Soon I will be busy with jury duty. I have thought about this for a while, not because it makes me feel excited or self-important, but because I will need to be in a work-like environment at a set time for a set number of days. No big deal in the real world but in my world office work does not exist any longer. In fact, it has not existed since June last year and for one that was full-on employed since the very early post-uni day, you will agree that it was a bit of a sudden shift of perspective.
That's it, perspective; that's exactly what I gained in the past year or so, regardless of the economic constraints that this change of career (underway, I hope) have meant, a welcomed perspective that has morphed me from corporate number to free agent. I was discussing this with a friend of mine yesterday and we brought up 'certain people' who state to be craving 'somewhere to go' in the morning. I have put the two objects there between inverted commas as if these 'certain people' were dirty people in some ways, but that is precisely the way my friend and I see it. We have both embraced our own home-bound freelancing with such élan and gusto, that whoever cannot see the advantages of this lifestyle is, oh my, practically an idiot in our eyes.
Deep down, I do not really feel that judgmental. If you like to get in the car in the morning to get someplace where you can be bossed around by someone (or where you can boss around someone), and enjoy it, good for you, it doesn't affect me. But having spent such a long time in the company of over-tired, over-narky colleagues, I suspect that at least some of those 'certain people' proclaim to be craving a routine out of a built-in social gene that displays a propensity for apparent over-working. I remember seeing lots and lots of people wasting time on Facebook and Instant Messenger all day long only to get their asses into gear at 4 pm, ending up staying until way past my bedtime. That's masochistic if you ask me. I like to leave the office when I can still manage a little more than just a face-down collapse into bed still wearing my coat and shoes.
At some point I did not even want to concede that there are people out there whose only interest is their work. I am not against this in principle but when faced with that stone-cold hard reality, I felt a little stung, as if my faith in the creative capability of the human brain were somehow compromised. Take my ex colleague Claudia, about my age, working at all hours, early morning (and I mean 4 am, not 8 am), late evenings (and I mean 11 pm, not 7 pm), weekends and holidays. One day she came up to my desk asking for advice regarding 'a nice place where to take my parents for lunch on Sunday and somewhere with something to do'. I reeled out a few suggestions, country pubs, little restaurants, small cafés, you know the drill. Satisfied with a few names, she pressed on regarding the 'something to do' part.
I didn't know Claudia very well, although I had been to her house and was more than a little flabbergasted by the lack of décor. Not that I expected a World of Interiors spread from entrance hall onwards, but the scarcity of decorative items of any sort and the distinctive lack of books gave me reasons to pause and silently wonder whether, deep down, she really was an illiterate man wearing a skirt. So I faltered and eventually suggested that Tatton Park would perhaps make a nice Sunday excursion. With a mansion, large tended gardens, many acres where to go walking, animals of all sorts to admire, a couple of shops, a place where to have a cuppa and even an antiques fair coming up on that very weekend, it seemed to me like she would have been able to find some activity of interest within the beautiful grounds. As she left my desk, faint bells were ringing at the back of my mind; I should have really figured out that someone who had lived in the area for years and had never bothered going to Tatton Park may not be a Tatton Park Person after all. Or an Any Park Person really.
We caught up at Starbucks on Monday morning and even before I could ask her a thing, she told me how boring her weekend was and how crap, yes crap I am telling you, the whole Tatton Park thing was. You see Claudia is one of those people who crave to be in an office every day and who need to have someplace to go after 8 am. Her interests outside work amounted to pretty much nothing; she was not interested in gardens or walking, not interested in animals or children, in cooking, reading, writing, painting, drawing, plumbing, cars, postage stamps, art galleries or museums. Once she asked me what on earth I was going to do in New York for a full two weeks. With hindsight, I would say it made sense her spending every God-given hour under the sun and the moon at the office, for she did not exist outside of it.