I was sat alone in a cafeteria, earnestly reading the jobs pages as I waited for my omelette.
In doing so, my soul gently eroded like a tooth in a bottle of coke. I made a point to analyse every single available position, but I couldn't get my head around the job titles;
Administrative Liaison Officer
Vague Form Undertaker
Energy Depleted Wage Monkey
I don't know what they mean. All I gained was the fact that virtually all of the jobs advertised came with a wage slightly or obscenely greater than my current one.
And they're all looking for the same mythic person; a dynamic, forward-thinking, youthful self-starter with boundless energy, ideas and enthusiasm, needed for some consumer-led creative partnership think-tank, or a public service operations hub. Whatever happened to shop or office?
Nothing makes sense anymore.
The ideal candidate will have worked for blue-chip companies, in successful start-ups, or maybe for Dr No in his secret Caribbean base, and is capable of forging relationships in all channels at board level, helping business leaders express themselves abstractly. They should be able to tease out key strategic issues and command blue sky policies whilst making businesses more successful through complete support packages in compliance, best practice solutions and modern tap.
It all ground me down into an ambitionless would-be tramp so naturally, I headed off to Central London and onto the Metropolitan Police's Career Bus, where I applied to become a Policeman.
"Why do you want to join the Met?" asked the Chinese PCSO.
"I want to help people," I replied honestly. "And because the pay's really good and I've run out of options," I added to myself.
I'd been there before. Not the bus, physically, but the signing up to become a Policeman. I tried about six years ago when I was unemployed and living in Willesden, and found myself gravitating towards the copshop on a whim, but I got scared off when the lady behind the desk wanted to take my details.
Now I was eagerly offering them voluntarily. I liked the idea; helping the wider community, not raging against them. Smiling. Assisting. Guiding. Maybe saving a life or two. Plus the uniform might help me get laid.
But ultimately, I wanted to be useful for once, to feel like my life finally had some damn meaning. (And the less said about my recent drug past, the better.) I was ready to forgo my old life for a new one, a better one.
Yes, this would definitely happen. I would become a PC, then who knows? Go undercover, perhaps? Get involved in serious crime? Join the vice squad? Or run around with a gun and a sneer? No, I don't like guns.
I could do it for a day though.
Then Ed turned up, surprising me by also signing up for the Metropolitan Police too - although he had that rabbit-in-the-headlights shock of giving the coppers all his details. Then we went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid like watching a Romanian film about abuse and abortion during the Ceauşescu era. (The film was more depressing than Schindler's List, and that's such an achievement, it won the Palme d'Or. Christ alone knows why. Because it finally ended, I suppose.)
Regarding joining the police, Ed had doubts. But I had none. I will be a copper, and I will never look back... until that night, when I looked a little bit forward and shat it.
I began by reading through the paperwork. Then I fired up the application CD, clicking with trepidation on 'Certain factors that may change your mind':
Policing is a 24-hour business.
Yes I suppose it is.
Dead bodies need to be checked.
Well someone has to.
Officers... have to cancel days off with little or no warning.
WHAT? Oh fuck.
Never mind. I'm doing this for altruistic reasons. I want to help, dammit. I'll never be a cliched sarcastic, disinterested copper. I'll be one of those laughing policemen of yore. Unless the situation's really inappropriate.
And then I read some British police blogs. I thought it would help.
PC Bloggs seems to have her heart very much in the right place, pointing out that human beings in their rich and varied tapestry can be pretty nice now and again. And then you discover that one's a convicted paedophile.
It never occurred to me that I may meet a child molester now and again, and common courtesy and the law would probably prevent me from repeatedly smashing their face into a wall.
Then I read Another bloody Grumpy Copper, who buried this particular career option deep into the ground. Grumpy Copper was a particular shock; a man angrier than me, and possibly made so by the one profession I was about to aim for. Everything seems to rightly piss him off; bureaucracy and red-tape come high on his list, as do drunks and having to care for the fuckers, and television phone-in competitions.
Yes it is fraud. Why didn't the law come down on them? 'Cos it was only telly?
Then it hit me: I can't do this job. I would explode. I would become the most embittered policeman in history, and that's saying something. I would rage, pout, squint, hate, judge, yell, point, rant. I began to see the world through a policeman's eyes, a world where everyone is bending the law to some extent. Where my desire to help, to assist, to prove I'm one of the decent guys gets shot to hell as I stand in the pouring rain on traffic duty, or someone calls me a wanker the day after I was running my hands down the still warm thighs of a corpse.
And all that's providing I actually get in and pass the drug test.
On Monday, I cycled to work a broken man, all my options thrashing and dying before me like a selfless thought in George Bush's head. As I took my usual shortcut through Kensington Gardens, I noticed fluorescent jackets ahead. At the top of the hill were two policemen, there to admonish at the cyclists flouting the 'No Cycling' rule. Presumably, park amblers have complained to the powers that be about these bastards - bastards of which I am one - who choose avoid a stretch of Kensington Road and the vans, buses, taxis and 4x4s who would sooner run you over than be stuck behind you. As a result, the police had been called in, six in total, patrolling the area.
I got off my bike, walked up to the top of the hill to the stretch where we could all cycle freely, getting scrutinised by the steely gaze of one of the officers as I guiltily panted past.
I have no idea what he was thinking; if he approved of spending his time in the cold preventing cyclists from cycling up a No Cycling path, if he wished he was elsewhere, or if he felt proud to be showing these damn lawbreakers that this 200 metre stretch of path was not to be ridden on.
Either way, I don't quite know if that's job satisfaction.
So, back to square fucking one, then.
Weight loss: 3lbs.
Drink drunk: 3 bottles of wine, 1 pint of lager.
Cigarettes smoked: About 15.
Dreams shattered: Fifteen billion.