Friday, 1 August 2014

Bullshit Bell 5: Timekeeping.

I had a plan for a blog post today. I was going to write a beautiful, gentle, whimsical thing about photographs and how they distort our sense of history, making the past forever present through a frozen image which refuses to change no matter how the world around it does. I was mulling it over in my head last night. It was going to be achingly well-written. A musing on transience and time.

But no.

Instead, I am calling bullshit on the corporate world in one more small, petty way that has proved I cannot deal with offices where everyone wears pencil skirts: timekeeping is bullshit.

I say this as an admittedly unpunctual person. I turn up on time to events when you're expected to be late. I'll get to lectures either five minutes early or five minutes late, and rarely in the sweet spot in between. I've been trained by my mother to turn up to doctors' appointments ten minutes early, when in reality I don't think my GP's ever been less than twenty minutes behind schedule.

In my mind, punctuality is pretty flexible. Being assigned to work 37 hours a week means I will work 37 hours a week. If I am 5 minutes late turning up to work, I'll religiously work an extra 5 minutes. I may be 5 minutes late to work fairly often, but sometimes I'm early to work. Because that's how humans work. We have days when we wake up early and days when we can't get out of bed and sometimes we have days where traffic is slow or the lights won't turn on or we have to spend ten minutes looking at ourselves in the mirror to psyche ourselves up to face the day.

And yes sometimes I am late to work. What of it?

Has anything interesting and vital ever happened in those 5 minutes between when my contract starts and when I arrive?

My manager is apparently the only person who cares about this, because he is the one who chews me out. He's not even my boss. Because my boss is in Turkey for four weeks, and working from home. He has also threatened me with termination of my contract if I am late again.

How does that work, exactly?

If 5 minutes past 9 counts as so truly horribly heinously late that the very existence of space-time warps and number start turning backwards, then yes I will accept that I was late and this was a mistake that could have been avoided.

What about 1 minute past 9? Couldn't that just be down to our watches not being synchronised?

Or thirty seconds past 9? Or 1 second past 9?

If I am 1 second late on Monday, am I going to get fired?

Personally I'm still a little bitter about the extra 3 hours I worked to finish some important copy, only to be told that I hadn't cleared the hours in advance so they didn't count. In my head, I'm stilled owed 3 hours, which I can chip away at by being 5 minutes late every day for 36 days, and still have worked 37 hours a week.

In a fast-paced working environment, yes, I can possibly see the relevance. In journalism, where new stories can break at literally any time, I suppose it's important to be at your desk at exactly 9am, because heaven knows how you could receive communication on your smartphone while commuting. In an office where the most productive thing I've done with week is write 400 words of newsletter copy and be told the photos I selected for it were wrong, it's pretty hard to care.

So, there we go. Timekeeping is bullshit. Punctuality is bullshit. I can keep track of my own hours. I know that when they deign to give me work to do, I do it on time and well. So why should it matter if I want to have breakfast in the morning rather than arrive, starving, at 8.55?

I don't even have anything funny and witty to say. I'm just angry. And if someone wants to give me a job where the quality of my work counts for more than my timekeeping, that'd be great. I would walk out now were it not for the money. Truly, I have sold myself to The Man.

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