"Sniff," she sniffed into her handkerchief. "Why are you standing over me? Sit down." This was a friend, and I wasn't standing over her. I was leaning on the door frame of her tiny office.
The room was airless, and bloody silent. The stale smell meant the airconditioner hadn't been switched on for a while. Muffled music pumped away from speakers outside.
"My glasses broke, "she said, squinting at a laptop. "Just like that. One glass just popped out and landed on the table." She half-smiled and sniffled.
"You not well?"
"Just sick. But I have so much work to do." Her eyes were half open now, slowly giving in to the misery of her situation. "Calling up people, handling complaints about the trainers, the helpers in the restrooms, taking care of promotions. I wish I had your job."
"Be careful what you wish for. Pakistan's coming next week and there's a lot of work happening. By the way, do you get overtime?"
It was 7:30 pm on a Saturday evening; her smile said: a) what do you think, b) I wish, c) the thought hadn't crossed my mind. "The guy at the front desk is reception and marketing. He works 14 hours a day. But he gets paid for it as well."
"So when is your next day off?"
"Today was supposed to be off, but I had to come in. I have to remind him [the boss] that I'm entitled to a day off every week." She was dressed in a neat salwar-khameez, ready to go somewhere, but not just yet. "I wouldn't mind moving to Dubai. I love it there. The standard of living is so much better. Have you been there?"
Spent 22 years there and entertain thoughts of returning there someday. Also entertain thoughts of packing up for Paris tomorrow, but that's another story.
She got me thinking, though. What kind of devious employers give their workforce no incentive to stay late, and then take away their leave without a compensatory goodie or two? At my last workplace, I had a disastrous 'heart-to-heart' with the sinister-looking management about leave (cancelled), overtime (nonexistent) and the implications of this on cynical workers. We arrive at 8 am everyday, I told them, and leave after nine at night, besides working weekends. And now you want to cancel leave en masse? Sinister management man nodded yes, smiled a crooked smile (It's always crooked if the man is short and in marketing), and said something like: "Well, what's your point?"
Back to the cubicle. Cancelled leave was preferable to no job at all. So weekends were worked on, late nights were had, a 'monitor' walked around mornings during the third week of every month, telling us how much our salaries had been cut because we were 10, 15, 20 minutes late. Eventually everyone, barring one, was either fired or resigned.
Four still work in advertising (one wants to quit and write a book), one is in London, one smokes pot at home, and I write about cricket. We still gripe about the pay, but everyone's happier. We get time off now, and there's no nasty mustachioed man waiting to grab our cash once it's past 9 am. Those days now exist only when bad memories say hello. We worked there for so long, it was like a relationship you knew wouldn't work out but still hung on to (Okay, crap analogy).
Moral of the story and all that: Don't have heart-to-hearts with sinister-looking management. If your time off isn't valued, bugger it, quit.