Sunday, January 13, 2008

Burn On, Weigh In, Cop Out

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;
Communications Consultant
Brands Manager
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 Ceau┼čescu 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.



Z said...

I know a couple of retired policemen - they retire awfully early. One grew his hair and became a postman, and the other now works for an undertaker.

I walk to the top of hills too with my bicycle (I think this is why they're called pushbikes). Nothing to do with flouting laws rules. I just can't ride up them.

Peach said...

ugh if you become a copper I will never speak to you again and nor will alllllll my mates !!!!!!!!!!!

What happened to your soul dude? You're a writer. Write.

Jimmy Page's Trousers said...

Have you considered writing recruitment ads for a living? Those were particularly fine examples.

I wonder if you can make a living doing that.

DaveFishwick said...

An old housemate was in a similar position to you; he also decided to join the police force (force?!). As we were living in Dalston at the time, the only concern I had was for myself; people might find out that I live with a copper, then come and do me over right proper and that.

Anyway, he went through the training (you could always just do that, as I think you get paid whilst living rent free for a few weeks) and then metamorphosed into a real-life policeman. Thankfully, it didn't last long as he got pissed one night (off duty) and threated a tramp with physical violence, which, for some reason made him question his choices.

What about some evening classes of sorts?

Vi vi vi vooom!!!!!!!! said...

'Energy Depleted Wage Monkey'

They're already advertising your job AND at more pay??????

chopperbomb said...

Mate, you should do the police thing. You'd be a decent tit-head. I was thinking about it myself the other day. Although more as a village bobby than a hard-hitting London cop. If you get into vice you could blag loads of drugs and porn!
Peach - are you being sarcastic? I know it's probably very cool to diss the rozzers but who you gonna call when (God forbid) your house gets burgled etc? Not the Ghostbusters!

fwengebola said...

Z ~ Really? There must be a whole world out there of ex-policemen, pottering around and tutting.
You should do the hills. Great for the legs. When the coppers aren't about.
Peach ~ God, I dunno. I'm trying the writing bit, and it's all so DIY. I think I'm just clinically lazy.
JPT ~ If I wrote those fuckers, I'd take out the bullshit and be a bit more honest.
But that would mean no-one would hire me.
'Wanted: Someone who won't be late, will do their job, and stay relatively normal.'
Why can't they all say that?
DF ~ Oh crap, I'd have to move out of my flat while I studied at Hendon? There's another black mark.
Your mate sounds ideally suited to being a copper. Provided he didn't do it pissed.
I've thought of evening classes, but I'm so damn tired by the end of the day. Pah!
Vi ~ How do you know what I do for a living? Oh, probably all that telling you, and writing about it too.
Chop ~ Hmmm. Interesting that you think it would suit me. Dunno why though. I started off a bit rose-tinted and thought about the excitement and all the help I could give, then reality, red-tape, being hated, and finding myself in a world of beaurocracy made me rethink.
Plus I don't think joining the Met so I could keep drugs and porn is the best thing to do. Especially as porn's legal now and what I may find would be deeply unpleasant.
I dare say you'd like it though.

luna said...

Have you gone completely potty???

There are millions of jobs better than yours out there but I daresay the good ones are not advertised.You get them through your contacts (=mates)
Take the O2 Arena in Greenwich for instance.
They need cloakroom assistants and dishwashers and stuff,and you get to keep the tips and watch the spectacular shows for free.
Much more laid back than handcuffing yourself to a faredodger.Or is it your secret turn on.
Besides,the real money is with club bouncers these days.Their large tips are called bribes.

If you want to smile and guide and assist,why not lollipop lady.
You hate kids so you could specialize in pensioners coaching their way through London.AND the pretty yellow uniform will manage to cover your midriff area!!

I used to take the Kensington Gardens shortcut when I was cycling to work too,but in my days
they were the mounted police telling you off.I used to love tearing into the geese in a cloud of feathers ahah.
By the way,did you ever read that story about a couple of immigrants stealing one of her Majesty 's Canadian volatile from the Kensington pond and cooking it for Xmas?They thought how stupid to leave all this good food lying about and not eat it!!!

Anonymous said...

Mate, you're not cut out for the world of bacon! You'd be a husk within months. If you want to earn a decent wage become a tube driver - most of those guys end up earning £30k plus. Of course, you might get a jumper... but there's good and bad in every job!

Han said...

Be like me and work at a University ( good pay, great pension (not that I worry about that kind of thing much), lots of holiday and lots of part-time courses like creative writing that you would get a discount on for being a staff memeber!

Quote said...

I've never thought of you as being even remotely PC.

Anonymous said...

I don't care what you do - I think you're cool.

Jo said...

^ Anonymous would fail his drug test. Clearly on crack.


Talking of drugs tests...if you failed it when applying for the police, would they arrest you?

DaveFishwick said...

You haven't gone and bleedin' well signed up have you? Or one better, you've joined the Army (or worse, Navy)?

Where the Hell are you? As a regular reader, I demand a new piece of quality writing. Please.

GirlDoes Tokyo said...

The the community - are you insane?
How about the Youth Service (whatever it's called, running youth clubs and such) or NGOs..or..or..but the police. Oink bleedin' oink, better out of the pig pen altogether.
P.S. Happy new year!

fwengebola said...

Luna ~ Oh good, an essay. I should by rights get a job the easy way - through a mate. But I guess there'd be repercussions once I do any job.
I don't see you as a cyclist, by the way.
Anonynothing ~ I don't know how you can't see me as Plod. But train driver? Oh dear.
Han ~ I'ev thought about some kind of University gig, but surely I'd end up reverting into the eternal student?
Quote ~ Is that a play on words or yet another copper denial?
Anon ~ Thanks, Mum.
Jo ~ I wouldn't have thought so. Current possession would be illegal, not evidence that you once took something that still lingers in your body.
Not sure I'd want to put that to the test though.
DF ~ Signing up for anything is very much off the cards at the moment. As as for quality writing, you may have a bit of a wait on your hands.
GDT ~ Happy New Year. Hooray. I'm not helping youths. They're bastards!

GirlDoes Tokyo said...

You got that one right. They are bastards. And the best part is, we never grow out of it.
Journalism school, then?

fwengebola said...

I've looked into it. I'm gonna attempt a Charlie Brooker.

Pfft. Fat chance.