my hand, using almost all of the effort I had left.

“Oh my god, we’ve been over this twice already, I don’t know why you people ……….”

I dazed out.

There was a well built man in his early twenties stood across from me. His name was Chris, or Chrissy Boi as he enjoyed being referred to. He was the team leader. He was the epitome of mutton dressed as a lamb. A dog shit wearing a top hat. His expensive pinstripe shirt wrapped around his water plumped muscles, his stone washed, worn effect Diesel jeans hugged his legs and a self-assured, arrogant expression perpetually scarred his fuck-ugly face.

It must be Friday. Dress down day.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of my computer screen. I was wearing a white shirt with a Bolognese stain on the collar and my pair black trousers. I swung my head left and then right. I was the only person on the floor in Monday to Thursday dress code. I turned back towards Chelsea. She was wearing an unintentionally slim fitting, neon pink tracksuit with a black trim that was made from an indistinguishable, cheap velvety material. She looked like a sausage wrapped in bacon.

Chrissy Boi was a well known member of staff at the E-Solutions Commerce and Customer Service center. He was a regular contributor to ideas for staff parties, charity fundraisers and incentives for the top sellers on the floor. I knew little of any of these things. Chris ordered us every morning to check our “JetPhone iBox” for updates on deals, incentives and staff-only binges. I had only been personally invited once to one of these “Pascal Parties”. And I remember the day fondly, as it had been my silent victory over the deluded fools that I worked with.

Chris had approached me upon completion of my first full week on the phones. He swaggered towards my station, conscious of every female eye which may or may not be inspecting his chiseled upper body. I remember thinking that he walked as if he were carrying rolled up carpets under each arm and any woman who was sexualizing this ridiculous image desperately needed to be rolled up in one of his imaginary carpets and thrown off a bridge.

I had watched Chris all day long, strutting up to each member of staff and asking them if they would like to go to Jumping Jacks, Glasgow’s nightclub equivalent of a portable toilet on a Mexican building site, for staff drinks after work. I had noticed the enthusiasm that had entranced the other new members of the team and I immediately felt alienated and happy. Chris finally made his way round to me. There was always going to be a conflict of interests present when our two confident personalities butted heads. My good self; a work-place sociopath with odd socks, long unkempt hair and dark purple circles framing my dark, deep pupils, and Chris; a self-obsessed blue-eyed, blonde haired muscle factory with a grossly inflated idea of his appeal to the opposite sex. It was obvious that Chris loathed having people like me in his team. But nonetheless he felt it necessary to approach me once and offer me the chance to join the party.

“Jumpin’ Jacks, tonight, staff party. Fancy it eh…” asked Chris as he searched his walnut brain for my name.

I hit the mute button.

BEEP.

And buckled with laughter. “Sorry mate. I’d rather wipe my arse with a broken bottle.”

From that moment on the two of us never spoke to each other again with anything other than blatant contempt.

I watched eagerly as Chris plucked the cap from his black marker pen and updated the scores for his team. As usual, I had the lowest sales score of the morning. And as usual, Chelsea had the highest. I took a certain pride in being known as the lowest of the low in a kingdom of lowlifes. It made me better than everyone else. Chris drew an exaggerated, thick circle in the box next to my name, turning his head around slowly to glare at me. He put an unnecessary full stop after the zero as his eyes met mine.

“Get yer act together Dennis! If you build a strong customer orientated experience, customers share that with each other. Word of mouth is commerce Dennis. Commerce.” advised Chris as he curled his biceps, giving a flex for the females.

I smiled and did what I always did when Chris experimented with his standard issue, company required motivational phrases. I raised a thumb and gave an overstated, patronizing wink as if to say, ‘Worry not dear leader, you can depend on Dennis, ya prick!’

“What I can do for you sir is, put you on hold for just a moment while I have a look and see if you’re eligible for any premiums on you life insurance,” she said sympathetically, “would that be alright for you Mr. MacInness?” she asked in that way she always did.

“Okay, I’ll be back in just a moment Mr. MacInness, okay…okay, thanks.”

BEEP.

I watched as Chelsea shifted her heft in her chair and turned to me as she raised her third can of Diet Coke to her face. She tilted her head back and emptied the last of it into the crater in her face and discarded the can with the rest of her collection in a bag on the floor.

“That’s me made eight sales so far the day! Ah could be up for a prize!” she beamed, “How many have you had?”

I quickly raised his finger to the mute button on my phone as the increasingly irate customer continued to lambaste me about something to do with money or the company or my attitude or something.

BEEP.

“None.”

“What? Like not one?” she asked, unable to hide the confusion in her voice. “Hello?! Are you even listening to me? Hello?!” the voice in my ear yelled. I turned back to the screen leaving Chelsea’s question rhetorical. I brought up the soft phone on the screen and randomly selected a department to fob this trouble maker off to. Commercial Restructure and Data Control, that’ll do. I clicked on the name of the department and prepared to launch this hassle Trojan into the customer services abyss, where she would subsequently be passed around the departments like a yawn at church.

BEEP.

“I’m sorry Miss Cartwright,”

“MRS. Cartwright!” she aggressively corrected.

“Of course, my mistake, I’m sorry MRS. Cartwright, this is a Commercial Restructure and Data Control issue, I’ll just put you through to them now,” I said coolly.

“No! No, how can that be a…” she protested.

“Have a lovely day Miss Cartwright and thank you for calling Pascal Insurance. Bye”

BEEP.
The satisfaction overwhelmed me as I heard her voice being flushed away and out to sea. She would flounder around there, clutching tightly onto her problem, desperate for someone who cared would rescue her from another call-center induced nervous breakdown. I breathed out and looked to the sterilizing strip light above me. I could feel that familiar old wry smile crept across my face. I looked back to the screen and kept my status as ‘unavailable’ for as long as I could without detection.

I turned back to Chelsea again. She had cracked open another can of Diet Coke and was sipping it every time the customer spoke and looking at it lustfully every time she spoke. My eyes couldn’t help investigate the blurred join between her legs and her buttocks. It had started to squeeze itself out of the triangular arm rest of her computer chair, like a homemade, human sausage maker. The fat on her wrists seemed to slip down to her elbows as she raised her can of Diet Coke. Her chin made her look like a pelican that had eaten a person. She was as far from attractive as any human could be afraid of ever becoming. Her weight would almost certainly merit, had it not already, a one-on-one doctor intervention. Her hair was dyed a peroxide blonde about six months ago and the natural brown had begun slide down closer to the tips. Teenage ache had served to make her skin look like melted Lego and she worked full-time in a call center, the human equivalent of a battery farm. But she seemed happy. And I was far from it.

***

Chelsea looked at Dennis with a strange mixture of envy and pity. He was an unconventionally handsome man who was skinnier than you’re average person his age and attracted the stares of some women and gay men in the call center. But he had no respect for himself professionally. He was offensive and dismissive to the customers and was working here for all the wrong reasons. She thought that he could do with going back to training again to learn a thing or two about courtesy and telephone etiquette, something which he was either unfamiliar with or simply cared very little for. She hated sitting next to him. He always looked so angry. It brought her down. Chelsea always maintained that the best way to work was to do your best to enjoy it and think little of the woes that could plague the day. She kept a mental score of how many times she would say a certain word during the day, how many times she would transfer a customer to a particular department, or her favorite was to see how many times she could solve a problem that was out with her purview. Chelsea always kept count mentally because you weren’t allowed to have paper in a call center floor as it was a violation of the Data Protection Act. Everybody except Dennis knew that. But she could never be sure if he didn’t know this or if he chose to forget. Dennis always had paper next to him. He would scribble furiously onto it between calls. At least she hoped it was between calls. The thought of someone sitting next to her and not listening to a problem the customer had turned her stomach. Or even worse, writing down account details of the customers.

But he was weird, she thought. He liked to write things. Essays or stories maybe, she thought. Once she saw him draw a picture of a cute little rabbit with dynamite strapped to his body and a turban on. His ears were poking out of holes on the turban. She thought that this was so offensive that she almost told Chris about him. But she didn’t. No sense in causing waves over someone who would probably consider his dismissal a favour. But the writing, that was different. She wondered if it was maybe it was a code. He would write this stuff and maybe the letters symbolized account numbers or something. She asked him about it one day.

“What is it you’re always writing?”

He pressed the mute button on his hard phone.

BEEP.

Dennis turned to her and said, “What?”

“What is that you’re always writing?” she asked again.

“Just thoughts.”

“Thoughts?” she said.

“Aye, don’t you have them?” he asked, in his sarcastic voice. She gave him a dry, equally sarcastic smile.

BEEP.

She looked to the clock. 15:58. The time filled her with anxiety. In two hours, she would be leaving. These motions she went through in the last two hours of every working day were comparable to the way some people feel before they go to bed on Sunday night. It was Friday and in two hours it would be the furthest possible time from when she would be back in her chair with that headset snuggling into her ear like a soft pillow. She thought that maybe she could ask Chris about overtime for Saturday or Sunday. Or Saturday and Sunday. She needed only a very minor reason to talk to Chris. Chelsea thought that Chris was the most handsome man on the call center. She didn’t need the money, just something to do at the weekend.

Her thoughts turned to what she would have for dinner. Fish and chips, maybe a curry or possibly just a Burger King. It was Friday and Friday was a day for lavish treats, she thought. It was certainly cheaper for her to eat these days. Maybe a bit more expensive for her individually but cheaper since it was just her.

BEEP.

“Hellllllllloh there and welcome to Pascal Insurance and how can I be of service to you today?” she said, with no noticeable dip in passion since the last call.

The man had called on behalf of his son. This was a simple sale. The customer was looking to insure his son (male, seventeen years old, not yet passed test) on his own insurance. She went through the usual rigmarole with him. She thought that this was what dancing with someone you knew loved you would be like. The sale, the kiss, was inevitable, but for both of you to come away overflowing with happiness, it was necessary for you to flirt around the subject of the kiss.

“Wow! Is that really how much I save? That’s incredible!” said the man.

“That’s right sir and if you just give me a minute here I’ll see what sort of loyalty discount we can arrange for you,” Chelsea said with conviction.

“That’s absolutely brilliant Chelsea, thank you so much!”

“Not a problem sir”

“If every call center worker was like you, we would get a lot more done in the world!” said the man.

Chelsea’s heart warmed. This was almost the biggest compliment one could give her.

***

I couldn’t stop myself looking at the clock. I could feel myself getting excited, my heart beating a little faster if it were one minute closer to the end of this hell. I was desperate to be released from restraints of my head set and be free to run around and swear and smoke and be honest with everyone. I occupied my impatient mind with looking around at the drones that whizzed around me. The spiky haircuts with bleached tips clashing with the tanned orange skin and whatever gaudy colour they had chosen to wrap themselves in for dress down day. I looked on in disgust at their happy faces. They were content to work in a place like this and it offended me greatly. An educated human being who is happy to hand over forty hours of their week in exchange for this environment and the meager wage that accompanied it, was not worth the soul in their body.

I found myself overwhelmed with a feeling of disdain for every single person that had ever smiled as they walked through the doors of this building. I looked down to my hands and noticed that they were clenched so tightly that the knuckles looked like chicken’s feet. These pond-dwellers had no ambition and even less drive to better themselves. The feelings of alienation that I was experiencing had served wonderfully to bring me to the realization that none of this suited me. I had been lying to myself in the beginning. I had assumed that if I had managed to maintain a happy private life, work would be something I could endure for the sake of maintaining what made me truly happy. But forty hours every week was a long time for anyone to feel consistently miserable. The other hours of the week that I didn’t use for sleep were either spent in a drugged up state or bound in the clutches of panic that work was once again looming over me like a black cloud ready to piss all over me.

I had never once inquired into the lives of the people I shared my most miserable hours with but I knew that I wasn’t one of them. I knew this because they asked me about mine. I would be asked all manner of mundane and torturous questions about things that were nothing to do with them. They could never seem to grasp the fact that I didn’t just dress differently from them, I was totally and completely different from them in every single way in which they could possibly conceive. To these people, thinking about things other than football/fashion, women/men, fighting/shopping, beer/Smirnoff Ice, Magaluf/Mallorca or fake tan was seen as being waste of time and, ultimately, weird. The simple and beautiful fact of the matter was, that I was not one of these people and I never would be.

I had worried that in coming back to Scotland I had made a huge, immeasurable mistake. Japan had been barbarically expensive, sexually perverse, misogynistic in a 1950s kinda way and at times a ferocious, pulsing numb for the senses, but it had been the best experience of my relatively short life. I left a lot of like-minded friends behind and hadn’t seemed to gather anything like the momentum I had with my writing since arriving back on the moody shores of my homeland. Simply put, I had never been so misanthropic as I continued to find himself now. I had been a positive, uplifting person in Japan and had never doubted that I would saddle up this new found passion for life and that this fresh, mature outlook would continue bloom regardless of where I lived. But this job had crushed every morsel of hope and drive that I had into the floor. There was nothing but scummy dregs left of my love for humanity. Seeing people enjoy working in a job of this nature confirmed to me that the planet was over run with parasitic, uninspired idiots.

As the clock rolled over to 4:00 P.M. (my last smoke break) I burst from my chair like I had hauled an ejector seat lever with all of my might. I was almost pulled back into my seat by the resistance of the head-set cable. Suddenly realizing that I hadn’t come anywhere close to fixing this person’s problem, I hit the mute button.

BEEP.

“Fucking come on ya cunt! Shut the fuck up!” I snarled into the muted microphone.

I was fully aware with what I was dealing with here. I knew that this time bandit was fully prepared to spend the next fifteen to twenty minutes telling and retelling the facts of his grievance, each little molehill becoming a snow capped mountain, as he would get more and more frustrated at the sound of his own whining voice and the serene, calmness of mine.

BEEP.

“I think that I’ve just realized the problem here sir,” said I, becoming more and more impatient with each short, bursting syllable, “you’ll have to go on hold for a moment while I try to sort this problem out for you.”

“What? For fucks sakes mate! This is absolutely ridiculous. I want to speak to your fucking manager! I’ve been on the phone for an hour!” the man snarled.

And at that point, I snapped.

“I’ve been on the phone for eight fucking months mate! So get fucked ya cunt!”

***

Chelsea choked on her mouthful of Diet Coke as she heard what Dennis had said. She quickly shot a glance to his chair and noticed that he was now standing up and everyone in the call center was looking directly at him. She didn’t like this much attention being almost directed at her so she hunched slightly in her chair, using the computer screen as a shield. This was nothing like the other call center flip-out she had witnessed. About a year ago, a young man in training had gotten angry and tossed his headset at his computer screen. Everyone took note. It reminded them that this job isn’t for everyone. Some people can take it, some can’t. Dennis clearly fell into the latter bracket and everyone could see this. A breakdown of this proportion had never been seen in this building and Chelsea could be sure that after Dennis’ inevitable dismissal, people would come to her for clues. Why did he do it? Was he getting closer to the boil? Is he really as weird as everyone says he is? What would she say to these people?

Chelsea was on the verge of solving a man’s problem with his no claims bonus history being disregarded on his last bill. It was a standard issue procedure for anyone who had been there long enough to know the systems properly. But at this moment she had to concede that no matter how much she valued the customer, she couldn’t be the only person to miss the aftermath of this situation. especially considering she was the person closest to him.

***

It seemed as if everyone around me gasped simultaneously, like air being sucked from an open door on a space station. I immediately looked around in every direction and saw that each member of staff within ear shot had muted their phone and started to whisper to their neighbor. All eyes were on me. I tried my hardest to act cool and pretend that this outburst hadn’t happened.

The truth was that I had shocked myself and when I looked down at my hand on the keyboard I could see it trembling furiously. I knew what those words meant for me.

“Ho! Dennis! Go and take five and come see me when you’ve had a wee word with yourself!” shouted Chris from behind me.

I had surely lost my job. There was no possible way for me to save myself now and that seemed appropriate because grovelling for my job back here would be an enormous insult to myself.

Without thinking, I turned to Chris. I smiled at him softly and raised my middle finger high in the air. As all eyes were on me anyway it seemed unnecessary to attempt to gather attention. But I did anyway. One last chance to articulate your feelings Dennis.

“Fuck you all.” I shouted.

I looked to Chelsea. She was sat with her mouth wide open looking up at me. Chelsea couldn’t possibly understand what was going through my head. And that made me sad.

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