Saturday, 8 May 2010

Tall Tales

Before we kick off, an apology. I should have started writing this an hour ago, but Certain People deliberately distracted me by bringing Bejewelled Blitz up on Facebook. If you’re one of the fortunate few for whom the portentous words ‘One… Minute.” mean nothing, then be thankful you still have a semblance of a life.

On with the show. Today we are remembering the tall girl from the other end of the office, who left us some weeks ago. I don’t mean she’s dead, although she may well be by now – I never saw her leave the building that last day, just spotted the big leaving card and the balloons on her desk, which was cleared that afternoon. For all I know, she’d put herself forward for some sort of voluntary euthanasia as part of the company’s draconian cut-backs, a bit like the Renewal ceremony in Logan’s Run but without the opal fruit-coloured gowns and exploding people.

Hurrah – a geek movie reference by the second paragraph. Certain People will be pleased.

For now, let us assume that the tall girl left in good health and is currently pursuing a rewarding career elsewhere in the highly successful high street banking sector. Ahem.

I feel a bit bad just calling her the tall girl. Let’s give her a name. Vertegra. Vertegra Prescott.

So, Vertegra Prescott left. I only ever spoke to her the once, to buy a charity butterfly cake for fifty whole pence, but still her departure has affected me keenly. When I say she was tall, I mean she was hovering somewhere around the six foot mark, so she wasn’t some kind of hulking ogress, but definitely above average in a pleasantly slim, non-hunched over sort of way. She may even have worn heels, Gawd bless her.

Why is this a particular blow to me? Coz with Vertegra Prescott’s departure, I’m left in the unenviable position of tallest woman in the office, by a good few inches. There’s one young lady who almost comes up to my level, if I wear my sensible flat pumps and take a pumice stone to the rough skin on my feet, but the rumour is she’s moving to the Netherlands, doubtless a land of wide-shouldered giantesses guaranteed to make her look petite by comparison. I imagine it’s the cheese.

This leaves me towering above my fellow she-workers by a head, a fact which is never more apparent then when I use the ladies’ loo and find myself at the sink, bracketed on either side by titchy five foot fourers, brushing their lovely hair in the shadow of my bulk. I feel like a wallopy teacher surrounded by her kids.

I blame the company’s recruitment policy – we employ a sizeable number of people from India, for whom, if the evidence of my eyes is to be believed, there is a strict ‘only employ women who have to stretch up for the lift buttons’ policy. Ever seen that Hole In The Wall programme on BBC One? I suspect our HR people use a similar approach during the interview process, except that the shape of the gap the prospective employee has to pass through is that of a doll-like homunculus.

The problem here is that I do not need to stand out any more than I already do, thank you very much. Being the tallest female in the office is just one more telltale giveaway I could well do without, in addition to already being the only woman who can carry her Tupperware box of stationery (another rant for another time) in one ape-like paw, and the only one who can do a passable rendition of Lee Marvin’s I Was Born Under A Wandering Star. I knew that inter-departmental karaoke contest was a mistake.

I’ve tried to disguise the obvious size differential with a number of cunning stratagems. First, jacking the adjustable seat at my desk down as far as it will go, even though this leaves my legs sprawling under the dividing partition beneath to play footsie with a frankly perilous Sargasso of power cables. Second, trying to only work with exceptionally tall men, this to be achieved by subtly measuring them as I stand by them in the lift. Third, and this is the trickiest bit so far, always going down to lunch at the same time as the statuesque Naomi Campbell-alike from the second floor. Thus far I’ve narrowed her luncheon timetable down to 12:20 – 12:27 and am zeroing in on perfect mealtime synchronisation. It’s working pretty well, except now I’m starting to feel fat and dumpy behind her in the queue for the till.

It’s a nightmare. My only choice, as far as I can tell, is to seek alternative employment in some arena that’s positively packed with looming six-foot plus muntresses. That or work exclusively with the blind. Blind and deaf.

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