My Life at Work

It’s the end of my working week. Tomorrow I start my second job (thesis) so on Wednesday nights I revel in the luxury of doing nothing. Since I lead a tremendously wild and extravagant life, to pass the time I usually read (Huxley’s Brave New World at the moment; I don’t like it much), flaff around on the internet or tidy up my room which looks like a bomb after three days of – on account of my sheer tiredness – dropping clothes on the floor instead of hanging them up.

Ordinarily I have Wednesday afternoons off too but this afternoon was spent on a course entitled ‘Coping at the Counter’, which I attended in the hope of learning how to keep myself together in conversations with patronising male academics at the library. During such exchanges (which usually arise because I can’t hear said academics properly, on account of their mumbling), my first impulse is to grab the stapler and knock them over the head with it and staple their bovine faces to the desk. However, Mother’s continual exhortations over the course of my childhood to always remain polite hold sway, and if I swear and make a scene it is in the sanctuary of my boss’ office.

It isn’t always academics to fluster me, although it is usually a man. I can only recall one woman being revolting to me, and that was mostly my fault because I wasn’t assertive enough to tell her that I was deaf and that was why I hadn’t spelt her name properly. However, to give an idea of the kind of person I sometimes deal with, I offer the following exchange:

Man in his late twenties comes to the desk. Doesn’t smile. ‘I’d like to know how many books I can take out,’ he says.
‘Sure, I just need to check your status.’ I take his card.
Computer shows that he’s doing a PhD.
‘Which university are you at?’
He mumbles something and I hear two words, ‘royal’ and ‘art.’
‘Royal College of the Arts?’ I ask, to check.
‘Art,’ he emphasises as though I were stupid. ‘Royal College of Art, not Arts.’
I blink and don’t look at him, but my lips are thinning. I check the membership manual and tell him how many books he can take out. I am very pissed off.
He gives me his books and after I’ve stamped them I slap them back on the desk, slightly louder than usual, and he looks at my face to check my expression. He must realise that he’s offended me because he attempts a thankyou as I give the books back, but I scarcely acknowledge it. I like people with manners; people without manners don’t deserve my attention.

Now, I know a big part of my problem is my ego. I’m a smart girl and I loathe people treating me as though I were dumb. Also I often forget that I’m deaf, so the problems which are caused by my deafness I tend to take personally instead of dismissing them. To counter some of these problems, I wear a very unattractive badge which says ‘I’m hard of hearing, please speak clearly.’ On account of this, I sometimes have (again, mostly old men) speaking to me as if I were not only deaf, but also slightly retarded. In other words, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Usually when this happens I have to suppress an insane urge to giggle, again until I reach my supervisor’s office. The last time this occurred, the deputy supervisor suggested that I wear another badge on the other side of my chest saying, ‘I’m deaf, not stupid.’ Then (because it was winter and I was in the habit of wearing tight skivvies) he added, ‘And then you can have another badge down here,’ (he patted his pecs), ‘which says, “Stop staring at my tits!”’ I burst out laughing.

But mostly my job is very nice, not least because of the people I work with (and indeed, yesterday at lunch I was in a state of beatitude because B was in the staff room; he has such a charming sensibility and delicious smile that it was like being cast in the glow of an angel), and I only remember the ugly incidents because they’re the ones that upset me.

I have three weeks to write 10,000 words (my self-imposed goal for the month). It is awful to think that I have another 9 months of this, and that the pain has only just begun, and that it can’t be relieved because I have no money with which to go shopping. However over the long weekend I did nothing, so now I must work.

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