Proper Rant by Stewart Turner

Old bastards like myself will remember the early incarnations of Clive Sinclair’s ludicrous Brit-computers like the ZX Spectrum and ZX81 being lampooned for the ‘hilarious’ rubber keys on their keyboards. I still take exception to this, and I still can’t really fathom out why such an innovation was unceremoniously dumped in history’s rubbish bin, reduced to being blathered about, along with white dog shit, spangles and Limahl, by the likes of Zoe Ball on some ‘I Love the 80’s’ documentary.

The sounds of a ‘proper’ keyboard in full effect is something like the devil doing a tap-dance on your brain. One of those office noises that saps away at your sanity slowly as the day progresses, culminating at around 4pm with a symphony of ring-tones, crisp-crunching and general braying. It’s supposed to be the 21st century, so why are we all trapped in the clattering world of a 1950’s typing pool?

Styles of typing are interesting too… one request; please cut your nails if you work in an office. Writing a succession of emails with Beverley Callard fingernails only adds to my pain. Another interesting phenomenon is the art of writing an ‘important’ email. Here the volume goes up to 11, with an ear-splitting clatter where the act of typing in the office is primary (LOOK EVERYBODY! I AM WRITING AN IMPORTANT EMAIL), and the words are secondary. This usually climaxes with an over-emphasized flourish of the arm when using the mouse to click on the ‘Send’ button.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Aside from all of those predictions made forty or so years ago that we’d be working 30 minute weeks and have droids to wipe our arses while we sit on hovering toilets, it’s blatantly obvious that the whole concept of the office is outmoded. Millions of pounds could be saved every year just by giving everyone a computer and a phone and telling them to stay at home. But that wouldn’t do.

No, it won’t do because the office is pretty much used as a semi-voluntary prison, and the idea of working from home is forever destined to have inverted commas spread around it with a knowing wink, because we simply cannot be trusted. Enough is enough. I’ve calculated that since I started full time work at the age of 21 I’ve spent approximately 25,000 hours in the company of various sets of people with whom the only thing I have in common is the need to prostitute myself to pay the rent. No amount of ‘water-cooler’ moments can ever make up for this.

All this almost makes me sigh wistfully and think back to my stints in the vegetable processing plants of rural Norfolk as a student. Places where the tasks are menial, but your mind is your own, and you can daydream rather than ‘braindump’, and all of your thinking is done firmly inside the fucking box. I say ‘almost’, because in reality these piss factories (putting the walnuts on walnut whips or shoveling Ross Oriental Express anyone?) are one part ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and one part ‘Carry on at Your Convenience.’

Anyway, rant over. I’m off to patent the sponge keyboard.

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