Not many people know about this story, and I’m sure the person I’ll be talking about here doesn’t even remember that day. Sure thing, he won’t care.
This happened in SW London, in 2015. It was nearly Spring.
At the time, I was buried in a blue-carpeted office with windows sealed with cement. The job itself wasn’t that bad, but about 80% of the team was composed of spectacularly incompetent people. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried dealing with spectacularly incompetent people, but I can tell you that since then my tolerance toward idiots has dropped below zero.
You know when each and every move you try to make at work is being repeatedly obstructed by ridiculously pointless processes preventing you from performing your job to a decent standard? You know when you try hard to change things but nothing can be done, so you just end up doing pretty much nothing relevant all day long?
My job at the company consisted of translating their website, marketing collateral & co. from English into Italian AND into French AND into Spanish.
The Boss had created the role especially for me after rejecting my application for another position. It was good to get a job tailored to my skills, but I didn’t want to be a full-time translator, let alone in a place where I was not allowed to wear my Nike trainers.
For no reason, since we never had any clients in and not even a single external meeting going on.
Try to work in all these languages on a daily basis dressed like a chessboard and being surrounded by shouting nerds, while also hearing Catalan at home all the time, and then you’ll tell me.
I was going crazy.
Plus, since the very beginning, all my hard work was being fucked up by this remote IT team in India that was having fun pasting my Italian content in the French website and vice versa, because they had too many spreadsheets opened at the same time, for God’s sake.
Our existence had been going on like this for months when, on that February afternoon, the Boss blew up.
He is not a bad guy a priori. He is Aries, and I’ve got a long history of creative chemistry with this star sign, but each and every time it finishes in a terrible way. I fall in love with their shameless and loud way of being, we do amazing things together, we have fun, and then we suddenly mess everything up, we never say sorry and we end up detesting each other. I don’t know why it’s that, too much fire I suppose.
But I never regret anything, because certain people come your way just to smack you awake, and it’s only at the exact moment they or you leave that you come to realise how much your anger just won’t stop loving them until you die.
The first couple of months at the blue-carpeted office didn’t go too badly. The building was already full of jerks, but the Boss looked like such a wonderful guy that you just didn’t care about the rest; he used to buy us chocolate and acted as if he really was loyal and honest, you know, just like someone who tries and see the best in every single idiot he had employed.
Then, from one day to another and at a zero-notice, he turned into the worst bastard you’ll ever see around.
He got into the habit of abusing and terrifying everybody just for the sake of it.
He fired people just like that, he humiliated people in front of everyone and made them cry, he got childish and irrational.
That afternoon, he was on the ground floor installing a stupid clocking machine that got mysteriously broken the following day. We’d never had or needed this before, we simply signed in and out, and – to be honest – everyone was extremely punctual there, but the bastard still wanted this fucking clocking machine installed just to make us appreciate the extent to which he had no idea what to focus on.
As soon as the floor clock would mark 5 o’ clock, I’d leave.
After all, I was spending my time doing nothing but nothing: I had no reason to stay overtime just the same way as I had no reason to care about the technical difficulties he was clearly having with the damn appliance.
I’m not a handyman.
And, to be honest, I didn’t give a fuck about it all.
– Where are you going?
– Home. It’s 5 o’ clock.
– It’s not 5 o’ clock.
– I swear it is 5 o’ clock.
– It’s 5 o’ clock when I decide it’s 5 o’ clock.
– Look, it is 5 o’ clock, and this is not an opinion. See you.
To my colleagues’ greatest surprise, I didn’t get fired.
I left the building with a proud grin on the face, like if nothing had happened.
Then, just around the corner, I burst into tears.
I cried my heart out for three million years.
I was hopeless for two reasons: first, had I waited for one more fraction of second, I would have smashed the clocking machine in his face. My hands were still trembling, and this scared the hell out of me. Second: I’d finally got it.
What the hell was I doing with my life?
Why was I still having hundreds of job interviews?
I didn’t want another office job, another boss, another clocking machine.
I had no respect for the status quo nor the Christmas party.
What happened just right after that day amazed me a lot.
The following week I got a freelancing job offer from a London-based media intelligence company. This wasn’t really well-paid, but it allowed me to finally leave the blue-carpeted office and travel as much as I wanted for the next three years, until I got fired together with my other 200 colleagues.
They let us go, they said.
But this is another story.
All I know is that since putting my trainers back on again, in a way or another and not without sacrifice, I somehow managed to pay my bills and – at the same time – travel to Brighton, Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, Seville, Cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera, Madrid, Valencia, Ontinyent, Cullera, Cyprus, Brussels, London, Rome, Perugia, pretty much everywhere in Scotland in a camper van, Florence and Renaio in Tuscany, Bisaccia, Squillace, Naples, Salerno, Messina, Caserta, Pietragrande and Spezzano della Sila in Southern Italy, Milan, Turin, Zurich, Stockholm, São Paulo, Ilhabela and San Francisco.
You know what? Freedom doesn’t necessarily bring you overnight money, a jet-set lifestyle, financial stability or peace of mind, but it certainly does put yourself back into a life that is yours and only yours, and not somebody else’s.
Long story made short, it was only when I finally handed my notice to the Boss that I realised how grateful I had to be to that man.
Boss, we’ve never had the chance to speak again since then, and I perfectly know that you don’t like this story and don’t like me either anymore. I can picture you now. You boringly sit at your desk covered in Maltesers, wearing a suit that does not match your trousers, you’ve had about 19 coffees since this morning and you don’t know what the hell buy Sam for her birthday. You’re still making great money thanks to the stuff I translated for you, but you hate that I labelled the company a blue-carpeted office with windows sealed with cement and, even though you know that this is nothing but the truth, you hate that I’m calling you a bastard.
But you know what, Boss?
You’ve been the only bastard I have to be thankful to in my life.