After years of avoiding working for big corporations I suddenly found myself tricked into it, and even lying to myself that it was OK. Let my story stand as a warning.
I am a travelling musician and activist for social change. I have lived in many different squats, protest sites, and recently, a caravan painted in psychedelic colours and some crazy picture of a half-woman-half octopus. I’m not exactly used to the 9-5 lifestyle.
Don’t get my wrong, I tried it once, long ago, when i was young and reckless. I used to work for one of the worst companies in the world – The Royal Bank of Scotland, who are proud of the role they’ve played in creating the capitalist system as it stands today.
Call-centres are places i’ve always thought of as ‘work’ – ever since I realised it was better than having to stand up all day. You know, I’m pretty lazy, or at least reluctant to do physical work unless it really seems important. It never seems that important to me to make money for someone else, compared with, say, playing music, cooking, cleaning, carrying stuff around. walking to and from places, and really, most other things in my life.
So I’d rather have a job where I use to minimum possible mental and physical energy, in order to preserve it for later, in my real life.
I like a job where I get stoned in the morning, saunter in trying not to make eye-contact with anyone so they don’t guess how stoned I am, then sit down and play sudoku, read the news, or read classic novels on the computer system, occasionally taking calls to let idiots order over-priced coffee, complain about their over-priced coffee being late, or angrily huff and puff about how ordering it online isn’t as simple as they think it should be.
Well, when I say, I ‘like’ a job like that is a bit of an exaggeration because i have just quit said job in disgust, not only at the company and almost everything about the workplace, but also, and chiefly at myself.
I never actually applied for a job selling coffee. It’s not like I want people to buy coffee from big corporations. When I was 22 I travelled around Latin America and visited several coffee growing regions, learning as much as I could about the effect of the industry on the local people and wider eco-systems. It’s not great, let me tell ya.
Coffee is the last big addiction I am trying to kick. I don’t drink alcohol or use nicotine, but I am still constantly on either a high or a low of a caffeine rush, as I believe most of the modern world is. Capitalism requires workers to work harder than they naturally would, and drugs are a great way to achieve that.
Of course, some would say i’m also addicted to cannabis. But if so, I am not currently concerned about that. I believe caffeine has caused a lot more problems in my life than weed has. It makes me stressed out, irritable, nervous, paranoid, and quick to anger. Weed only makes me those things when it is combined with caffeine. The rest of the time it either makes me more creative, or at worse just more confused, and if suddenly i have to deal with something serious I am pretty good at cutting through the stoned haze and forcing my mind to concentrate.
A lot of people who aren’t able to handle weed don’t get that, but I was into meditation long before i ever tried psychedelic drugs, and it really helps.
So when I was sitting there at the call centre in a stoned daze, lost in thought about some bullshit or other, and then all of a sudden a beeping sound would come into my ear, sharply, followed by a guy with a Northern accent saying ‘Nespresso’, and then two more beeps, I would have just enough time to force myself into sobriety enough to deal with whatever inane bollocks they wanted to talk about.
Of course, it took a few days on the job before I built up the confidence to do it stoned, but really, a few days should be all it takes on almost any call-centre job. Did I mention it was Nespresso?
Nespresso was something I’d never even heard of until the last time I went to Morocco. I remember sitting in the cafe in Tangiers where they have the Senegalese restaurant, seeing an advert for it come on the TV, with George Clooney and Jack Black. I thought it looked ridiculous.
“Nespresso?” i’d said “is that like Nescafe but in an espresso? like an instant coffee espresso> thats disgusting”
But this Italian musician sitting next to me said ‘No! Haven’t you seen it? In Italy we have it everywhere!”
I guess before that I’d had some bizarre national stereotype in my head of Italians having good taste in coffee. No more.
Nespresso is owned by Nestle. Now, I have known about Nestle being fucked up for a long time. So has almost everyone. The thing with the breast milk. And the other thing with the child slaves? Come on now
So how did I end up there? It still puzzles me.
I went online and searched for recruitment agencies. The one that seemed most straight forward and lazy-bastard-friendly was Reed. So i put in some details, and then you just apply for loads of jobs at once my just clicking on them, and it would send your CV and cover letter to them all instantly. So I just clicked for about half an hour one day.
A few days later I am awoken by a phone call. Literally. Some totally different agency, called ‘Juice’, if you can believe it, has somehow gotten my phone number for the Reed website, or one of the things i clicked on, or who knows where. Perhaps they’ve been spying on me, or are just a front for the CIA.
Anyway, they offer me a job interview that same day. ‘Great’ I think, ‘this is even easier than I thought it would be’. The job interview is supposed to be for a call centre company that different charities use, so I would be calling people up who were already giving money to a charity and trying to convince them to give more.
Now, this is kind of shit, and I once had it happen to me when I used to give money to a charity every month, but at least I could have justified it to myself by thinking that maybe some of that money might actually end up going to make the world a better place somehow. So I went along with it.
But then ‘these’ Juice people manage to fuck up getting me an interview with the actual call centre, even though they already made me read the script for it, so I have to wait another 2 weeks until they give me an interview at a completely different call centre.
They say this one is going to be easy, just inbound calls for Southern Rail. This is kind of morally neutral in my eyes, boring as hell, yes, but not evil. I pictured myself half asleep for a few months answering calls with people asking about when the next train from Haywards Heath to Brighton was going to come and stuff like that. Sure thing.
So I go along to Teleperformance, the call centre company, for an interview, and we go through some practice worksheets all about Southern Rail, like what their policy on taking bikes on trains is and stuff like that. No sweat.
So the next day I get a call from Juice telling me I’ve got the job- at Nespresso. I should have just said no, but this was the only job I was being offered, and i’m a very lazy man when it comes to looking for work. Besides, they claimed (read ‘lied’) that it was not a sales job – I was just going to be asked questions about the product and take orders from people who were already going to buy it anyway.
So I convinced myself that this was also morally neutral somehow, and turned up for the two weeks of training, thinking that I could just quit straight away after that before I would have to actually do anything even vaguely of benefit to the company.
After the two weeks of training, which were mostly spent staring into space and occasionally watching powerpoint presentations so dull that I highly doubt anyone could actually absorb information from them, I was on the job. It took me about three days before I had mastered enough to just start getting stoned every day throughout the whole time.
But then my friend took my to see Saul Williams, who is GOD, and who reminded me of what I had been blocking out of my head for the past couple of months – capitalism is shit and must be resisted until it is ultimately destroyed.
The next day I quit my job. Thanks Saul. Seriously.